What are Dominant Seventh Chords ?
- By Stef Ramin
- On 09/29/2018
- 0 comments
Dominant seventh chords are the most important features in music, you can find them in many styles of music, especially in blues and, of course, in jazz. In this lesson, you will see how to construct drop 2, drop 3 and drop 2 & 4 dominant seventh chords, what is their harmonic function and how to play them on guitar.
What's a Dominant Seventh Chord?
Construction of a dominant 7 chord
A Dominant 7 chord is built from the 5th degree of a scale, which is the dominant degree. Let's take the C major scale as an example, the tetrad chord (four notes) built from the 5th degree is G7.
You can see a dominant 7 chord as a major triad with an added flattened seventh. This means that a dominant 7 chord is built with root (1), major third (3), perfect fifth (5) and minor seventh (b7).
|G dominant 7th chord (G7)||G||B||D||F|
Dominant 7 chords are written with a "7" after the name of the chord. Exemple with C7 = C dominant 7. The roman numeral V is used to indicate a chord built from the fifth degree of a scale. In that way, "V7" is being used when referencing the dominant seventh chord.
Difference Between Major 7 Chords
Dominant 7 chords must not be confused with major 7 chords which are built with root (1), major third (3), perfect fifth (5) and major seventh (7). Indeed, the only one difference is in the seventh.
What's the Harmonic Function of a Dominant 7 Chord?
Harmonic function defines the relationship between chords of a given key. Dominant chord produces instability and tension which tends to resolve to the tonic chord (I). Let's take G7 (G-B-D-F) the degree V of the C major scale. The third (B) and the minor seventh (F) of G7 form an interval of 6 semi-tones called "tritone". This is an unstable and dissonnant interval that produce a strong tension. This tension makes the unstable notes want to move to their nearest neighbour note. Example with the C major scale :
- F, The b7 of G7 wants to resolve to the E the third of C (red arrow).
- B, The 3 third of G7 wants to resolve to the I of C that is obviously C (blue arrow).
In a chord progression, a dominant 7 chord is generally used for the V chord leading to the I chord. For example, you can get V7 – Imaj7 (major key) or V7 – im7 (minor key).
The chart below is based on the C major scale and includes :
- The degree as a roman numeral.
- The name of the mode.
- The name of the scale degree.
- The interval of each step (T=tone, S=semitone)
|Degree||Mode||Name of degree (harmonic function)||Intervals|
How To Play Dominant 7 Chords On Guitar
Dominant 7 Basic Positions
Let's start with dominant 7 chords in “open positions”. Open chords are chords that include one or more unfretted strings. They are generally learned first by guitar beginners. The eight diagrams below represent the most basic guitar positions.
You will find on the right, a YouTube jazz backing track for practicing dominant 7 arpeggios, scales and chords.
Drop 2 Voicings
Drop 2 Voicings are one of the most used chords in jazz because in comparison with drop 3 and drop 2-4 chords, they are less stretchy and more easy to play. Drop 2 chords are built by dropping the second highest voice of a chord down to the bottom.
Dominant 7 drop 2 voicing in its root position is R - 5 - b7 - 3. This implies three inversions that are :
- 3 - b7 - R - 5 (1st inversion)
- 5 - R - 3 - b7 (2nd inversion)
- b7 - 3 - 5 - R (3rd inversion)
Drop 2 dominant 7 chords - Basses on fourth string
Drop 2 dominant 7 chords - Basses on fifth string
Drop 2 dominant 7 chords - Basses on sixth string
Drop 3 Voicings
Drop 3 chords are built by dropping the third highest note of a close voicing. They are greatly appreciated by guitarists for comping and soloing. They can be very useful in music composition and arrangement. The particularity of drop 3 voicings is that the bass notes are on the fifth and sixth string and there is a string skip between the two lowest notes.
Dominant 7 drop 3 root voicing is R - b7 - 3 - 5. The inverted voicings are :
- 3 - R - 5 - b7 (1st inversion)
- 5 - 3 - b7 - R (2nd inversion)
- b7 - 5 - R - 3 (3rd inversion)
Drop 3 dominant 7 chords - Basses on sixth string
Drop 3 dominant 7 chords - Basses on fifth string
Drop 2 & 4 Voicings
Drop 2 & 4 chords are constructed by dropping down to the octave the second and the fourth note of a chord in close position. They are not the most used by guitar players, but, they can be interesting for composition and arrangement.
Dominant 7 drop 2-4 root voicing is R - 5 - 3 - b7. The inversions are :
- 3 - b7 - 5 - R (1st inversion)
- 5 - R - b7 - 3 (2nd inversion)
- b7 - 3 - R - 5 (3rd inversion)
Drop 2 & 4 dominant 7 chords - Basses on fifth string
Drop 2 & 4 dominant 7 chords - Basses on sixth string
This printable PDF eBook provides 101 dominant arpeggio exercises with tab, theory and standard notation for the jazz, blues and rock guitarist.
Printable PDF eBook containing 40 major jazz guitar licks with tab, standard notation and audio files for beginners and intermediates.
This downloadable eBook in PDF format provides 49 jazz solo transcriptions of the greatest jazz musicians of all times with TABS, standard notation and analysis both for guitar teachers and students.
This jazz guitar method is an eBook available as a PDF with standard notation, guitar tabs, diagrams, analysis, audio files and backing tracks. You will find in this booklet 25 easy jazz guitar lines with theory using common and rare pentatonic scales.
This method is a printable PDF eBook containing 20 II-V-I jazz guitar lines with tabs and audio files both in major and minor keys
A printable PDF eBook with tabs and standard notation containing five jazz blues guitar studies. Learn how to use arpeggios over a jazz blues progression.
Jazz guitar comping. How to play II-V-I chord progressions on guitar with drop 2, drop 3 chords, rootless and inverted voicings. This method is a printable PDF eBook containing 50 exercises with analysis, tabs & standard notation.
This PDF method contains 11 guitar lessons with chord studies, tabs, standard notation, analysis & audio files about the main blues progressions used in jazz music.
This PDF eBook method contains 25 altered jazz guitar licks with tabs, patterns, scale charts and audio files to master, apply and develop the altered scale.
This printable method is available as a PDF file containing 40 easy dominant jazz-blues guitar lines with tabs, standard notation, analysis and scale charts.
You will find here an eBook available in PDF containing 25 soul jazz and hard bop guitar licks with tabs and standard notation in the style of Grant Green, Melvin Sparks, George Benson.These jazz lines come with tabs, standard notation, guitar neck diagrams, backing track for practice and 25 audio files for each riff.
This eBook PDF contains 25 dominant diminished jazz guitar patterns using the half-whole diminished scale and diminished 7th arpeggios.
This printable PDF eBook contains 25 minor jazz guitar licks with tabs, video links, analysis. How to play modes, scales & arpeggios over minor chords.
The tritone substitution is explained through 6 jazz guitar licks with tabs/notation, youtube video links. Printable PDF eBook.