• Here’s How Secondary Dominant Chords Are Applied In Cyclical Progressions

    in Blues music,Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,General Music,Gospel music,Jazz music,Piano,Theory

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    If you want to know how secondary dominant chords are applied in cyclical progressions, then you arrived at the right page.

    Every serious pianist who wants to be efficient in accompaniment must have a proper understanding of secondary dominant chords and how they are applied, and that’s why we’re dedicating this lesson to expose you to the application of secondary dominant chords.

    Attention: If you’re not really acquainted with what secondary dominant chords and cyclical progressions are, don’t worry! We’re starting off with a comprehensive review on them.

    At the end of this lesson, you’ll be spicing up cyclical progressions with passing chord – I guarantee you that!

    A Quick Review On Secondary Dominant Chords

    Due to the fact that secondary dominant chords are dominant chords, I would want us to start out by focusing on the definition of dominant chords.

    The term dominant is a technical name that music scholars associate with the fifth degree in any given key – whether major or minor. In the key of C major:

    …G (which is the fifth degree in the key):

    …is the dominant.

    In the key of C major:

    …all chords that are formed from G (the dominant):

    …are generally classified as dominant chords.

    There are three classes of dominant chords (according to width) – the dominant triad, the dominant seventh, and the extended dominant chords.

    “Check Out These G Dominant Chords…”

    The G dominant triad:

    …encompasses five tones of the C major scale from G to D:

    The G dominant seventh chord:

    …encompasses seven tones of the C major scale from G to F:

    The G dominant ninth chord:

    …(which is an extended dominant chord) encompasses nine tones of the C major scale from G to A:

    Harmonic Traits Of Dominant Chords

    Dominant chords are unique because when played, they have the tendency to move (aka – “resolve”) to stable chords like major and minor chords.

    Dominant chords have always resolved either to a major or a minor chord whose root is a perfect fifth below at least for the past 500 years.

    “Pay Attention To This…”

    The G dominant seventh chord:

    …resolves either to a major or minor chord whose root is a perfect fifth below it. A perfect fifth below G:

    …is C:

    …consequently, the G dominant seventh chord:

    …either resolves to the C major seventh:

    …or C minor seventh chord:

    “What Are Secondary Dominant Chords?”

    Secondary dominant chords are dominant chords that resolve to other degrees of the scale. In the key of C major:

    …we’ve already established it that the G dominant seventh chord resolves to the C major seventh chord.

    Beyond having a dominant chord that resolves to the chord of the first degree (which is the C major seventh chord), the concept of secondary dominant chords deals with dominant chords that resolve to other degrees of the scale.

    Attention: Always remember that dominant chords are associated with the number five.

    The seventh chord of the second degree in the key of C major is the D minor seventh chord:

    …and its dominant chord is the A dominant seventh chord:

    So, the A dominant seventh chord is a secondary dominant chord in the key of C major.

    “Here Are Most Of The Secondary Dominant Chords In The Key Of C Major…”

    The C dominant seventh chord:

    …which resolves to the F major seventh chord:

    …the chord of the fourth degree.

    The D dominant seventh chord:

    …which resolves to the G major triad:

    …the chord of the fifth degree.

    The E dominant seventh chord:

    …which resolves to the A minor seventh chord:

    …the chord of the sixth degree.

    The A dominant seventh chord:

    …which resolves to the D minor seventh chord:

    …the chord of the second degree.

    The B dominant seventh chord:

    …which resolves to the E minor seventh chord:

    …the chord of the third degree.

    These secondary dominant chords function as passing chords to scale degree chords.

    “What Are Cyclical Progressions?”

    In the key of C major:

    …there are eight degrees:

    C is the first

    D is the second

    E is the third

    F is the fourth

    G is the fifth

    A is the sixth

    B is the seventh

    C is the eighth

    The movement of chords from one degree of the scale to another produces chord progressions.

