Music Theory: Chord and Scale Relationships – Dominant 7th

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″).

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):


omit the “D” (the 5th of the chord) to get
1 3 7


This chord’s Intervallic Structure is worth paying attention to:

M3 G to B
(becomes m6 when inverted)

m7 G to F
(M2 inverted)

tritone B to F
(tritone inverted)

M2 F to G
(m7 inverted)

m6 B to G
(M3 inverted)

So, what we have is basically a Tritone (B to F) and a Major Third (G to B). This is a 3 note voicing very common to jazz guitar and found in many other scales besides C major:

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:
G7(b5,#5,9)(or #11,b13)
A7(b5,#5,9)(or #11,b13)
B7(b5,#5,9)(or #11,b13)
Db7(b5,#5,9)(or #11,b13)
Eb7(b5,#5,9)(or #11,b13)
F7(b5,#5,9)(or #11,b13)

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!

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Music Theory: Chord and Scale Relationships – Minor 7th

This article will cover some basic rules of harmony which can be easily learned and applied in a wide variety of playing and writing situations. Within our 12 note system of tonality, chords are derived from scales. Usually, a chord can be found in more than one scale, and often more than one kind of scale. This can be confusing for some musicians, so to begin let’s look at a single chord in several different contexts:

The Minor 7th Chord

D minor 7 is spelled D F A C, and right away a beginner could tell you that those notes are all in the C major scale. Therefore the chord could function as ii (the “two chord”) in the Key of C. Why? Because D is the second note in the C scale, so when speaking about harmony, musicians might describe it as some kind of a ii chord in the Key of C. However, that chord/those notes are also found in the key of F, and in the key of Bb, where they function as vi (the “six chord”) and iii (the “three chord”), respectively.

Other diatonic scales that DFAC can be found in include:
G natural minor (v) (G A Bb C D Eb F G) SAME AS Bb MAJOR SCALE
A natural minor (iv) (A B C D E F G A) SAME AS C MAJOR SCALE
D natural minor (i) (F G A Bb C D E F) SAME AS F MAJOR SCALE
C melodic minor (ii chord) (C D Eb F G A B C)
A harmonic minor (iv chord) (A B C D E F G# A)

DFAC is also found in:
The “basic” D minor pentatonic scale
(also called F major pentatonic because they contain the same notes = D F G A C)

D, F, Ab, and B octatonic scales
(Note: these are synonymous, all containing the same notes = D Eb F Gb Ab A B C) This scale contains Ab and A natural! It is an 8 note scale which is quite useful!

A, C, Eb, and Gb dimished scales
(these are also synonymous, containing the same notes as the octatonic scales mentioned above)

That’s a lot of choices to consider when you are improvising lines over a D minor 7 chord.

EXERCISE – Try some of them out: If you have a musician friend nearby (or a looping device) lay down a groove using D minor 7 and try some of the above listed scales to experiment and put those sounds in your ear. Stick with the D minor 7 chord until you get a good feel for each of the scales and how they work against that chord.
Variation: If you feel this exercise has become too easy, move the chord up a half step to Eb minor 7 and create an 8 bar groove using 4 bars of D-7 (D minor7) followed by 4 bars of Eb-7. Repeat the cycle and take turns improvising with your partner. Note that when playing over the Eb-7 chord, the above scales must also be transposed up a half step in order to fit the Eb Gb Bb Db chord structure(Eb-7). You should spend at least 20 minutes or more on this exercise, using a variety of tempos and rhythms, until you become comfortable and familiar with the scale and chord relationships explained above. IT IS VERY HELPFUL TO SING THE NOTES THAT YOU ARE PLAYING WHEREVER POSSIBLE!

The above exercise uses D minor 7 as a standalone chord, without putting it in the context of a key. This is similar to the approach that you might find in modal jazz or modal writing, where one scale is used for a given chord. (Listen to Miles Davis’ recording So What on the Kind of Blue album to hear how Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane and Miles Davis approached playing over minor7 chords in that particular situation.) That song contains two chords, D minor 7 and Eb minor 7.
What scale(s) are they using? What scales are they not using?

