• The Voicing Of The Dominant Ninth Chord Using The Half-Diminished Seventh Chord

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    In today’s lesson, you’ll gain a fresh perspective to the voicing of the dominant ninth chord.

    We’ll also take a look at the concept of chord voicing, the principles of the “part-over-root” voicing concept, and more. But before we get into all that, let’s do a review on the dominant ninth chord.

    A Review On The Dominant Ninth Chord

    The term dominant ninth chord consists of three words – dominant, ninth, and chord. Let’s look at the meaning of these words.

    The Term “Chord”

    A chord is a collection of related notes that are played or heard together. All chords have one thing in common and that’s the relationship between the notes which is based on a given scale and a class of harmony.

    The notes that form a chord must be related by a particular scale. For example, the C major triad, contains C, E, and G:

    …which are related by the C major scale:

    C, E, and G are the first, third, and fifth tones of the C major scale.

    The notes of a chord are also related by a class of harmony. This has to do with the distance between successive notes in a chord, which can be in seconds:

    …thirds:

    …fourths:

    …and fifths:

    However, take note that the traditional class of harmony that is used in chord formation is thirds (aka – “tertian harmony”.)

    The Term “Ninth”

    Chords are quantified using the number of scale degrees they encompass. Ninth chords are chords that encompass nine degrees of a given scale

    Using the C major scale:

    …you can form a ninth chord by stacking thirds until you encompass nine degrees of the C major scale.

    Check it out…

    Starting from C:

    …a third from C is E:

    …a third from C-E is G:

    ….a third from C-E-G is B:

    …a third from C-E-G-B is D:

    At this point, we’ve encompassed nine degrees of the C major scale – from C to D:

    …and here we are with the C major ninth chord:

    …which is a ninth chord, notwithstanding that it’s not a dominant ninth chord (which we’ll be discussing shortly.)

    The Term “Dominant”

    The degrees of the major [and minor] scale are associated with technical names. The term dominant is the technical name associated with the fifth degree of the scale. In the key of C major:

    …the fifth tone (G):

    …is considered to be the dominant.

    Whenever any idea is said to be dominant in music, it has a lot to do with the fifth degree of the scale.

    In a nutshell, the dominant ninth chord is a collection of notes (encompassing nine degrees of the mixolydian mode) that are related by the traditional harmony of thirds (aka – “tertian harmony”.)

    The Dominant Ninth Chord

    The dominant ninth chord belongs to a class of chords that are built on the fifth degree of the scale (aka – “the dominant”.) In the key of C:

    …where G is the dominant, the dominant ninth chord is built off G:

    …and extends to A:

    …in interval of thirds:

    …and encompassing nine scale degrees. The scale relationship of the tones of the dominant seventh chord is connected to the mixolydian mode. Therefore using the mixolydian mode in any key on the keyboard, you can form the dominant ninth chord.

    The G dominant ninth chord:

    …is built off the G mixolydian scale:

    Attention: The mixolydian mode can be formed using any known major scale. Lowering the seventh tone of any known major scale produces its corresponding mixolydian mode.

    A Note On The Concept Of Voicing

    The understanding of the concept of voicing comes next after mastering chords, its formation, inversion, and all worth naught. Voicing is the consideration of the notes of a chord as voices or voice parts.

    In a modern choir, there are basically four voice parts. Here are the voices ordered from the lowest to the highest in pitch

    Bass

    Tenor

    Alto

    Soprano

    The concept of the voicing of chords has to do with the consideration of chord tones as voice parts – soprano, alto, tenor, and bass.

    In the past, we’ve made attempts to unravel several voicing techniques ranging from the skeleton voicing technique, to the drop-2 voicing technique, and lots more. In the next segment, we will be discussing the “part-over-root” voicing of the dominant ninth chord extensively.

    Brace yourself!

    The “Part-Over-Root” Voicing Technique

    The “part-over-root” voicing technique is the arrangement of the notes of a chord in such a way that the root is isolated from other chord tones. Here’s the G dominant ninth chord:

    If the bass is isolated from the rest of the chord tones, this produces the “part-over-root” voicing of the G dominant ninth chord:

    …and as its name implies, the part is played over the root.

    We’re already familiar with the root (which is G):

    …so, the question is “what is the part?”

    The upper structure of the G dominant ninth chord:

    …is the B half-diminished seventh chord:

    Simply put, the B half-diminished seventh chord [the part] over G [the root]:

    …produces an overall G dominant ninth chord:

    Let’s do a little more study on the formation of the part over root voicing of the dominant ninth chord.

    Easy Steps To The “Part-Over-Root” Voicing Of The Dominant Ninth Chord

    There’s a way to form the dominant ninth chord using two simple steps. Check it out…

    Step 1 – Determine the root of the dominant ninth chord

    Step 2 – Go to the third degree of the major scale [in the key you derived in step 1] and form a half-diminished seventh chord.

    Suggested reading: The Half-Diminished Seventh Chord.

    Let’s put these steps into practice.

    Formation Of The C Dominant ninth Chord

    Step 1 – Determine the root of the dominant ninth chord.

    The root of the chord is C:

    Step 2 – Go to the third degree of the major scale and form a minor seventh chord.

    The third degree of the C major scale:

    …is E:

    …consequently, the E half-diminished seventh chord:

    Altogether, the E half-diminished seventh chord over C on the bass:

    …produces the part over root voicing of the C dominant ninth chord.

    Formation Of The E Dominant ninth Chord

    Step 1 – Determine the root of the dominant ninth chord.

    The root of the chord is E:

    Step 2 – Go to the third degree of the major scale and form a half-diminished seventh chord.

    The third degree of the E major scale:

    …is G#:

    …consequently, the G# half-diminished seventh chord:

    Altogether, the G# half-diminished seventh chord over E on the bass:

    …produces the part over root voicing of the E dominant ninth chord.

    Following the same procedure, you can form the part over root voicing of the dominant ninth chord on all the keys.

    Final Words

    The half-diminished seventh chord is one of the rarely used seventh chords and I’m glad we just put it to work in the voicing of the dominant ninth chord.

    If you’re still finding it difficult to play the half-diminished seventh chord in all the keys, I hope these ones will help…

    C half diminished seventh chord:

    C# half diminished seventh chord:

    D half diminished seventh chord:

    D# half diminished seventh chord:

    E half diminished seventh chord:

    F half diminished seventh chord:

    F# half diminished seventh chord:

    G half diminished seventh chord:

    G# half diminished seventh chord:

    A half diminished seventh chord:

    A# half diminished seventh chord:

    B half diminished seventh chord:

    That will be all for now. See you in another post.

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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.




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    { 2 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Peter LaFosse

    Good background theory.

    Reply

    2 Braz

    Hi Jermaine

    How are you? I would like to say thank you for the post and I have received the 2 CDs. Once again thank you very much. Have a very good weekend and a successful start of the week

    Braz Alberto

    Reply

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