• Formation And Resolution Of The Third Inversion of The Dominant Seventh Chord

    in Chords & Progressions,Piano,Theory

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    We’ll be exploring the third inversion of the dominant seventh chord in today’s lesson.

    Dominant chords are chords of the fifth degree that are associated with dissonance and for over 500 years, they’ve played a key role in harmony as the strongest chords that can resolve to the chord of the first degree (aka – “the tonic chord“.)

    A well resolved dissonance, leads to satisfaction. Consequently, the greater the dissonance; the greater the satisfaction. When an altered dominant chord is played, for example, the F sharp major triad over C dominant seventh:

    …it sounds very dissonant. However, a resolution to F minor eleventh:

    …satisfies the dissonance of the altered dominant seventh chord.

    Our focus in today’s post is on the third inversion of the dominant seventh chord and you’ll be learning its formation and resolution. But before we get into that, let’s quickly review the dominant seventh chord.

    The Dominant Seventh Chord

    The term ‘dominant’ refers to the fifth degree of a given traditional scale. Let’s look at the degrees of the major scale and their technical names respectively.

    Tone #1 – tonic

    Tone #2 – super tonic

    Tone #3 – mediant

    Tone #4 – subdominant

    Tone #5 – dominant

    Tone #6 – submediant

    Tone #7 – subtonic

    Tone #8 – octave

    The term dominant is the technical name of the fifth degree of the major [or minor] scale. Consequently, chords that are formed in this degree of the scale are called dominant chords.

    In the key of C major:

    …where G:

    …is the dominant, formation of the dominant seventh chord is as simple as stacking thirds…

    G to B:

    …a third.

    G-B to D:

    …another third, then G-B-D to F:

    …another third. Altogether, here’s G-B-D-F:

    …the G dominant seventh chord. Transposing the dominant seventh chord to C:

    …produces the C dominant seventh chord.

    Inversion Of Chords

    Inversion of intervals and chords are inevitable in harmony. There are two perspectives to inversion…

    The keyboard style

    The Chorale style

    A vast majority of musicians are familiar with the keyboard style, which features…

    • The octave transposition of the lowest note in the chord (aka – “bass note“) to a higher octave.
    • The octave transposition of the highest note in the chord (aka – “melody note “) to a lower octave.

    Octave transposition here simply means to transfer the position of a given note to a higher or lower octave. Using the C major triad:

    …as an example, when its lowest note (C):

    …is transposed to its higher octave (C):

    …this produces the first inversion of the C major triad:

    Transposing the lowest note of the first inversion of the C major triad:

    …to a higher octave:

    …produces its second inversion:

    Transposing the lowest note of the second inversion of the C major triad:

    …to a higher octave:

    …takes you back to its root position:

    That’s the keyboard style inversion. The approach to the chorale style of inversion is a bit different.

    The chorale style of inversion refers to the use of other bass notes apart from the root note of the chord, and these bass notes are derived from the chord.

    For example, if the C major triad:

    …is played over C on the bass:

    …that’s its root position:

    If the C major triad:

    …is played over E on the bass:

    …that’s the first inversion of the C major triad.

    If the C major triad:

    …is played over G on the bass:

    …that’s its second inversion:

    Now that you’re properly acquainted with the terms inversion and dominant seventh chord, let’s go ahead and explore the third inversion of the dominant seventh chord.

    Third Inversion of the Dominant Seventh Chord

    Using the chorale style of inversion, we can play the third inversion of the dominant seventh chord by playing the fourth chord tone which is a minor seventh from the root of the chord on the bass.

    In the C dominant seventh chord:

    …the fourth chord tone is Bb:

    Therefore, playing the C dominant seventh chord over Bb on the bass:

    …produces the third inversion of the C dominant seventh chord.

    A lot of the time, I’d prefer to play a C major four note triad over Bb on the bass:

    …and the reason is that I already have a Bb note on the bass and I wouldn’t want to duplicate it on the right hand.

    Simply put, the C major [four note] triad over Bb on the bass gives us the third inversion of the C dominant seventh chord.

    Let’s quickly explore how to form the third inversion of the dominant seventh chord in all twelve keys.

    Formation Of The Third Inversion Of The Dominant Seventh Chord

    Here’s how to form the third inversion of the dominant seventh chord in three simple steps…

    Step 1 – Determine the key you want to form the chord on.

    Step 2 – Play a four note major triad on the right hand over the key you want to form the chord on.

    Step 3 – Go down a whole step from the root of the right hand chord and play your bass note.

    These simple steps can lead to the formation of the third inversion of the dominant seventh in any key.

    Formation of the third inversion of the D dominant seventh chord…

    Step 1 – Determine the key you want to form the chord on.

    The root of the chord is D:

    Step 2 – Play a four note major triad on the right hand over the key you want to form the chord on.

    On the right hand, here’s the D major four note triad:

    Step 3 – Go down a whole step from the root of the right hand chord and play your bass note.

    A whole step below the root of the D major triad is C:

    Put together, we have D major triad over C on the bass:

    …which is the third inversion of the D dominant seventh chord.

    Now for your reference, here’s the third inversion of the dominant seventh chord in all the keys:

    C dominant seventh:

    …which is the C major triad over Bb on the bass.

    Db dominant seventh:

    …which is the Db major triad over Cb on the bass.

    D dominant seventh:

    …which is the D major triad over C on the bass.

    Eb dominant seventh:

    …which is the Eb major triad over Db on the bass.

    E dominant seventh:


    …which is the E major triad over D on the bass.

    F dominant seventh:

    …which is the F major triad over Eb on the bass.

    F# dominant seventh:

    …which is the F# major triad over E on the bass.

    G dominant seventh:

    …which is the G major triad over F on the bass.

    Ab dominant seventh:

    …which is the Ab major triad over Gb on the bass.

    A dominant seventh:

    …which is the A major triad over G on the bass.

    Bb dominant seventh:

    …which is the Bb major triad over Ab on the bass.

    B dominant seventh:

    …which is the B major triad over A on the bass.

    Resolution Of The Third Inversion Of The Dominant Seventh Chord

    In this segment, I’ll be showing you how the third inversion of the dominant seventh chord resolves.

    The third inversion of the dominant seventh chord resolves to the first inversion of the tonic triad.

    The C dominant seventh chord:

    …resolves to the F major:

    …or F minor triad:

    Using the chorale style, the third inversion of C dominant seventh:

    …resolves to first inversion of F major triad:

    “Let me repeat…”

    The third inversion of the C dominant seventh chord resolves to first inversion of the F major triad. Thus, we can say that third inversion of the dominant seventh chord resolves to first inversion of your tonic chord. So it is dominant tonic relationship – the dominant resolves to the tonic.

    Hope you didn’t miss the movement on the by a half step, in the case of Bb:

    …resolving to A:

    Final Thoughts

    Now that we’re done with the resolution of the third inversion of the dominant seventh chord, I would like you to practice this resolution in all major keys.

    In subsequent posts, we’ll be creating static sections with them.

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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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