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Dominants And Altered Dominants

Monday 14th January 2013 Knowledge Base


We hope you've been enjoying the new debut package by the mysterious guitar guru known as The Oracle.

You might have noticed that a couple of the tracks are specifically about dominant and altered dominant chords. There wasn't space for a lot of detail in the PDF included with the package, so we thought we'd tell you a bit more in this free bonus lesson. We're going to show you the (musical) meaning of dominant and how an altered dominant is created.


We'll start with the genuine Official Music Theory Police definition...

In any key, only one chord is called the dominant... the one built on the 5th note of the major scale. This is always a major triad and if you extend it, the 7th is always minor. In the key of G major, the dominant chord is D and the dominant 7th is D7.

Counting from the D note (the root of the chord) that gives us a major 3rd, a perfect 5th and a minor 7th.

(If you don't know how chords are related to scales, or what 'diatonic' means, check out our previous lessons, In Search of the Right Chord and More Searching for the Right Chord.)

In practice, we all became lazy with the terminology. Most people refer to any 7 chord as a 'dominant 7th'. We have major 7ths, minor 7ths and dominant 7ths. And we can extend that to cover all chords with a major 3rd and a minor 7th...

See? They all have the F# (major 3rd) and C (minor 7th) but they gradually get more notes, always added a 3rd above the previous one, always sticking to notes from the scale (that's what diatonic means).

All those chords are described as dominant chords, and if you want some cool ideas for soloing over dominant chords, check out the track Dominant Nature in the first package from The Oracle!


Don't worry... if you understood the stuff about standard dominant chords, this bit is easy!

An altered dominant is created by raising or lowering one note by a half-tone. This is always the 5th or the 9th, so we have four basic types of altered dominant...

It's standard practice to leave out the 5th in dominant chords (especially on guitar, when you have limited fingers and strings). However, if the 5th is altered, it MUST be included. Altered chords can also include all the other dominant extensions and more than one altered note, so you could have D13b9 or D7#5#9... beautiful complex jazz chords.

In the first Oracle package, the lesson Altered Reality shows how the Superlocrian scale can be used to solo over altered dominant chords. Trust us, it sounds great!

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