What s a dominant 7 chord

What are Dominant Seventh Chords ?

  • By
  • On 09/29/2018

What s a dominant 7 chord

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).

Formula 1 3 5 b7
G dominant 7th chord (G7) G B D F


Chord Symbol 

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

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).

Voice leading v to i

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
I Ionian Tonic TTsTTTs
II Dorian Supertonic TsTTTsT
III Phrygian Mediant sTTTsTT
IV Lydian Subdominant TTTsTTs
V Mixolydian Dominant TTsTTsT
VI Aeolian Submediant TsTTsTT
VII Locrian Subtonic sTTsTTT


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.

Dominant 7th chords for beginners

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 seventh guitar chord diagrams

Drop 2 dominant 7 chords - Basses on fourth string


Drop 2 dominant 7 chords 1

Drop 2 dominant 7 chords - Basses on fifth string


Drop 2 dom7 guitar chords

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)


Dominant 7 drop 3 guitar chords bass on 6th string

Drop 3 dominant 7 chords - Basses on sixth string

Dominant 7 drop 3 chords bass on 5th 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 and 4 guitar chords

Drop 2 & 4 dominant 7 chords - Basses on fifth string


Drop 2 and 4 guitar voicings

Drop 2 & 4 dominant 7 chords - Basses on sixth string


Dominant 7 Cycle of Fourths Jazz Backing Track | Twelve Keys

  • 40 Minor II V I Licks

    This guitar method is a printable PDF with tabs, diagrams, theory and audio files providing 40 minor II V I jazz licks.
  • 40 II V I Jazz Guitar Licks

    This pdf method for guitar contains 40 II V I jazz guitar lines with tab, standard notation, analysis, scale charts and audio files.
  • 50 II-V-I voicings

    This guitar method is a printable PDF eBook contains 50 exercises with audio files, analysis, tab & standard notation on how to play over II-V-I chord progressions using different kind of voicings.
  • II V I Bundle

    This package contains 3 PDF methods for jazz guitarists with tabs, audio files, analysis about the II V I progression.
  • 40 Mixolydian Jazz Guitar Lick

    This package contains a guitar method available as a PDF with tabs, audio files and theory providing 40 dominant jazz guitar lines for teachers and students.
  • 40 Minor Jazz Guitar Licks

    This printable guitar method in PDF format contains 40 easy minor jazz guitar lines based on the Dorian mode.
  • 40 Major Jazz Guitar Licks

    Printable PDF eBook method containing 40 major jazz guitar licks with tab, standard notation and audio files for beginners and intermediates.
  • Diatonic Licks Bundle

    This package contains 120 jazz guitar lines based on diatonic modes as Mixolydian, Dorian and Ionian. PDF format with tabs, audio files and analysis.
  • Guitar Walking Bass Lines NEW

    This jazz guitar method about walking bass lines and chords is available as a PDF files containing 35 exercises with tabs, analysis and audio files
  • 101 Dominant Arpeggio Patterns

    This printable PDF method provides 101 dominant arpeggio exercises with tab, theory and standard notation for the jazz, blues and rock guitarist.
  • 49 Essential Jazz Lines

    This printable eBook method in PDF format provides 49 jazz solo transcriptions of the greatest jazz musicians of all times with TABS, standard notation, audio files and analysis both for guitar teachers and students.
  • 11 Jazz Blues Studies

    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.
  • 25 Altered Jazz Guitar Lines

    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.
  • 40 Blues Dominant patterns

    This printable method is available as a PDF file containing 40 easy dominant jazz-blues guitar lines with tabs, standard notation, analysis, audio files and scale charts.
  • Mastering Pentatonic Scales

    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.
  • 25 Soul Jazz Guitar Licks

    You will find here an eBook available in PDF containing 25 soul jazz and hard bop guitar licks 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.
  • 25 Diminished Patterns

    This eBook PDF with audio files contains 25 dominant diminished jazz guitar patterns using the half-whole diminished scale and diminished 7th arpeggios.
  • 6 Tritone substitution licks

    This Printable PDF eBook available for free download contains 6 easy jazz guitar licks with tabs/notation, youtube video link and analysis about the tritone substitution.

dominant 7 chords seventh chords dominant chords drop 2-4 drop 3 drop 2 Theory harmony voicings chords

  • No ratings yet - be the first to rate this.