The most common scale used in jazz over minor 7th chords is Dorian Mode. (Modern jazz players are of course stretching these boundaries in many different directions, but this is a good starting point if you are new to improvisation and writing). Dorian mode is basically a C major scale starting on D (D E F G A B C D). It isn’t the only choice, as you should now realize, but it has a very consonant sound and in most cases will work quite well over minor 7th chords. Familiarize yourself with the above material in all 12 keys before continuing on to the Dominant 7th chord lesson.

About the author: Robert Coates currently resides in Virginia Beach, VA where he is an active performer and educator. He teaches guitar at Thomas Nelson Community College and holds a Doctorate in Musical Arts from the University of Southern California, a Master of Music from the University of Michigan, and a Bachelor of Music from Butler University. He has performed in CA, NY, NC, VA, GA, TN, KY, IL, IN, MI, WI, OH, MO, and South Korea.

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New Music Video Released!

The new video “2 Hours” has been released! Don’t forget to get the 2011 album “Strange Dream” on iTunes!

<a href="">LinkedTube</a>

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The Godfather of Busan’s Music Scene

I exited the subway station and walked up the long stairway to exit 3 at the Kyunsung-dae stop on line 2.  The first street I came to looked like all the other bar districts I had seen in Seoul, with bright, colorful signs illuminating the busy streets while clubs sit piled on top of each other as far as the eye can see.  The trash on the streets gets worse as the night progresses, and never seems to fully disappear, but it has become part of the vibe; someone else will pick it up.  Sometimes I think that the older generation would never have treated their own country this way, whether or not the foreigners behaved like wild animals, trampling over their culture like herds of elephants running through the most pristine garden.  The youth are captivated and join in the fun, adopting the attitude, dress, and actions of a land that they didn’t come from, as if their own culture were something to be ashamed of.  The freedom from Japanese occupation was supplanted with American influence that has shaped this people for more than 50 years, for better or for worse.  In the midst of it all, in 1969, a child entered this changing landscape who would eventually become a pioneer and cultivate one of the most important aspects of life in his changing city: music.

Nevermind that the traditional forms of music were being abandoned by the new generation, this attitude has taken hold all over the world as pop music has swept over the planet.  The new must replace the old, we cannot cling to relics in hopes that they will carry the same weight that they once had.  They too, were once new forms which replaced the old.  Dylan, Marley, Hendrix, Coltrane…these too became relics of a time that many have already forgotten.  One person who can’t forget, is Dongha Kim.  15 years ago he opened the first foreigner bar in Busan (At The Crossroads), centered around music listening and music making.  Today, his legacy continues as the owner of 4 venues: Soul Trane, At The Crossroads, Ol’ 55, and The Vinyl Underground.  His record collection is astounding, his lust for sound is contagious, and his generosity is unparalleled.  No matter where he goes, people recognize him as an icon of the club scene, a true godfather in his own right.   The Vinyl Underground was the first club to open on that busy street that I walked down for the first time on a Wednesday in late March 2011.   I try to imagine what it must have been like, the only club for foreign musicians to perform at near the beach.  Though I can’t envision the scene, the stories live on and the club remains, and many have followed his lead, shamelessly trying to cash in on what he single handedly began.  He eventually opened Ol’ 55, where I was headed that night for a jam session that still attracts the best performers in Busan.

