Tip #207 – Two Ways of Resolving Secondary Dominants

Seems a bit silly that we have gone this bar in the blog without mentioning secondary dominants as much as they should be. Nonetheless, they are common in music composition and deserved to be discussed.

A secondary dominant is the V7 of a chord besides I (usually the V7 / V ). The progression would be:

V7/V – V7 – I

And that is one way to resolve it. Simply use it like the nature of the V7 chord and resolve to the chord a P5 below it.

Another way, that is common in jazz, is to have it resolve to the minor version of itself. That progression would be:

V7/V – ii – V7 – I

Both the V7/V and ii have the same function of being the “predominant area” so it makes sense that they can lead into one another.

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Tip #205 – Progress by Voicing

In music theory, we are taught a certain way that chords progress by – following one by another based on their Roman numeral analysis. Such as:

  • V7 goes to I
  • Progression follow the Circle Of Fifths, I-IV-viio-iii-vi-ii-V-I
  • IVmaj7 can act as a predominant area or a Plagal cadence figure.
  • Etc.

Instead of thinking about chords by their Roman numerals, think about their voicings (in relation to the key or outside of it).

For example a dominant-seventh chord. You would think of that as the fifth scale degree to resolve to the root. So, G7 to C.

But, the function of the domain-seventh chord doesn’t always have to be the V7. It can be the:

  • Tritone Substitute, bII7 – I , G7 to F#
  • Dorian Vamp, V7 – ii , G7 to Dmin
  • Bluesy Vamp, IV7 – I, G7 to D
  • I7 chord in a 12-Bar Blues, I7 – V7 – IV7 – I7 , G7 to D7 to C7 to G7
  • Etc.

And now look! You have more possibilities than you can ever think of because you valued the chord voicing more than the Roman numerals in regard to the key.

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Tip #204 – Bluesy Vamp

Another vamp chord progression you can use is this:

I – IV7

Some of you might be thinking “but the IV chord isn’t usually a dominant-seventh chord… nor does it resolve to the I.”

Remember this from previous posts: in the twelve-bar blues progression the IV chord resolves more naturally to the I than the V does. Plus, the IV chord harmony appears more frequently than the V chord.

In addition, the IV7 chord provides the b3 scale degree. b3, which is in the blues scale.

Play around with it and see how it works!

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Tip #203 – Jazzy Way of Modulating to Predominant Key Area

Most music typically modulates from the tonic to the dominant, but that is not the only place it can go to.

Say that you wanted to go to the predominant (which is the fourth scale degree). That is like going from the key of C to the key of F.

One way that can be done is with an I – v7 – I7 – IV progression that utilizes the common ii – V7 formula found in jazz music:

Essentially, because the tonic chord hasn’t played the seventh, we are in ambiguous terms as to whether the triad expands to a major-seventh chord or dominant seventh chord. This works to our advantage that when we set up the ii – V motion, all we do is lower the leading tone down (making it mixolydian). Finally, the ii – V tonicizes the IV chord to become the new tonic and having the piece modulate to the subdominant area.

Try it out and see how you can vary this up.

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Tip #197 – Andalusian Cadence

Continuing with the idea of the lament bass, we have the chord progression of the Andalusian cadence.

Built off of the lament bass line in minor, it is harmonized like this:

i – bVII – bVI – V

These chords can also include sevens and other upper extensions for an expanded harmony, but the core triads and bass line motion is what matters.

Not only does the Andalusian cadence appear in classical and pop music, but you can find it in the regional styles of flamenco, Arabian, and Greek music.

Try coming up with a riff based on this progression.

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Tip #196 – Lament Bass

I popular classical music trope that found its way into modern pop music is the lament bass. Before, the lament bass was used in what we regard as Classical and Romantic era music for sorrowful passages. Now, it appears in many different variations in today’s music/

The “original” lament bass is a diatonic walk-down from the root of the minor chord to the fifth in a span of a P4:

Each note in the bass is harmonized, and the descending motion gives the music a grieving feeling. You can hear by the minor tonality the need to resolve down.

Pop music does a similar thing, but with a “major” lament bass:

Compare how these two different, not only in pitch but as well in intervals.

Also, there can be a “chromatic” version of the lament bass, still spaning a P4 in distance travelled:

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Tip #195 – Dorian Vamp

This will be a short tip.

Say that you want a jazz or funk groove but don’t know where to start when it comes to harmonic progressions.

Well, a typical progression used in these styles is the Dorian vamp, which is a repetition of the progression:

i – IV7

Of course, these chords can be altered with upper extensions and sus4, but the root motion is the same.

Both of these chords are naturally found in the Dorian mode (in the example above it would be E Dorian), so it fits right with the tonality you want to be in.

Try it out and feel free to experiment.

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Tip #184 – Unique Use of Dominant 13 (b9 #11) Chord

Some jazz performers, arrangers, and composers have the inclination to add tension tones and various extensions on top of simple triad chord harmonies. Not that it is a bad thing, but it can become mundane if used too often or too frivolously.

With that out of the way, one chord that I have noticed some people using is the dominant 13 chord with alterations of a b9 and #11. Usually, this is recognized as a V 13(b9 #11) in the jazz tune – but here is another use of it:

Let’s first start by separating the dominant 7 from the upper extensions. That gives us the V7 chord and the (b9 #11 13) above.

If we reharmonize the (b9 #11 13) be their enharmonic, we get a minor triad a tritone above the root of the chord.

Typically, there is no major or natural minor key that has both a V7 and bii. However, who said that the dominant chord has to function as a V7 chord? Instead, we can think of it as a tritone substation making it a bII7 in a minor key with the minor triad acting as a v. In which case, both the bII7 and v chords resolve to the minor tonic triad of i.

Try it out for yourself!

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Tip #183 – Why the iv o7 Chord Works

A diminished seventh chord built on the fourth scale degree of the key. Think about it for a second.

Now, do you think this chord can resolve to the tonic in a iv o7 – I progression?

Let’s see in comparison to a regular ii 7 – V 7 – I progression:

If you play these chords, you will hear that both of them sound like complete resolutions to the I chord. But why?

Well, first start off by looking at the enharmonics of the iv o7 chord. Notice how there are 3 shared common tones. What’s more, the one note that is different is the b9 of the V chord. So basically, the iv o7 acts as a V 7(b9) chord with the seventh in the bass.

Try it out and see what else you can use it with.

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Tip #180 – Using the Principle of the I 6/4 Chord

This post is NOT a debate on if the I 6/4 chord acts more of a tonic or dominant chord. Instead, we will be talking about the principle behind the chord and how to apply it to other practices.

While the analysis of the I 6/4 chord is up to debate, the function is not – the chord comes before the V chord, and then it usually resolves to the I chord from there. Why so? Well, looking at the shape as well as the voice movement of the I 6/4 chord to the V chord, it is a suspension of higher tones over the shared root resolving to the dominant chord.

Basically, we can learn from this is that by suspending voices over the dominant root, we create a delayed resolution to the V chord and then to I.

Not only can this be done with a I 6/4 chord, but it can also be done with a V sus4 chord, a V chord with upper tension tones, and variations:

Try them out – that by keeping the root the same, but changing the upper structure or voicing, you create a delay in the harmonic movement resolving back to I.

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