• Who Else Wants To Learn The Principles That Govern The Resolution Of The Dominant Seventh Chord

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,General Music,Piano,Theory

    In today’s lesson, we’re focusing on the resolution of the dominant seventh chord.

    The dominant seventh chord is one of the most important chords in tonal music for the past 500 years and this is because of its relationship with the chord of the first degree (aka – “tonic chord”.)

    The most common ending progression for most songs features a chord progression from the dominant chord to the tonic chord. For example, in the key of C major:

    …most songs end with the G dominant seventh chord:

    …progressing to the C major triad:

    If you invest the next 15 minutes or so in this blog, you’ll completely grasp the principles that govern the resolution of the dominant seventh chord.

    A Quick Review On The Dominant Seventh Chord

    There’s no better way to get started with this lesson than with a review of the dominant seventh chord. Right before we get into its resolution, let’s define, analyze, and form it.


    There are so many ways to define the dominant seventh chord, however, the definition below captures most of the essential keywords:

    The dominant seventh chord is a collection of related notes, founded on the fifth degree of the scale, that encompasses an interval of a seventh.

    Permit me to breakdown the following terms:

    • Dominant
    • Seventh
    • Chord

    …so you can picture the dominant seventh chord on a bolder relief.

    The Term Dominant – Explained

    There are eight degrees in every key (whether major or minor), and music scholars have technical names for eight of them. The term dominant is the technical name for the fifth degree of the scale.

    Hence, the term dominant is synonymous with the number “five.”

    For example, the dominant in the key of C major:

    …is G:

    …which is the fifth tone of the scale.

    The Term Seventh- Explained

    The term seventh is used to quantify an interval or chord that encompasses seven degrees of the scale. For example, the dominant seventh chord in the key of C major:

    …is founded on G (which is the dominant):

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

    …a seventh interval:

    The Term Chord- Explained

    A chord isĀ  collection of three or more related note (agreeable or not), sounded together.

    The emphasis here is on the relationship between the notes of a chord (aka – “chord tones”.) Chord tones are related in two known ways:

    • By an underlying scale
    • By a class of harmony

    The chord tones of the dominant seventh chord are related by the myxolydian scale (which can be considered as a natural major scale with a flattened seventh) and tertian harmony (the relationship between notes that are apart from each other by a third interval.)

    Using the G myxolydian scale:

    …as an underlying scale, and tertian harmony relationship, we can form the G dominant seventh chord thus:

    A third from G:

    …is B:

    A third from G-B:

    …is D:

    A third from G-B-D:

    …is F:

    Altogether, that’s the G dominant seventh chord:

    …a product of the relationship between the G myxolydian scale and tertian harmony relationship.


    Although there are so many ways to form the dominant seventh chord, I’ll be showing you one of the little known ways to form the dominant seventh chord.

    Shrinking of the major triad in octave position by a whole step produces the dominant seventh chord.

    For example, using the C major triad in octave position:

    …you can form the C dominant seventh chord by shrinking the octave (C-C):

    …by a whole step (to C-Bb):

    …to produce the C dominant seventh chord:

    Intervallic Breakdown/Analysis

    To take us a step further is an analysis of the dominant seventh chord. Therefore, we’ll be breaking the dominant seventh chord down into its intervallic components.

    “Let’s Use The G Dominant Seventh Chord In This Analysis…”

    The G dominant seventh chord:

    …can be broken down into the following intervallic components:


    …a perfect fifth interval.


    …a diminished fifth interval.

    The dominant seventh chord has two different fifth intervals:

    • The perfect fifth
    • The diminished fifth

    The perfect fifth is a stable fifth interval while the diminished fifth interval (aka – “the inverted tritone”) is an unstable interval that tends to move to a more stable interval or chord when played.

    The dominant seventh chord is an unstable chord because of the diminished fifth interval it is made up of. Consequently, when played, the dominant seventh chord tends to move to a more stable chord.

    A dominant seventh chord that moves to a stable chord is said to be resolved. In the next segment, we’ll be focusing on the principles that govern the resolution of the dominant seventh chord.

    The Resolution Of The Dominant Seventh Chord

    In Classical Music

    In Jazz/Gospel Music

    Final Words

    From what we’ve learned in this lesson, you should be able to resolve any given dominant seventh chord either to a major or a minor chord.

    In a subsequent lesson, we’ll be learning how to improvise over the dominant seventh chord.

    See you then!

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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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