• The Revolutionary Effect Of The Pre-dominant Chord In Harmony

    in Beginners,Chords & Progressions,General Music,Piano,Theory

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    We’re focusing on the pre-dominant chord in today’s lesson.

    Although the musical term dominant is commonly known and used among musicians, I’m absolutely aware that a vast majority of those reading this are not very familiar with the term pre-dominant. If you belong to that league, then this lesson is for you.

    Investing the next 16 minutes in this post would give you a proper definition of the term pre-dominant and also expose you to the pre-dominant chord and the revolutionary effect of its application.

    Let’s get started by reviewing the term harmony.

    A Quick Review On The Concept Of Harmony

    A note is a musical sound of a definite pitch and all musical notes:

    …are classified into twelve:

    The process of music making revolves around the relationship between these musical notes and there are two known relationships that exists between musical notes – melody and harmony.

    In a previous lesson, we learned that melody is the relationship between musical notes that are heard one after the other (separately) while harmony is the relationship between musical notes that are heard at the same time (simultaneously).

    In harmony, at least two musical notes are heard at the same time.

    Harmony produced by the relationship between two notes is classified as an interval while the harmony produced by a collection of three or more notes (agreeable or not) that are played/heard together is known as a chord.

    In a nutshell, intervals and chords are harmonic and this is because they are a product of the relationship between musical notes played or heard simultaneously.

    “Back To Our Focus In This Lesson…”

    The primary goal of harmony is to provide accompaniment for a melody and there are many dimensions to that. Now that we’ve reviewed the concept of harmony, let’s proceed into an exposition on the pre-dominant chord and its revolutionary effect in harmony.

    The Pre-dominant Chord

    Due to the fact that the prefix ‘preliterally means before from a grammatical standpoint, the term pre-dominant simply means before the dominant. In a nutshell, having a pre-dominant presupposes that there’s a dominant.

    Therefore, you’ll permit me to talk about the dominant chord.

    Quick Insights On The Dominant Chord

    There are eight components in every key (whether major or minor) and music scholars have technical names for each of them. In the key of C major:

    C (the first tone) is the tonic

    D (the second tone) is the supertonic

    E (the third tone) is the mediant

    F (the fourth tone) is the subdominant

    **G (the fifth tone) is the dominant**

    A (the sixth tone) is the submediant

    B (the seventh tone) is the subtonic

    C (the eighth tone) is the octave

    Attention: Take note that the term dominant is associated with the fifth tone in the key.

    A dominant chord is a collection of related notes (aka – “chord) founded on the fifth degree of a major or minor key (considering the harmonic or melodic minor scales.) In the key of C major:

    …any chord founded on the fifth degree (which is G):

    …is a dominant chord, be it a triad:

    …seventh:

    …or extended chord:

    The strongest option of what leads to the first chord in the key (aka – “tonic chord”) is the dominant chord and that’s been the norm for over 500 years.

    For example, in the key of C major:

    …the tonic chord (which is the C major triad):

    …is preceded by the dominant chord (the G major triad):

    To have a stronger progression, the dominant seventh chord is played before the tonic chord. For example, in the key of C major:

    …the G dominant seventh chord:

    …is played before the C major triad:

    This chord progression from the fifth degree (aka – “the dominant”) to the first degree (aka – “the tonic”) is the strongest chord progression in music, and because of its sense of finality, it is used to end most songs.

    Jermaine Griggs has taught us a long time ago in Gospelkeys 202 dvd that most songs end by a chord progression from the fifth degree to the first degree.

    Now that I’ve refreshed your mind on the concept of the dominant, let’s go right into the pre-dominant.

    “What Is A ‘Pre-dominant’ Chord?”

    The term pre-dominant is a technical name that music scholars associate with a note that is a perfect fifth above the dominant.

    In the key of C major:

    …(where the dominant is G):

    …the pre-dominant is a perfect fifth above G (and that’s D):

    The pre-dominant in the key of C major:

    …is D:

    …which is basically known as the supertonic.

    “So, What’s A Pre-dominant Chord?”

    The pre-dominant chord is the chord of the second degree of the scale. In the key of C major:

    …the predominant is a D minor chord, which can be a D minor triad:

    …D minor seventh chord:

    …D minor ninth:

    …or D minor eleventh chord:

    The Classic 2-5-1 Chord Progression

    Here’s a highlight of the three chords we learned in the previous segment:

    • The tonic chord
    • The dominant chord
    • The pre-dominant chord

    The tonic chord (aka – “chord 1”) is preceded by the dominant chord (aka – “chord 5”) which is preceded by the pre-dominant chord (aka – “chord 2”). Putting it together produces the 2-5-1 chord progression.

    “Check It Out…”

    From the D minor triad (the pre-dominant chord):

    …to the G major triad (the dominant chord):

    …then to the C major triad (the tonic chord):

    “It Can Sound A Lot Better Using Seventh Chords…”

    From the D minor seventh chord (the pre-dominant chord):

    …to the G dominant seventh chord (the dominant chord):

    …then to the C major seventh chord (the tonic chord):

    “…And Sophisticated Using Ninth Chords…”

    From the D minor ninth chord (the pre-dominant chord):

    …to the G dominant ninth chord (the dominant chord):

    …then to the C major ninth chord (the tonic chord):

    Application Of The Pre-dominant Chord

    In classical music, the movement from chord 5 to chord 1 produces a perfect cadence that is commonly found at the end of songs.

    The ending part of the hymn song Great Is Thy Faithfulness in the key of C is regularly played thus:

    Lord un-to (chord 5):

    …me (chord 1):

    Instead of the regular movement from chord 5 to chord 1, the pre-dominant chord can be used to create an anticipation for chord 5.

    “Check It Out…”

    Lord un (chord 2):

    …to (chord 5):

    …me (chord 1):

    Final Words

    The use of the pre-dominant chord adds more twist to the regular 5-1 chord progression common in classical music and that’s why it’s jazz and gospel musicians that are fond of the 2-5-1 chord progression.

    In another lesson, we’ll take it a step further by doing a contrast between the chromatic supertonic chord and the pre-dominant chord.

    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 the head of education, music consultant, and chief content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with hundreds of thousands of musicians across the world.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.




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    { 1 comment… read it below or add one }

    1 Simon

    Chuku, I really have to thank you for these excellent articles. You always explain everything before going to the main point. You are a great teacher.

    Reply

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