Dominant 7th chords can be derived from a number of scales, not just the major scale. This lesson will focus on Dominant chord-scale relationships. You’ll want to have a good chord reference book handy to complement this lesson material. (Look up the chords mentioned!)
C D E F G A B C contains within it G B D F (which is a G7 chord). We can omit the 5th to simplify – G, B, F
This is a chord structure that occurs over and over in music, the “Dominant 7th Chord”. The short way of writing and speaking about that chord, is to just say “7″ (as in “G7″).
G A B C D E F G
C major scale starting on G, or Mixolydian mode, is a dominant chord-scale:
1 3 5 7
G B D F (spells a complete dominant seventh chord):
This chord’s Intervallic Structure is worth paying attention to:
M3 G to B
(becomes m6 when inverted)
m7 G to F
tritone B to F
M2 F to G
m6 B to G
The other notes found in the scale are what add color to this ‘basic’ dominant chord. Various extensions and alterations are the result (7,9,11,13,#9,b9,#11,b13,b5,#5)
Now would be a good time to look up some of the different dominant chords and try them out!
The following is a guide to help you find what scales these different chords might come from:
C Major Scale Dominants:
G7, G9, G11, G13, G7Sus (and combinations)
Derived from the fifth mode of C major(G Mixolydian).
C Harmonic Minor Scale Dominants:
G7(b9,11,b13), G7sus4(b9) (Derived from the 5th mode of C harmonic minor)
C Harmonic Major Dominants:
E7(b9,#9,b13,#5) (3rd mode of Harmonic Major)
G7(b9,13), G7sus(b9) (5th mode of Harmonic Major)
C Melodic Minor Scale Dominants:
D7sus4(b9,no3rd) (2nd mode of melodic minor)
F7(9,#11,13) (4th mode of melodic minor – A.K.A. “Lydian Dominant”)
G7(9,11,b13) (5th mode of melodic minor)
B7(b9,#9,#11,#5)(or b5,#5) (seventh mode of melodic minor A.K.A. “Diminished Whole Tone”)
NOTE: This B7 chord is often referred to as “fully altered” when talking about jazz harmony.
G Octatonic Dominants:
G Whole Tone Dominants:
EXERCISE – Part 1: Set up a groove using any of the chords mentioned above, and begin improvising lines using each of the scales or modes. Try using simple 3 note Dominant 7th voicings and creating melodic lines using the above scale choices.
Variation: Try playing the listed extended and altered dominant chord voicings, to hear the sound of the scale against those specific chords.
Someone wise once said,”you must play all the chords, in all the keys!”.
Part 2: Once you feel comfortable, try using the same chord in two places, a whole step apart or a minor third apart.
(for example, E7#9 for 4 measures and G7#9 for 4 measures, repeat several times)
Don’t forget to transpose the scale when you transpose the chord!
Try different rhythms, time signatures (including odd meters), keys, grooves, and ostinato when working through the list.
Fun for groups of all sizes, and great to practice alone – with and without a loopstation or metronome.
Part 3: Improvise lines using one scale/chord choice, and do it around the cycle of 4ths, in all 12 keys. Do this for each chord listed, with every possible corresponding scale. It will take you months and months. Hurry up you are wasting time.
Part 4: Try substituting some of the above kinds of alterations in some jazz standards that you know, wherever you see a ii-V progression. Some will work better than others, depending on the situation, the melody, or how the chord is voiced. When improvising over changes, think about the chords in terms of the scales that they come from, and let your lines explore those scales, taking note of how each alteration sounds.
That’s it for now, good luck on your journey!