Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Little Sadie and the Dorian mode

I am going to introduce you to the Dorian mode now. You know how the Aeolian mode has a sort of spooky or lonesome sound to it? Well think of the Dorian mode as the 'other' lonesome blues-y spooky mode. Most spooky/blues-y/lonesome songs can be played nicely in either the Aeolian or Dorian mode.
Remember- the Mixolydian mode has your key note ("Do" of do re mi) or tonic note on your zero fret (open string). The Aeolian mode puts your tonic note on the first fret. The Ionian mode puts your "Do" tonic note on the third fret. The Dorian mode puts your tonic note on the fourth fret. And guess what?- that's as high as we are ever going to go on this blog! Once you can play a couple of tunes in those four modes, you can get by pretty well without learning any of the other modes if you prefer. Mixolydian(0 fret), Aeolian(1 fret), Ionian(3 fret), and Dorian(4 fret).

Now, you may ask- why can't I just play Little Sadie in the lonesome Aeolian mode instead of having to learn the Dorian mode too?... The answer is that the Dorian mode, which starts higher up (on the fourth fret instead of the first), will then give you some of the real LOW notes that you'll need in order to play Little Sadie. Good answer, huh?

Now I found that I could not sing Little Sadie at ALL in the key of D, or even C...I had to go down to G to sing it well. Thus, I'm tabbing this version of Little Sadie for you in G in the hopes that you too will find it easier to sing than if it were in D.
Look at this chart to see the Dorian G tuning.

Here is another important note:
Usually, when we tune to a key, we put our bass string to that key/tonic note, and we tune our middle string to a 'fifth' above that, which is five steps up in the alphabet if you count the tonic note as your first note when counting up 5. Thus for the key of G I'd be tuning my bass string to G and my middle string to (count on your fingers up g-a-b-c-D) ...to D. Then for dorian, my melody strings would need to be tuned so that the tonic G is found on the fourth fret. To get a G note on the fourth fret I'll need to tune the open melody strings down to C. C=open, D=1st fret, E=2nd fret, F=3rd fret, and G=4th fret. So a regular Dorian tuning for G would be GDC. (You'll tune the melody strings DOWN one step to C if you are starting in DAD, or UP two steps to C if you are starting in DAA.)
BUT...if you use a REVERSE tuning here, you will be re-tuning your bass and middle strings over a much shorter distance if you are starting from DAA or DAD. Look at the second chart in the picture, the REVERSE Dorian tuning. Reverse tuning is a sort of cheat method which sometimes can result in re-tuning your bass and middle strings only a short distance, it winds up being much easier to re-tune and much easier on your strings. Look at the reverse Dorian tuning on the chart to see how this would work. The reverse Dorian G tuning is DGC- much easier to get to from both DAD and DAA!
So I have tabbed Little Sadie to sing in the key of G, and tuned in reverse Dorian mode.

Once you tune to DGC (which is not that hard) you will see that it's quite easy to play Little Sadie, no big deal.
You just needed to locate the tune to a place on the fretboard where you'll have all the notes you need for playing it. And that's what modes are helpful for!

Enjoy playing the outlaw song Little Sadie!

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