• The Key Factor To Consider Before Playing An Extended Dominant Chord

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

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    In today’s lesson, we’ll be looking at the key factor to consider before playing an extended dominant chord.

    Dominant chords are very important in music because for the past 500 years, they function as one of the most important chords in any given key (be it a major or minor key).

    In addition to being one of the most important chords in a key which, dominant chords are also harmonically useful because they function as secondary dominant chords (aka – “passing chords”) that can be used to connect two scale degree chords.

    For example, in the key of C major:

    …the C major triad:

    …and the F major triad:

    …can be connected using the C dominant seventh chord:

    It is because of the importance of dominant chords that we are investing this lesson in learning the key factors that should be considered before playing an extended dominant chord. But before we go into that, let’s do a quick review on dominant chords.

    A Quick Review On Dominant Chords

    To understand the term dominant chord it is important that we break down the following terms:



    A Breakdown On The Term Dominant

    There are eight degrees in every key and this can be outlined by the traditional scale of that key. For example, in the key of C major:

    …there are eight degrees, and this can be seen in the scale of the key of C major which is the C natural major scale:

    This eight degrees have their respective technical names, and they are as follows:

    The first degree is the tonic

    The second degree is the supertonic

    The third degree is the mediant

    The fourth degree is the subdominant

    The fifth degree is the dominant

    The sixth degree is the submediant

    The seventh degree is the subtonic

    The eight degree is the octave

    From the technical names mentioned above, you can clearly see that the term dominant is basically used by music scholars to describe the fifth degree of a scale. Hence, the fifth degree in every key (whether a major or minor key) is known as the dominant.

    “Quickly, Let’s Define The Term Chord…”

    A chord is a collection of three or more related notes (agreeable or not) that are played [or heard] together.

    Although a chord can be understood as a collection of three or more notes, what matters most is the relationship between its notes. It is the scale and intervallic relationship between the collection of three or more notes that determine if a chord is formed or not.

    For example, the G dominant seventh chord (which consists of G, B, D and F):

    …is related by the G mixolydian scale:

    The tones of the G dominant seventh chord which are G:



    …and F:

    …respectively, are the first, third, fifth, and seventh tones of the G mixolydian scale.

    And also it is important to note the intervallic relationship between the notes which are basically in third intervals.

    From G to B:

    …is a third interval.

    From B to D:

    …is a third interval, and from D to F:

    …is also a third interval.

    Summarily, it is the relationship between three or more notes that determine if a chord is produced or not.


    A dominant chord can be defined as a collection of three or more related notes, founded on the fifth degree of a scale.

    For example, in the key of D major:

    …all the chords founded on the fifth degree of the scale which is A:

    …are classified as dominant chords.

    Classification Of Dominant Chords According To Width

    Dominant chords can be classified according to width, and there are basically three classes of dominant chords in the classification of dominant chords according to width.

    #1. Dominant triads

    #2. Dominant seventh chords

    #3. Extended dominant chords

    Dominant triads are basically major triads of the fifth degree, consisting of three tones – a root, third, and fifth.

    Dominant seventh chords are chords formed on the fifth degree of a scale that encompass an interval of a seventh. For example, the G dom7 chord:

    …encompass seven scale degrees of the G mixolydian scale from G to F:

    Our focus in this lesson is on extended dominant chords. Therefore, we’ll be dedicating the rest of this lesson to it.

    “What Is An Extended Dominant Chord?”

    Extended dominant chords are dominant chords whose widths exceed the compass of one octave. For example, beyond the dominant seventh chord, lies other bigger chord classes like ninths, elevenths, and thirteenths.

    These are chords that exceed the compass of an octave. Consequently, they are classified as extended dominant chords because they contain extensions (which are bigger intervals) like ninths, elevenths, and thirteenths.

    There are two classes of extended dominant chords; altered and unaltered. Let’s briefly consider them before we proceed.

    Unaltered Vs Altered Extended Dominant Chords

    When the ninth or the fifth tone of a chord is raised or lowered, this produces chromatic variants of that extended dominant chord, and these chromatic variants are generally classified as altered chords because of the chord tones that are modified.

    “Here’s A Quick Example Using The G dom9 Chord…”

    In the alteration of the G dom9 chord:

    …we’re basically raising or lowering the fifth and ninth tones.

    In the G dom9 chord (which consists of G-B-D-F-A):

    …raising the fifth (which is D):

    …by a half step (to D#):

    …and raising the ninth (which is A):

    …by a half step (to A#):

    …produces the G altered chord – the G dom7#9#5 chord:

    Like I said earlier, there are two classes of dominant chords; the unaltered dominant chords and the altered dominant chords. Although there are a variety of altered chords which we’re not going to cover in this lesson because of time constraint. I’ll recommend that you read this previous lesson on altered chords before you proceed.

    Having established that there are two classes of extended dominant chords, permit me to show you one key factor to consider before playing extended dominant chords.

    What to Consider Before Playing Extended Dominant Chords

    Although dominant chords are basically used as passing chords, when it comes to extended dominant chords, there is a key factor to consider before an extended dominant chord can be applied. Here you are:

    Altered chords resolve to minor chords, while unaltered chords resolve to major chords.

    “Pay Attention To This…”

    The regular resolution of G dominant chords is to C chords (whether in the major or minor key.)

    If an altered chord is played over G:

    …for example the G dom7#9#5 chord:

    …it will resolve to a C minor chord. Let’s say a C min9 chord:

    …or C min11 chord:

    While the unaltered dominant chord, for example the G dom9 chord:

    …would resolve to the C maj9 chord:

    Final Words

    So unaltered chord resolve to major chords, while altered chords resolve to minor chords. That’s the key factor to consider while playing extended dominant chords.

    So before you play an extended dominant chord, be sure that you know where you are resolving to. Are you resolving to major or a minor chord.

    If you are resolving to a major chord, I guess you know the actual chord to use, whereas if you’re resolving to a minor chord, I’m sure you know the actual chord to use.

    I’ll see you in the next lesson. All the best!

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    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku (aka - "Dr. Pokey") 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.

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


    { 1 comment… read it below or add one }

    1 Vikk MP

    Woaw, learnt something new… I thought the 5th degree of a major scale is a dominant chord because it 7th chord forms a dom7 chord. And the 7th degree of a minor scale would also be the dominant, cause it chord also forms the dom7. Now I realise it isn’t so.
    The 5th degree of a scale (major or minor) is the dominant.


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