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August Music Blog

Improvising over the dominant 7th chord

Dean Cutinelli here from the Colorado School of Music. Remember we are just a call away to start your private music lessons. We offer guitar lessons, ukulele lessons, piano lessons, drum lessons,violin lessons, vocal lessons as well orchestral instruments. Now on to our discussion on improvising over dominant 7th chords.

The dominant 7th chord is one of the most unique chords you will find. The dominant chord appears on the fifth scale degree of the major scale. The chord is defined as a root, major 3rd, perfect 5th and minor 7th intervals. Yes it has a major 3rd and a minor 7th interval. This make the dominant 7th chord a lot of fun to improvise over. Another thing to remember is when you are trying to analyze the key of a certain progression, is that the dominant chord is always the five chord of some key. This works great when you have a chord progression or song that stays diatonic to a key. If we have a chord progression that goes from the two chord to the five chord and then the one, this example would be great to try your C major scale. (Dmin G7 Cmaj7). The fact that each of these chords are made up from the same c major scale enables you to play your c major scale over the whole progression. Of course your relative minor scale will work just fine as well. Remember they are relative keys because C major and A minor have the same notes in there scale as well as the same chords. You just have a different starting point for each scale or key.

Now I would like to break down the different scales or I like to refer to them as sounds. We will use a G7 chord for our example today. As I talked about earlier the C major scale is a great place to start your improvising. Another way of saying your going to play the notes from the C major scale is playing G mixolydian. All a G mixolydian scale is are the notes from C major just starting on G. This scale would play  G, A, B, C, D, E, and F. When starting on G and working up the notes listed you are now playing G mixolydian. If you compare G mixolydain to G major you will see the mixolydian scale has a minor 7th interval in it and not a major 7th interval. The mixolydian mode fits the dominant chord like a glove. Now try playing your major and minor pentatonic scale starting on the chord root. Now try those two pentatonic scales with the b5. The pentatonic scale will give you that classic blues sound. Next try playing a G dorian scale over the dominant chord. This scale could also be called F major scale starting on G. The dorian scale will defiantly give you a different sound. This dorian sound compliments the minor pentatonic scale nicely. Now let’s get out there a little bit! Try playing a  C harmonic minor over your G7 chord. The little rule on that is you can play the harmonic minor scale up a forth from what ever dominant chord your looking to improvise over.

Well after reading this you should have many different sound options when it’s time to improvise over your dominant 7th chords. Please feel free to contact us and come in for a music lesson to learn all about improvising and anything else pertaining to music from one of our great instructor at the Colorado School of Music in Golden CO. We offer guitar lessons, ukulele lessons, piano lessons, drum lessons, violin lessons and vocal lessons as wells as orchestral instruments.  info@coloradoschoolofmusic.com or 303-526-9865

Thanks for reading!

Dean Cutinelli

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