• Who Else Is Interested In Learning What The Backdoor Dominant Chord Is?

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,General Music,Gospel music,Jazz music,Piano,Theory

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    I know you arrived this page because you’re interested in learning backdoor dominant chords in the major key.

    Honestly, the term “backdoor dominant” sounds very catchy and I know you’ll want to know what these dominant chords are, how they can be applied, and most importantly, the rationale behind the term “backdoor” that is associated with these dominant chords.

    But before we venture into all of that, I’ll want to invest the next two minutes (or so) in refreshing your mind on dominant chords.

    A Quick Review On Dominant Chords

    The term dominant is attributed to the fifth tone of the scale in any key (be it a major or minor key.)

    So, the 5-chord in the major key is associated with the term “dominant” and in the key of C major:

    …the following chords (starting from the fifth tone [which is G]) are dominant chords:

    The G major triad:

    The G dominant seventh chord:

    The G dominant ninth chord:

    The G dominant thirteenth [sharp eleventh] chord:

    “Can I Tell You What Makes Dominant Chords Special?”

    Dominant chords are special because they are generally unstable, unpleasant, and dissonant.

    When played/heard, dominant chords have the tendency to move to more stable chords and the movement of a dominant chord to a more stable chord is called resolution.

    Although there are other known ways to resolve dominant chords, they generally resolve downwards by a fifth or upwards by a fourth.

    For example, the G dominant seventh chord:

    …resolves to the C major triad:

    …that is a fifth below it.

    Dominant chords are good passing chord options in the major key, minor key, and with chromatic progressions as well.

    “So, What’s A Backdoor Dominant Chord?”

    In the key of C major:

    …the 2-5-1 chord progression is given below:

    The 2-chord:

    The 5-chord:

    The 1-chord:

    The same 2-5-1 chord progression can also be approached from the “backdoor” and what it means is that a dominant chord that is a whole step below the 1-chord (which is the target chord) is used to replace the 5-chord.

    In the key of C major:

    …a whole step below the root of the 1-chord (which is C):

    …is Bb:

    …so the Bb dominant seventh chord:

    …can be used as a dominant chord to resolve to the 1-chord:

    …and this is what it means to resolve through the backdoor.

    Let me show you where the backdoor dominant chord is coming from.

    The 7-Chord In The Parallel Minor Key

    A parallel minor key shares the same tonic with a given major key. So, the minor key that shares the same tonic with the key of C major is the key of C minor:

    C major:

    C minor:

    The backdoor dominant chord is the scale tone chord of the 7th tone in the minor key (aka – “the 7-chord”.) In the key of C minor:

    …the 7-chord consists of Bb, D, F, and Ab:

    …and that’s the Bb dominant seventh chord:

    …which is the backdoor dominant chord that resolves to the 1-chord in the key of C major:

    Attention: Any chord that is derived from the parallel minor key is described as a borrowed chord. So, for all intents and purposes, the backdoor dominant chord is a borrowed chord from the parallel minor key.

    The Relationship Between The “Front-door” And Backdoor Dominant Chords

    The front-door dominant chord in the key of C major:

    …(which is the G dominant seventh chord):

    …shares two notes in common with the backdoor dominant chord (the Bb dominant seventh chord):

    …and that’s D and F:

    Attention: So, both chords share 50% of their tones in common.

    This explains why the backdoor dominant chord can perfectly fit in to where the “front-door” dominant chord can be applied.

    Also keep in mind that the seventh tone of the backdoor dominant chord (which is Ab):

    …is the b9 extension of the G dominant seventh chord:

    …and that’s why the backdoor dominant chord sounds colorful.

    Final Words

    In a subsequent lesson, I’ll be teaching you the “backdoor chord progression” and I’m very certain that jazz and gospel music enthusiasts will love this one.

    In a backdoor chord progression, the backdoor dominant chord is preceded by a minor quality 4-chord and we’ll also be learning more about this preceding chord and how/where it’s derived.

    But before then, keep mastering the backdoor dominant chord for any given 1-chord on the keyboard.

    See you in the next lesson.

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    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku 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.

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