• Why The 5-Dominant (V7) Chord Is So Powerful

    in Chords & Progressions,Piano

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    Even when a non-musician hears a dominant seventh chord on the 5th degree of the scale, they immediately begin to expect resolution.

    Yup, you don’t have to be a musician to know a song or verse is coming to an end.

    “Hap-py birth-day to——”

    There it is. Doesn’t “to” give you that feeling of wanting to resolve to “you?”

    Or “The wheels on the bus go round and round, all through the——”

    There it is again. “The” gives you that same feeling, doesn’t it?

    “Her fleece was white as——-”

    There it is again in “Mary Had A Little Lamb.”

    In fact, without even hearing the 1-chord that is sure to follow, most people – musicians or otherwise – would be be able to sing or predict it beforehand.

    “You.” (Happy Birthday to “YOU”).

    “Town.” (All through the “TOWN”).

    “Snow.” (Her fleece was white as “SNOW”).

    This is not by accident. The 5-dominant chord has some very powerful properties that explain why this is the case.

    Consider the G dominant 7 chord (which is the 5th degree of C major):
    primary chords c major

    The first thing to note is what degrees of the C major scale this chord uses.

    G is the 5.
    B is the 7.
    D is the 2.
    F is the 4.

    (Note: I’m just numbering the C major scale and pointing out which degrees these notes fall on).

    It just so happens that the 2, 4, and 7th degrees are the most highly unbalanced of them all. They want to resolve somewhere.

    Let’s look at a G dominant 7 chord moving to a C major chord:
    primary chords c major

    primary chords c major
    C major

    The “B” in the G dominant 7 chord eagerly wants to resolve up to “C.”

    The “D” in the G dominant 7 chord wants to resolve down to the same “C.”

    And the “F” in the G dominant 7 chord longs to resolve down to the “E.”

    chord resolution

    No wonder when you resolve all 3 at the same time, you get one of the most popular chord progressions in music — the perfect cadence.

    And on a broader note, when you’re thinking about what inversions and voicings of chords to play next, look at how the notes of the previous chord are moving to the notes of the next chord. Are they smooth, strong resolutions? Could you pick another inversion of the next chord to create such a sound?

    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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    { 7 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Jay

    Yes sir! I definitely agree. Dominant 7 on the 5 makes listeners anticipate ending. I’m sure these are covered somewhere, but some alternatives to 2-5-1’s that I like to use are: b5-5-1, 6-7-1, 4-b7-1, b6-b7-1, 2-b2-1. I use those sparingly usually when playing by myself and depending on the song.

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    2 hamlet

    jermain you are so handsom you open all doors to music i just love your style . keep on doing that you will be rewarded.
    your hamlet


    3 Lee

    What is “b” that Jay is referring to in above comment (b5-5-1)


    4 Moe

    The “b” means to flat the note or to lower it by a half step. I he says b5, you would take the 5th note of the scale and lower it by a half step.


    5 Du plessis

    I want to buy the biginers cource the 4 dvds


    6 Sandra

    Hi Jermaine, thanks for this post! I’ve never quite realized the GREAT natural desire to resolve from a V7 until you spelled it out in this post! Awesome!


    7 Mathew Rabut

    Thank you! Jermaine
    It of great help to me. What I would really request from if you can send me the video of the course Lara is teaching because have got problem with the network. This my post office Number (P. O. Box office 75164 00200 Nairobi Kenya)


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