Dominant Chord

Part 1: The Basic Sound – Mixolydian

Dominant Chord - Jazz Harmony

The dominant chord provides movement in tonal music: its tendency to resolve (aka “to go somewhere else”) is very strong. It has an even stronger harmonic pull when the seventh is added on top of it.

The dominant seventh is used most of the time in jazz music. If you look at sheet music or in fakebooks, dominant seventh chords have “just a number” so to speak : they’re identified with “7” (or “7th”), “9”, “7(b9)”, “13” or “13(b9)” and “dom7” and so on.

In this series we will look into the most common colors for the dominant chord. I like to approach them by their respective sound, starting with the most consonant and moving towards more alterations of the basic sound

Please note: All examples will use a G dominant chord throughout this article series. I chose this key because it resolves back to a C (which the basic key of reference … or “the people’s key” as a good friend likes to call it!) Good old C major.

Jump to a page:

Dominant Chords Introduction
Dominants Part 1: The Basic Sound – Mixolydian
Dominants Part 2: Mixolydian with a flat 13th
Dominants Part 3: Mixolydian with a sharp 11th
Dominants Part 4: Mixolydian with a flat 13th and a flat 9th
Dominants Part 5: Super Locrian (aka altered scale aka Dim Whole-Tone)

Mixo what?!

Let’s start with the most basic sound of all dominant scales / chords: the mixolydian mode. As we already know, the dominant is usually built on the fifth degree of a scale. Here, we’re using the “plain old” major scale. C major scale contains the same notes as G mixolydian scale :

Dominant Chord

In brief: By playing the C major scale (C D E F G A B) but starting on G (G A B C D E F)… we get that infamous G mixolydian sound ! And, YES, it’s that simple!

A Closer Look

If we go in a bit deeper and take the mixolydian scale appart and build it back we’ll find…

The scales degrees : 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7

Dominant Chord

(as compared to a G major scale, only the F natural differs… thus we use “flat 7” to qualify that tone)

Vertical chord tones : 1 3 5 b7 9 11 13 

Dominant Chord

As you can see (and hopefully hear!) this is a very consonant sound. It’s universal very similar to the major scale: the mixolydian dominant chord / scale can be heard in almost all music … everywhere on the planet.

Learning Mixolydian

Use practice suggestions on the introduction page to learn that basic mixolydian dominant chord sound thouroughly. And here’s some more stuff to think about…

On the Guitar, in Position:

Take any of the seven positions of the major scale and start on the fifth degree; it’s that simple, once again! For example, G mixolydian comes from C major… so here’s G mixolydian based (with minor adjustments) on the “52” position of C major:

Dominant Chord

You can, of course, practice arpeggios that go up to the 9th, the 11th etc. and some inversions (and/or all of the above mixed-up!) And all of that in many positions (or a few positions, at least!)

On the Guitar, Diagonally:

This is much more subjective, it depends on the player and situation. Here’s how I would play that dominant chord mixolydian scale and arpeggio, on two octaves diagonally:

Dominant Chord

And on three octaves diagonally (notice the finger slides):

Dominant Chord

 

The fingerings for diagonal playing are not “set in stone”: a few useful sets of fingerings exist. Again, you have to find your own way of doing that (and practice arpeggios that go up to the 9th and above.)

Applying Mixolydian

We can apply this scale pretty much any time we see a plain “7th” on a chart (not “maj7” or “min7” though!) Because it’s such a basic sound, most tunes and progressions contain a “plain old” dominant chord or two. The blues progression is a good starting point. It has huge potential mixolydian applications: on a traditional bebop blues, you can use the mixolydian scale in up to 4 different keys! (the I, IV, VI and V chords).

Also check out the “bird blues” type of progression (ie “Blues for Alice” or “Chi chi”). You could go up and play mixo in as much as 7 or 8 different keys on that progression alone! Now you’re really going to town with that kind of stuff.

(-;

Let’s see. Let’s “C” that progression (get it?!) :

||Cmaj / / / / | Bm / E7 / | Am / D7 / | Gm / C7 / |
| F7 / / / | Fm7 / Bb7 /| Em7 / A7 / | Ebm7 / Ab7 / |
| Dm7 / / / | G7 / / / | Cmaj / A7 / | Dm7 / G7 / ||

The possible mixo scales are in bold.

And, of course, any II-V-I or II-V can be outlined using mixolydian. I don’t think I even have to mention this now but: the V (dominant chord) can be mixolydian. Check out some II-V licks here.

Jump to a page:

Dominant Chords Introduction
Dominants Part 1: The Basic Sound – Mixolydian
Dominants Part 2: Mixolydian with a flat 13th
Dominants Part 3: Mixolydian with a sharp 11th
Dominants Part 4: Mixolydian with a flat 13th and a flat 9th
Dominants Part 5: Super Locrian (aka altered scale aka Dim Whole-Tone)

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