Tip #148 – Reducing Dominant Chords to Three-Note Harmonies

Tailgating on the idea of being limited to a three-part harmony; you are going to have to make some choices if you want the sound of a dominant chord, but can only voice three notes.

To remind: a dominant chord is a major triad with a b7 interval above it (and is usually decorated with extra upper extensions as well as tension tones).


Whenever the root, 9, b9, #9, 11, +11, 13, or b13 is in the melody – support it with the 3rd and b7th of the chord underneath it.

Whenever the 3rd or 5th is in the melody of the dominant chord – support it with the b7th, and the remaining 5th or 3rd.

Whenever the b7th is in the melody – support it with the 3rd and 5th underneath it.

Whenever there is an alternation or substitution in the dominant chord – keep it, but make sure the distance between the two upper notes is not a m2.

And more so…

Keep this in mind as you plan how to do a harmonic arrangement and support of your musical work.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Author: Bryan M. Waring

Bryan Waring is a graduate of USM's School of Music with a B.M. in Performance – Composition and is now attending Belmont University for a M.M. in Commercial Media – Composition & Arranging. During his time at USM, he studied violin with Dino Liva and composition with Dr. Daniel Sonenberg, as well as has premiered several pieces during the semiannual Composer's Ensemble concert series. In 2017, Bryan was a writer for the original musical theater work of "Molded By The Flow," directed by Paul Dresher and Rinde Eckert. Outside of school, Bryan has been involved with writing music for videogame developers at Portland's CI2 Lab, collaborating with the King Tide Party, and studying with Larry Groupé (Straw Dogs) in San Diego. Now living in Nashville. Along with composing, Bryan teaches music to children, receiving the Master Teacher Award for his work at ESF Camps; and does audio engineering for live ensembles. Besides talents in music, Bryan is a team-player in any competitive work environment; equipped with skills in leadership, organization, mathematics, creativity, communication, and managing. On the side, Bryan has worked as a model for several skilled artists in the New England area. Among his other accomplishments include obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout in April 2013 with a project of building a side parking area with guide rails for Webb Mountain Park in Monroe, CT.

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