    Cyclical progressions are basically chord movements based on stipulated interval and in this lesson, we’re focusing on cyclical progressions that are based on ascents of fourth intervals and descents of fifth intervals (aka – “cycle of fourth and fifths”.)

    Before we go any further, let me show you how the root movement in cyclical progressions work.

    “Here’s A Cyclical Root Progression…”

    Starting from C:

    …ascending a fourth to F:

    …descending a fifth to B:

    …ascending a fourth to E:

    …descending a fifth to A:

    …ascending a fourth to D:

    …descending a fifth to G:

    …and ascending a fourth takes us back to C:

    Check Out This Cyclical Progression Using Seventh Chords…”

    C major seventh chord:

    …to the F major seventh chord:

    …to the B half-diminished seventh chord:

    …to the E minor seventh chord:

    …to the A minor seventh chord:

    …to the D minor seventh chord:

    …to the G dominant seventh chord:

    …and back to the C major seventh chord:

    If we go ahead and apply the knowledge of the A & B voicing technique to the seventh chords above, we can have a smoother transition between the chords.

    “Check It Out…”

    From the A voicing of the C major seventh chord:

    …to the B voicing of the F major seventh chord:

    …to the A voicing of the B half-diminished seventh chord:

    …to the B voicing of the E minor seventh chord:

    …to the A voicing of the A minor seventh chord:

    …to the B voicing of the D minor seventh chord:

    …to the A voicing of the G dominant seventh chord:

    …and back to the B voicing of the C major seventh chord:

    Let’s go ahead and explore how the cyclical progression above can be spiced up using secondary dominant chords.

    Cyclical Progressions Using Secondary Dominant Chords

    Here are three approaches to playing cyclical progressions using secondary dominant chords

    #1 – The Jazz Pianist’s Approach

    From the A voicing of the C dominant seventh chord (secondary dominant chord):

    …to the B voicing of the F major seventh chord:

    …to the A voicing of the B dominant seventh chord (secondary dominant chord):

    …to the B voicing of the E minor seventh chord:

    …to the A voicing of the A minor seventh chord (secondary dominant chord):

    …to the B voicing of the D minor seventh chord:

    …to the A voicing of the G dominant seventh chord:

    …and back to the B voicing of the C major seventh chord:

    #2 – The Gospel Pianist’s Approach

    From the B voicing of the C dominant seventh chord (secondary dominant chord):

    …to the A voicing of the F major seventh chord:

    …to the B voicing of the B half-diminished seventh chord:

    …to the A voicing of the E dominant seventh chord (secondary dominant chord):

    …to the B voicing of the A minor seventh chord:

    …to the A voicing of the D dominant seventh chord (secondary dominant chord):

    …to the B voicing of the G dominant seventh chord:

    …then to the A voicing of the C major seventh chord:

    #3 – The Jazz-Blues Pianist’s Approach

    From the A voicing of the C dominant seventh chord (secondary dominant chord):

    …to the B voicing of the F dominant seventh chord (secondary dominant chord):

    …to the A voicing of the B dominant seventh chord (secondary dominant chord):

    …to the B voicing of the E dominant seventh chord (secondary dominant chord):

    …to the A voicing of the A minor seventh chord (secondary dominant chord):

    …to the B voicing of the D dominant seventh chord:

    …to the A voicing of the G dominant seventh chord:

    …and back to the B voicing of the C dominant seventh chord (secondary dominant chord):

    Final Words

    Congratulations!

    Getting to this point let’s me know that you’re serious about learning cyclical chord progressions. I have no doubt that one one or all the three approaches will appeal to you and add to your chordal vocabulary.

    I’ll see you in another lesson where we’ll be applying these cyclical progressions to congregational songs and jazz standards.

    See you then!

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as a music consultant and content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with thousands of musicians across the world.

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    { 1 comment… read it below or add one }

    1 Linda

    In the last progression I think the A chord is labeled incorrectly. It says it’s an A minor chord, but the keyboard shows an A7 chord.

    Reply

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