Dominant Seventh Chords?

Not all seventh chords are actually "dominant" seventh chords.

Published: Jan 2, 2005 Updated: Apr 3, 2019 • Visitors: 93 • Page Views: 1

ukulele music Subjects: advancedchordsjazzscalesmodesdominantseventh

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Dominant Seventh Chords?

Not all seventh chords are actually "dominant" seventh chords. This lesson covers when is a Dominant Seventh Chord NOT truly a Dominant seventh?

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Not all seventh chords are actually "dominant" seventh chords. This lesson covers when is a Dominant Seventh Chord NOT truly a Dominant seventh?


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Players will often refer to ALL seventh chords as dominant or dominant seventh chords. In the key of C major when referring to the G or G7, this is correct. But - Dominant, in this context actually refers to the chord's Harmonic Function within a scale and harmony. So, unless you can determine that a seventh chord is functioning as a V or dominant chord in the current tonality. The chord is just a seventh chord and does not need the additional dominant designation.

Dominant Seventh Chords?

A chord has a name - the root or letter name of the chord and chord type information. Dominant is not type it is a function.

Most chords are build in thirds and start as triads. 4-part chords are additional notes added to triads. The traditional triads are: major, monir, diminished and augmented. Notice - No Dominant.

To determine the function of a chord, you need to do a harmonic analysis (HA) which is beyond the scope of this article.

Here are the traditional function names of the scale degrees of a Diatonic major scale:

... the demand of the V7 for resolution is, to our ears, almost inescapably compelling. The dominant seventh is, in fact, the central propulsive force in our music; it is unambiguous and unequivocal. — Goldman, 1965

  • First note and chord: Tonic
  • Second note and chord: Supertonic
  • Third note and chord: Mediant
  • Fourth note and chord: Subdominant
  • Fifth note and chord: Dominant
  • Sixth note and chord: Submediant
  • Seventh note and chord: Leading/Subtonic

We don't call other seventh chords: Tonic Seventh, Supertonic Seventh, Secondary Dominant, etc... Dominant is the harmonic function of a chord - NOT part of its name.

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