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They're All Dominant 7 Chords

Darrin Koltow (383) · [archive]
Style: Theory/Reference · Level: Intermediate · Tempo: 120
Pages: 1 2

Attention reader: this article is a revision of a prior article that received a number of significant comments from one of WholeNote's most reputable, knowledgeable and respected members. The member concluded implicitly that this article essentially had no validity, and that it was unwise to offer it to WholeNote readers. Before you proceed to read this article, I strongly urge you to skip to the end for important notes regarding it. What follows is the body of the revised article.

They're All Dominant 7 Chords

This next concept might seem to come from the Twilight Zone, especially for those of you who have not yet fallen head over heels in love with jazz harmony and jazz concepts in general. But, forget that any of what I say here has to do with jazz, and just dig the sound.

The idea I want to introduce is that every chord is a dom7 chord in disguise. What do you think? Pause for a second and let this thought sink in. [Cue music: theme to Jeopardy] Let's illustrate this with some nifty cadences.

(Don't forget our notation, now. The left-most number represents the fret you play on the high E string, and the right-most number is the fret you play on the low E string. Capisci? Esta bien.)

Mystery Chord

How does this sound to you? What do you think that Mystery Chord is? Sounds like, smells like, feels like a C major, doesn't it? Okay, okay, it is. But it's also one of *many* dominant 7 chords. In fact, it's 9 different dom7 chords! How can this be?

First, I want to warn you: this is heavy duty theory stuff in the next paragraph. But I promise you I'll give a shortcut through it in the paragraph that follows. Okay, hold your breath. Go!

You know, there's an 800 pound gorilla sitting on my shoulder right now, saying "Tell 'em! Tell 'em all about the Melodic Minor scale! Tell 'em!" I gotta get that gorilla off me, so I'll just tell you this much: the reason that the C major chord can also be 9 different dom7 chords is because the notes C, E and G, which make up the C major chord, can be found in 9 different melodic minor keys. In each of those keys, there's an altered 7 chord, which can include every cotton-pickin' note in that melodic minor scale.

Okay, time to come up for air. It's important that you let a tiny seed of curiosity about melodic minor embed itself in your head, so its wonderful sounds and can one day find themselves in your playing.

I promised a shortcut to show you how to make 9 different dom 7 chords from the notes C, E, G. Here it is: all you have to do is eliminate the 3 dom7 chords that the notes C, E, and G *can't be*. How do you do that? For each of these three notes, go up one half step. That note will be the root of the dom7 chord you can eliminate. Let's illustrate this:

Note: C.
Go up a half-step: Db
Dom7 chord to eliminate: Db7

Do the same for the other three notes. You'll wind up with the chords Db7, F7 and Ab7. Those are the only dom7 chords that C, E, and G can't be found in. Why? Because the *only* illegal note in a dom7 chord is the major 7. Every other note is fair game.

What's the result of all this hoo-hah? 9 different dom7 chords. Here they are now in all their glory, along with chords you might resolve them to: