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In this lesson you'll learn to introduce and manage some chords that do not belong to the key that you are playing or composing in. By introducing these chords you give your music more variety, more spice. These chords are called secondary dominants. Before I explain secondary dominant, I'd like to explain the terms dominant and tonic. If you already know these terms, you may want to skip ahead to "Secondary Dominants" below...
Dominant. The basic meaning of the word dominant is "commanding, controlling, or prevailing over all others." o clearly the dominant chord is a powerful chord. It seems to command what will happen next in the music. The dominant chord in music is the chord built on the fifth degree of the scale. Sometimes it is called the V chord. (Roman numeral V = 5). When the dominant chord sounds, it has a strong tendency to progress to the I chord, or the chord built on the first degree of the scale. The I chord is also called the tonic. This tonic chord is the same as chord that matches the name of the key. When the tonic sounds, it strengths the feeling of the key. (a tonic is something that strengthens.). The tonic is the foundation chord for a tune -- the chord that a tune usually starts and ends on. If a tune doesn't end on the tonic chord, it will leave the listener "hanging" -- expecting more., Sometimes that's done for a special effect, but usually a piece of music will end on the tonic.
Progress check. In the key of A, what would the tonic chord be? The dominant? (When I say key of A, assume I mean "A major."
The dominant would be E major and the tonic would be A major.
Each key has 7 main chords, one for each degree of the scale. These are sometimes called diatonic chords. Lets look at all of the three note diatonic chords in the key of A. A three-note chord is called a triad. Each diatonic triad has a number name (given in Roman numerals) a functional name, and a letter name. In the table below I'll give the Number name, functional name and letter name of each chord. Notice that the letter name tells whether the chord is major, minor or diminished. For now, I am just talking about triads (3-note chords)
The V (dominant chord) has a strong tendency to move to
the tonic. (But it also progresses nicely (up a second) to the vi chord
and sometimes (down a third) to the iii chord. The V chord rarely
progresses to the IV chord or the ii or vii chords.(Exception: the V
chord progresses smoothly to the IV chord if the IV chord has its
second chord tone in the bass, rather than its root in the bass.For
example, G in the key of C, might progress to F/A. F/A means an F chord
with A in the bass.)
Secondary Dominants.. The primary dominant chord in a key is always built on a tone a perfect fifth above the tonic chord (the I chord). A secondary dominant is a major chord a perfect fifth above a chord other than the I chord. So each chord in a key can have its own dominant. The dominant for the ii chord is called the V of ii. The dominant for the iii chord is called the V of iii and so on. For example, in the key of A major, the ii chord is B-minor. The secondary dominant for the ii chord is F# major. That is because a perfect above B is F#. The F# chord can be referred to as V of ii.
So in the key of A major, if the chord F# major is introduced, it will attract some attention because it is not one of the main chords in the key of A.When it is introduced, has a tendency to move next to B minor (down a perfect fith)
Progress Check: Play the chord progression I - Vof ii - ii, V - I in the key of A major. What chord probably has the most dramatic effect?
Answer: The chords would be: A major, F major, B minor, E major, A major. The F major chord would probably attract the most attention since it is not a diatonic chord in the key of A major. (There is no A# in the key of A and the A# is needed as the second tone of the F# major chord.)
Suppose your wanted a dramatic effect in a song you are writing. Which kind of chord would be more approriate, a diatonic chord or a secondary dominant?
You should now understand how to construct secondary
dominants, which would be more appropriate for dramatic effects than
diatonic chords. Just go up to a tone that is a perfect fifth above a
chord in the key and build a major chord on that tone. (If you are
having trouble understanding what a perfect 5th is, you may want to get
my book on introduction to music theory, called What Makes Music Work. ).
The problem with the modulation analysis used before the concept of secondary dominants, is that the key center sometimes does not really change. When a secondary dominant is used, it is like a head fake modulation. The harmony seems to modulate to another key, but then immediately returns to the primary key. By using the idea of secondary dominants you can keep thinking in the same key rather than introducing a new key center and still add color to the original key..
So you know how to construct a secondary dominant, but
you may be wondering how you introduce a secondary dominant. Here are
some guidelines you may find helpful.
Inserting a Secondary Dominant.
Suppose you are improvizing or composing a song with a chord
progression that goes: I - vi - IV ii V I. Instead of going directly to
the vi chord from I, you might go to the V of vi chord first and then
to the vi chord. What chords would that be in the key of C? (Give the
C - E - Ami - Dmi - G - C (These chords are major unless
designated minor with "mi") The E major chord, here, would be the
secondary dominant. Notice that an E major chord has a G#, which does
not exist in the key of C.
Using Smooth voice leading. This
means don't make the various musical parts jump around when changing
chords. It often helps to have the bass part move by a step, even a
half-step. A useful technique, here, is to introduce a secondary
dominant in first inversion. That is, put the second chord tone of the
secondary dominant in the bass part. Another way to say this is to put
the "third" of the secondary dominant in the bass. (If you are new to
music theory this is probably confusing. But just know that the second
tone of a chord is called the third, because it is at the interval of a
third above the root.)
Progress Check. Try this using the progression: I - vi - IV - VofV - I. Let's use the key of G this time. Indicate the chords and the tones in the bass part.The table below gives the functional names of the chords. Your job is to fill in the letter name of each chord and the tone used in the bass part.Key of G:
In sheet music the convention has developed of indicating the tone used in the bass part by putting a forward slash and then the tone. For example, an A major chord with C# in the bass would be indicated like this:
The chord progression might then be written:
Change Diatonic Chord. Another way to introduce a secondary dominant is to look for a diatonic chord that progresses down a fifth. Then change the diatonic chord to a secondary dominant. For example, suppose the chord progression goes:
In the key of C, iii would be Emi. You might change that to E major. The vi chord would be _________. You might change that to _________.
(Fill in the blanks)
In the key of C, iii would be Emi. You might change that to E major. The vi chord would be E mi. You might change that to E (E major).
A secondary dominant usually progresses down a fifth,
but it need not. Any progression is possible if it sounds good. A nice
affect can often be produced by having a secondary dominant progress up
a second. This is sometimes called a deceptive cadence. A progression I
especially like is one that has V of vi progress to IV. That's because
the bass can move up a half-step.
|Copyright 2003-2011, Phil Seyer|