Dominant and secondary dominant chords?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Rytch, Jun 29, 2008.

  1. hey there, i have been playing for a while, and consider myself to have a fairly good grasp of theory.

    just a couple of things i would like clearing up;

    i know the dominant chords in a major scale are the 4th and 5th, however, i am unsure as to what chords i would use as a dominant in the minor scale, for example, would the dominant chords in Cminor be Fm and Gm?

    also am i correct in thinking that if i were to incorporate a secondary dominant chord into a chord progression, it would go something like this?

    FM(I)-BbM(IV)-G7(dominant of CM)-CM

    could anybody give me some examples of how to incorporate non-diatonic chords in a progression other than the use of the secondary dominant?

    Thanks for the help, rytch
  2. onlyclave


    Oct 28, 2005

    The "Dominant" chord in any key is the V, nothing else. The "Dominant function" chord is ANY chord whose root resolves up by leading tone or down by fifth.

    That being said, in C major G is the dominant and functions that way, Bdim is also a dominant function chord.

    A secondary dominant temporarily tonicizes another chord withing the original key: in C major, the triad built off of D is minor, but if you make it major (D F# A, look for the accidentals) there is your secondary dominant. D major in the key of C major is the V/V (it's the dominant chord built off of the root of the Dominant chord) and it resolves to G.
  3. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    to avoid confusion, I would tend to describe them as the Primary chords of C minor, since 'dominant chord' makes people think of dominant 7 chords... obviously the chords built on F & G aren't dominant 7 chords, (although C harmonic minor has that major 7 built into it to give you a G7 instead of a Gm7)

    but yeah, you could call them dominant chords because of their cadential function etc

    yep, that's a secondary dominant... it gets even more interesting when you start delaying the resolution by going to a different chord... or first playing the dominant of the secondary dominant...

    big subject... but here's a few to kick the thread off:

    chromatic alteration is a common way to connect diatonic chords using non-diatonic ones... i.e. C / / / C+ / / / Am / / / the C augmented chord provides chromatic movement G-G#-A

    simply substituting minor for major (and vice versa) can add colour... lots of Beatle songs have a minor chord on the IV where you'd expect a major... or they go major THEN minor

    you can also borrow other chords from the parallel minor key... it gets interesting when you start taking chords that don't share a root with the home key.. eg if you're in A major and throwing around chords like Amaj7, F#m7, E7 etc, try a Cmaj7 or an Fmaj7 in there... these sound good to my ear:

    Amaj7 - F#m7 - Fmaj7 - E7 or

    Amaj7 - F#m7 - Cmaj7 - E7

    sometimes just sliding a whole chord up or down can work.. we've all heard songs that go Amaj7 - C#m7 - Bm7 where they put a passing chord of Cm7 in between the C#m7 & Bm7... bit of a cliche but it happens

    same with sliding major chords up and down... suppose you have a common diatonic chord progression... G - Bm - C - D... nice & safe, round and round... it's a Beatley type thing (again) to arrive back at the G by playing the chords Eb - F - G... i.e. 'Hello Goodbye' uses this... try it!

    um... the Hendrix chord (E7#9) is non-diatonic and works by imparting some minor flavour & chromatic dissonance into an otherwise straight dominant chord... it's more to be used as flavouring I guess than part of a chord sequence

    you can also use a tritone substitution on your secondary dominant chords for interesting results... so in your example you could use F - Bb - Db7 - C instead of F - Bb - G7 - C

    i'll let the others chime in with some more
  4. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    Yea, that's how it works. And there are many other good examples, but that's the basic idea that a chord outside of the key you are in takes a dominant seventh (and becomes major if need be) to emphasize the chord that follows. Some people will call this a momentary modulation. There are other terms but they all mean the same thing that the usually collection of notes that make up a key is expanded to include notes for the secondary dominant.

    There are so many examples. One would be the mediant (3rd scale step) chord. You'll hear this chord made major and with a dominant seventh in some old "Dop-Wop" songs like "Gee Whiz"... where the progression is C E7 F. This also comes up in some country songs "Break It To Me Gently". In these cases, the chord seems to point to the IV chord more than resolving it as a secondary dominant. You'll also find this kind of chord in old pop tunes from the 1920's .... "Ain't She Sweet" would be an example.... C E7 A7 D7 G7. Here the non-diatonic chord starts a chain of non-diatonic chords that go around the circle of fifths.

    Other non-diatonic examples. Lesley Gore's "It's My Pary" has a number of good examples. In the chorus the IV chord moves from major to minor... this is extremely common in pop tunes of the 50's and 60's... in fact if you hear a chord from one of those songs shift from major to minor you can bet its the IV chord. Not an example of secondary dominant of course, but a good and common example of non-diatonic harmony. Also a good non-diatonic example, from the same song, is the shift in the verse from I to a chord built on the flat 3rd scale step. A to C. Again, this is a fairly common harmonic move in pop music if the 60's. Probably better way to think of that is chords built on the steps of a pentatonic scale (Led Zepplin does this often) and a common chord progression might be C Eb F G, or C Bb C Bb C Bb G etc.

    And in thinking of the last example... remember that chords come from scales, so if you are using an altered scale (that is altered from major or minor) you chords can be... should be... whatever, alter too.
  5. BillyRay


    Jan 20, 2008
    "Jazzology" has a good chunk of it dedicated to chord function, subing and dominant/secondary dominant. You should check it out. It'd give you the correct terminology and a lot of insight on the "why?" and "how?" of diatonic and non-diatonic harmony.
  6. thanks very much guys, your help has been wicked :-D

    im gonna put those progressions on my keyboard and play around with them.

    thanks again!