• Eighth Day Of Christmas: Eight Extended Dominant Chord Species

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,Piano

    dominant chord

    Whenever you see the term dominant in music, it can only mean one thing – fifth.

    Dominant is the technical name for the fifth degree of the scale, whether major or minor. The same way we have names, every degree of the scale has its technical name.

    Below are the names associated with each degree of the scale, using C major scale as a reference:

    Scale Degree Letter name Technical name
    First C Tonic
    Second D Supertonic
    Third E Mediant
    Fourth F Subdominant
    Fifth G Dominant
    Sixth A Submediant
    Seventh B Subtonic

    These technical names can be applied to any known major or minor scale.

    For example, considering that the fifth degree is the dominant…

    G is the dominant of C:

    E is the dominant of A, etc.:

    Chords formation on the fifth degree of the scale yields a special class of chords known as dominant chords. Below are G dominant chords (chords off the fifth degree in the key of C major):

    G major triad:

    G dominant seventh (also written as dom7):

    The chords above (G major and G dominant seventh) are considered special because every other chord class derives their names from the intervals they are made up of (intervallic components).

    For example…

    Major triads and major seventh chords inherit the major quality of the interval they are built from. Therefore, they are known as major chords.

    The same thing is obtainable for minor triads and minor seventh chords, diminished triads and diminished seventh chords, etc., whose names are derived from the quality of intervals they are made of.

    The term dominant, however, is derived from the fifth degree of the scale.

    The dominant seventh and other extended dominant chords command special attention because the interval between the third and fifth chord tones is a diminished fifth. The third and seventh chord tones of Gdom7:

    …are B and F.

    The interval between B and F is a diminished fifth.

    This interval was dreaded by musicians several years ago as the devil in music. Another name for it was the tritone (in reference to the three adjacent whole steps [B to D, D to E, and E to F] between B and F).

    If you have read my post on chromatic dissonant intervals, you might remember we came across this interval and studied it extensively.

    Musicians of my generation love the tritone so much. For years now, I’ve been inundated with Facebook inbox and WhatsApp messages from people requesting lessons on the tritone.

    Well, a good way to start your adventure with tritones is to master the extended dominant seventh chords. And in the spirit of Christmas (and more so the New Year), I’ve decided to share eight species of extended dominant chords in this lesson.

    Unlike the dominant seventh chord that falls into the compass of one octave, extended dominant chords contain compound intervals like ninths, elevenths and thirteenths (that exceed the span of an octave).

    If by happenstance or choice, you stack more thirds to the basic dominant seventh chord:

    …you’ll be exceeding the compass of one octave.

    A third above F (the highest chord tone) will produce:

    The interval from G to A:

    …is a ninth. Yet another third (A to C) will produce:

    The interval from G to C:

    …is an eleventh.

    And another third (C to E):

    The interval from G to E:

    … is a thirteenth.

    All these notes added above the basic dominant seventh structure are known as extensions because of the compound intervals they form from the root of the chord.

    Extended Dominant Chord Species

    Who can tell me what these names (Rottweiler, Neapolitan, and Alsatian) have in common?

    They are all dogs but different species. Specie is what distinguishes animals that are closely related by class, order, family, and genius.

    (*Lol! You’ll have to forgive my biological inclination in today’s post*)

    There are two known species of chimpanzees – Pan troglodytes and Pan paniscus. Don’t be fooled by the names. The first one is the robust chimpanzee while the second one is the dwarf chimpanzee.

    Did you notice the “Pan” in both names? Yes! Both are chimpanzees, the difference between the species has to do with size (among other things).

    Now, the reason why I took time to delve into biology is because I want you to understand that even though extended dominant chords are closely related, there are several species.

    Just like chimpanzees may be robust or dwarf, extended dominant species have various harmonic traits that distinguish them.

    There are several species, however, I’m limited to only eight because today is the eighth day of Christmas. Sign up on the notification list for our upcoming course, “All About Chords” to delve deeper into all of this.

    Admission: In the following examples, I will use enharmonic spellings. In other words, you may see me use C instead of D (or vise versa) in order to show you the easier option of playing an upper structure chord over the root dominant chord. If I used the actual spelling of 9 (which would be D instead of C in the key of C), it would make this method harder to understand.

    First Specie – Dom13 [11]

    This specie features a D major triad over a basic Cdom7 chord on the left hand. Inverting the D major triad can give us other options such as:

    …or this:

    Second Specie – Dom7 [9,5]

    This specie features a C minor triad over a Cdom7 chord on the left hand. This is an altered dominant seventh chord, therefore, just like every other altered chord, it can resolve to Fmin11 chord. Subjecting the right hand voicing to inversion will yield:

    …or even:

    Third Specie – Dom9 [11]

    This specie features a D augmented triad over a Cdom7 chord on the left hand. Inverting the right hand chord, we’ll have:

    If you don’t have small fingers, you can invert one more time to yield:

    Fourth Specie – Dom7 [9]

    This specie features a C diminished triad over a dom7 chord on the left hand.

    Fifth Specie – Dom9 [9,11]

    This specie features a D major seventh chord over a dom7 chord on the left hand. Another way of playing this extended dominant chord specie can be:

    Sixth Specie – Dom7 [♯9,♭9,♭5]

    This specie features a D minor seventh chord over a dom7 chord on the left hand.

    Seventh Specie – Dom13 [♯9,♯11]

    This specie features a D diminished seventh chord over a dom7 chord on the left hand.

    Eighth Specie – Dom7 [♭9, ♭5]

    This specie features an F dominant 7 chord over a dom7 chord on the left hand.

    The following chord qualities were featured on the right hand:


    Right Hand

    First specie

    Major triad

    Second specie

    Minor triad

    Third specie

    Augmented triad

    Fourth specie

    Diminished triad

    Fifth specie

    Major seventh

    Sixth specie

    Minor seventh

    Seventh specie

    Diminished seventh

    Eighth specie

    Dominant seventh

    Practice these chords as you’ve got some heavy hitting extended dominant chords here, no doubt!

    Once again, Happy New Year!

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    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.

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