• Using Dominant 7 Chords In 1-4 Progressions

    in Chords & Progressions,Piano

    1-4 progressions photo

    1-4 progressions are easily one of the top 5 movements in music.

    It simply consists of a chord on the first degree of the scale going to a chord on the 4th degree.

    Take C major:

    C D E F G A B C

    C is the first degree.
    D is the second degree.
    E is the third degree.
    F is the fourth degree.
    G is the fifth degree.
    A is the sixth degree.
    B is the seventh degree.

    1-4 Progressions – Explained

    A 1-4 progression would be some type of C chord going to some type of F chord.

    If we build chords on every tone of the scale by simply taking every other note (we call these “thirds,” which are the building blocks of most chords), we get:

    C major 7
    1-4 progressions C major 7

    D minor 7

    E minor 7

    F major 7

    G 7

    A minor 7

    B half-diminished 7

    Thus, a 1-4 progression would be a C major 7 going to an F major 7.

    C major 7

    F major 7

    But to create movement to the 4, you might see a progression like this (pay attention to the highest note):

    C major

    C major 7

    C7 (aka – “C dominant 7”)

    It is this C7 chord that gives us the strongest resolution to the 4 (or F major 7).


    Because we’re introducing a tone from F’s family.

    (I’m often at events where people are being honored and it is very common to have the honoree introduced by a close family member or friend as opposed to someone from the organization honoring them. That’s what we’re doing by introducing the dominant 7 on C. We’re bringing a chord that’s familiar to F into the mix to make the transition smooth).

    By bringing in the Bb (in the C dominant 7 chord), we’ve now entered F major’s “planet.”

    Bb does not naturally occur in the C major scale. We are literally taking a chord from F major because we know it provides the strongest connection to F.

    C dominant 7 occurs on the 5th degree of F major. And if you know anything about the dominant scale degree, it is the degree that most likely brings you home to the “1.”

    1 = home
    4 = away from home
    5 = coming home

    In C major, that chord is G7 (G dominant 7). In F major, that chord is C7.

    A common technique you’ll run across is what we call “tonicizing” other tones of the scale. Simply put, it means making those tones temporarily the “1” (or “tonic” or “home”) and allowing chords from other keys to lead to that tone… while remaining in the original key (this happens a lot in jazz and even gospel where you do a “2-5-1” based on the 4th degree of the scale. Where you’d never see a G minor naturally on the 5th tone of C, you would use it in this instance because the G minor 7 is really the 2nd degree of F major. This then leads to the same C dominant 7 chord we’re using in this example, and then to F major 7).

    That’s why we can use C7 to bring us to F major 7 in this 1-4 progression.

    C major

    C major 7

    C7 (aka – “C dominant 7”)

    F major 7

    I chose this inversion of F major 7 to keep “A” on top. Notice the chromatic (half step) movement from C to B to Bb. I wanted to keep that going by placing “A” on top (C –> B –> Bb –> A).

    If you want to create some more movement, take the E in the F major 7 chord and resolve it down to D half way through the chord to make it an F major 6. Sounds good.

    I hope you enjoyed this short, but sweet lesson.

    Until next time.

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    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

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    { 4 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Devin Schumacher

    awesome post! more like this please :)


    2 zino

    i like that


    3 romesssamuel

    Thanks nice lesson


    4 MikeOC

    Sounds lovely on my cheapo ukulele.


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