Secondary Dominant V of ...

Published: Mar 30, 2015 Updated: Apr 3, 2019 • Visitors: 14 • Page Views: 1

music ukulele Subjects: theorychordsjazzadvancedscalesmodesdominantseventh

A Secondary Dominant chord is defined as any seventh chord built on a scale root that is not diatonic to the key that resolves up a perfect fourth or down a perfect fifth to a full diatonic chord. These chords function as a dominant (V) chord to the next chord, serving to temporarily tonicize the following chord.

For any secondary dominant chord its II chord can also precede it. Secondary Dominant chords fall under the Partial Diatonic harmonic principle and are labeled as such.

Here are the possible Secondary Dominant chords as defined by the above definition for both Major and Minor tonalities.


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For any secondary dominant chord its II chord can also precede it. Secondary Dominant chords fall under the Partial Diatonic harmonic principle and are labeled as such when notating a Harmonic Analysis Worksheet.

Here are the possible Secondary Dominant chords as defined by the above definition for both Major and Minor tonalities.

VI7 --> V of II - EXAMPLES Key of C

I VI7 (V of II) II
C A7 Dm
Cmaj7 A7 Dm7
Cm7 Ab7 Dbmaj7
Cm Ab7 Db

Note: Major only, Minor does not fit our definition as Ab7 would resolve to Dbmaj7 which is not a chord in the key of Cm.

VII7 --> V of III - EXAMPLES Key of C

IVII7 (V of III)III
Cmaj7 B7 Em7
C B7 Em
Cm7 B7 Emaj7
Cm B7 E

Note: Major only, Minor does not fit our definition as B7 would resolve to Emaj7 which is not a chord in the key of Cm.

IV7 --> V of IV - EXAMPLES Key of C

I I7 (V of IV) IV
C C7 F
Cmaj7 C7 Fmaj7
Cm C7 Fm
Cm7 C7 Fm7

Note: Major and Minor Tonalities.

IV7 --> V of V - EXAMPLES Key of C

I II7 (V of V) V
C D7 G
Cmaj7 D7 G7
Cm D7 G
Cm7 D7 G7

Note: Major and Minor Tonalities.

IV7 --> V of VI - EXAMPLES Key of C

I III7 (V of VI) VI
C E7 Am
Cmaj7 E7 Am
Cm E7 G
Cm7 Eb7 Abmaj7

Note: Major and Minor Tonalities.

The I7, II7, III7 are possible in both major and minor tonalities. The VI7 and VII7 are possible in major tonalities only.

Chained Secondary Dominant Cycles

When several Secondary Dominant chords are used in a row and resolve up a fourth or down a fifth to a seventh chord, this is called a chained secondary dominant cycle.

These Secondary Dominant chords can be preceded by there II chords.

Secondary Dominant Cycle Examples

Here are a few chained secondary dominant examples.

  • Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue
  • I Got Rhythm (Rhythm Changes) (Bridge) III7, VI7, II7, V7
  • Scrapple the Apple (Rhythm Changes Bridge) III7, VI7, II7, V7
  • Jordu contains two secondary dominant cycles in the bridge.
  • Stompin' at the Savoy contains a secondary dominant cycle in the bridge starting on the IV7 chord.

Diminished Chords?

Some diminished chords are really functioning as disguised secondary dominant chords. So...

When is a diminished chord NOT a diminished chord?

To determine if a diminished chord is functioning as a disguised secondary dominant write out all four notes of the diminished chord:

1) Drop each note 1/2 step and make each a root of a 7th chord:

C7, Eb7, Gb7, A7

2) If the next chord is a major 7 or minor 7 chord, which if it was a I chord and the preceding chord could be its V chord. Then the diminished chord is really a 7 flat 9 chord — A Disguised Secondary Dominant.

Examples in Key of C

#I°7 (bII) VI7b9 a V of II C#°7 A7b9/C#
#II°7 (bIII) VII7b9 a V of III D#°7* B7b9/D#
#IV°7 (III7b9) VII7b9 a V of VI F#°7 E7b9/F#
#V°7 (bVI) VII7b9 a V of V G#°7 D7b9/G##

*Note: C#°7 is also the enharmonic equivalent Db°7, D#°7 is also the enharmonic equivalent Eb°7, etc... See the lesson on Enharmonic Equivalents for more information.

When a diminished seventh chord resolves to a chord 1/2 step above its root it is functioning as a disguised secondary dominant chord.


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