The Dorian Mode

The Dorians were one of the four major ethnic groups among which the ancient Greeks considered themselves divided. The Doric order of architecture in the tradition inherited by Vitruvius included the Doric column, noted for its simplicity and strength, representative of the character of the Dorians. Their music was also known for its special character, a kind of harmony known as the Dorian Mode.

In the dialogue Laches, Plato calls the Dorian “the real Hellenic mode”, and says that it creates a feeling of sincerity. “And such an one I deem to be the true musician, attuned to a fairer harmony than that of the lyre, or any pleasant instrument of music; for truly he has in his own life a harmony of words and deeds arranged, not in the Ionian, or in the Phrygian mode, nor yet in the Lydian, but in the true Hellenic mode, which is the Dorian, and no other.”

According to Aristotle the Dorian Mode had “a special degree of moderation and firmness”. It is a mode that can be Happy but self-restrained. The modes were named after various regions, to represent the people who lived there, because Greek musical theorists were philosophers too, and associated the arts with aspects of “ethos” or character of the people, Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and Locrian became the names for the different “moods” a musical scale could produce.

Lyre ‘n’ Rhapsodypage-photo-310517.jpgAliki Markantonatou

Lyre ‘n’ Rhapsody,  is an acoustic female ensemble formed in 2013 in Athens, Greece.
The ensemble debut album “Awakening The Muse” was released in May 2013.
The music performed comprises Ancient Greek Lyrical Poetry and Greek Traditional Songs, some in Dorian mode.
The 12 strings Lyre is ideal in enhancing the Sapphic spirit, while the Daouli highlights the Lyre with it’s groovy and powerful beat. Fragments from ancient composers, such as Seikilos, are also interpreted by Lyre ‘n’ Rhapsody, in Phrygian mode.

Aliki Markantonatou plays the Archean Lyre in Dorian Mode


Michael Levy is an expert in acient greek music, in this composition he plays the kithara, in Doric Mode a large wooden lyre favoured by only the true professional musicians of ancient Greece, which reached its pinnacle of perfection during the “Golden Age” of Classical Antiquity, circa 5th century BCE.

The word ‘mode’ comes from the Latin for ‘manner, or method’ but musical modes all originated in ancient Greece, they called harmonai or tonos. The original ancient Greek Dorian Mode had the equivalent intervals as E-E on the white notes of the piano. It is similar to the modern natural minor scale. The only difference is in the sixth note, which is a major sixth above the first note, rather than a minor sixth.


The philosophical writings of Plato and Aristotle include sections that describe the effect of different harmoniai on mood and character formation. For example, Aristotle in the Politics (viii:1340a:40–1340b:5):

“But melodies themselves do contain imitations of character. This is perfectly clear, for the harmoniai have quite distinct natures from one another, so that those who hear them are differently affected and do not respond in the same way to each. To some, such as the one called Mixolydian, they respond with more grief and anxiety, to others, such as the relaxed harmoniai, with more mellowness of mind, and to one another with a special degree of moderation and firmness, Dorian being apparently the only one of the harmoniai to have this effect, while Phrygian creates ecstatic excitement. These points have been well expressed by those who have thought deeply about this kind of education; for they cull the evidence for what they say from the facts themselves. (Barker 1984–89, 1:175–76)”

PaniaguaLuis Paniagua is a Spanish composer of “new ancestral music”. 

The tradition was carried on in medieval times, the greek modes were classified by the moods they would create in the listener in the following manner:


Phrygian mode, on the other hand, is the music mode used in flamenco, which has an oriental feeling, common in modern metal and hard rock, it was said to inspire drunkenness and “bachic fury”, according to Plato, it could induce to warlike states.