Dongha was there, spinning records like a captain at the wheel of his well-weathered ship, sailing familiar oceans with a seasoned crew.   I, on my maiden voyage to Busan, immediately noticed his focus on the music and was amazed to meet a Korean who had such an extensive library and knowledge of musical recordings.  As the months have passed, I often wonder how many times he has listened to the various albums that he has piled up, filling walls and closets at his different clubs.  Libraries would be jealous of this collection of sound recordings on vinyl.   I grew up listening to much of the same music, but on cd and tape, not on hi-fidelity vinyl, not like this.  When you close your eyes, it sounds as if Trane is playing his horn in the same room.  Somehow, this music still sounds new and fresh, even though most people still don’t get it, even after 50 years.  People like Dongha just don’t exist, not anymore.  In a generation of clones, he doesn’t even check his email once a week.  Perhaps his routine hasn’t changed much over the years, waking each day and heading to his favorite spot to have a morning (or afternoon) coffee and cigarette while strumming his guitar or listening to a newly acquired album.  His collection is his greatest treasure, something he can’t live without.  In his infinite generosity, he makes this collection available to all who enter his places of business, a privilege that so many take for granted.  He has even gone so far as to ensure that all of his clubs have the best P.A. systems, guitar and bass amplifiers, drum kits, microphones, and turntables so that customers, whether musicians or listeners, would feel a sense of welcome and warmth.  Each of his venues has its own character, and all are established for one purpose: to encourage music listening and music making.  As his legacy continues, I am humbled by his character and proud to call him my friend.  If you happen to be in Busan, South Korea, you would be missing a great deal if you didn’t stop in to one of his venues for a drink and some conversation.

PNU Area: At The Crossroads - Vinyl Listening Parties on Mondays starting 9 pm, Open Mic on Thursdays starting 10 pm – NOW SERVING FOOD AND GREAT COFFEE!

Soul Trane – Ladies Night every Friday with DRINK SPECIALS AND FOOD!

Kyunsung-dae Area: Ol’ 55 – Jam Sessions on Wednesday nights, performances on weekends

The Vinyl Underground - A premier live music venue with a big stage and incredible sound system.  Live music performances or DJ parties every weekend, open Wednesday thru Sunday.

MAPS to clubs:


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Busan’s “At The Crossroads” club turns 15!

One of Busan’s oldest expat hang outs turned 15 earlier this month… check out the article from the Busan Haps Magazine!  I  befriended the owner, Dong-ha, on my first night in Busan, and was invited to help out with the Thursday Open Mic.  The editors even gave me a nice shout out at the end of the article…Thanks BH!

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8th Floor Landing Video Release!

The long awaited new video from “Strange Dream” is now available online.  8th Floor Landing was recorded in Virginia Beach, VA, live, for this video session shot by Jay Gates of Goldie Brown Productions.  Be sure to leave us a comment and check out the rest of the album on iTunes.  Click on the link below to see the video…

<a href="">LinkedTube</a>

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New Album “Strange Dream” is available NOW on iTunes!

“Strange Dream” is finished and up on the iTunes store.  Click here to preview or download it now!

Strange Dream is a refreshing collection of acoustic music written by Steve Forss and myself.  We began working together in 2003 and wrote most of the material in Indianapolis, IN, while the final recordings were done in 2011 in Virginia Beach.   We hope the music finds you, as it found us.  An official press release and videos will be available shortly!

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New album entitled Strange Dream, to be released this week!

The new album, Strange Dream, is due out this week and will be available on a host of digital download sites including iTunes, Napster, and many others.  Steve and I first collaborated more than 6 years ago on the initial 9 tracks of this song collection, recording in his apartment on a home desktop recording studio setup.  Recently, I went to Virginia Beach and spent a month performing with Steve on his gigs around the area, and doing a bit of writing during the time we had available.  We managed to complete 3 new tracks, in addition to rerecording one of the previous numbers we had written, this time with some better recording gear.  The final album omits 2 of the original tracks and is now fully mastered with 11 total tracks, and is being uploaded via TuneCore this week.  Check back later in the week for updated info on this new exciting release and previews of the tracks…

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W Beestrum now available for download!

The 2010 album “W Beestrum” is available for download!  This album was written in Los Angeles from 2007-2009 and features 9 tracks.  All tracks are available on the downloads page:

For more info check out the press release by clicking on the picture below or by clicking here.

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2011: Journey to the Far East

I’m excited to be relocating to Busan, South Korea in March, where I will be teaching ESL, performing and writing as much as possible, and looking for opportunities in teaching music at the university level.  I had a great experience in Korea back in 2006 and am looking forward to being back in Southeast Asia.   Keep checking back for new tracks, which will appear on a regular basis as soon as I get settled in.

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