Dominant V7 Chords

The Dominant V7 chord is probably one of the trickiest things to master when one begins learning jazz. The available tensions for all the other diatonic chords are consistent. However, the V7 chord can have different regular and altered tensions in different situations and can really blossom into a very colorful sound if tweaked properly.

Chords often progress down a fifth (or up a fourth; it's the same either way), such as III-7 down to VI-7 down to II-7 down to V7 down to Imaj7. The strongest sound is V7 to Imaj7. This means V7 has a lot of tension and the strongest release of the tension is to resolve it to Imaj7. This "cadence" is a critical building block in ALL common music. In jazz, you can add tensions (as in chord tensions ) that V7 chord to create maximum tension and release.

Here are the 3 dominant chord situations:

-A V7 resolving down a fifth to a major chord.
-A V7 resolving down a fifth to a minor chord.
-A dominant 7 (not necessarily a V chord) that doesn't resolve down a fifth)

The first one, a V7 going down a fifth to a major chord, is the most versatile. You can play a normal or "natural" 9 and 13 (not 11 though). If you flat the 9th, it gets a little jazzier especially with a normal 13 (b9,13). You can also sharp the 9, sharp the 11, and flat the 13. I encourage trying different combinations of regular and altered tensions because they all sound different and some are really nice.

The second situation, a V7 going down a fifth to a minor chord is the same as above except that you shouldn't use a natural 13, always include a flat 13 or no 13.

The final situation is even stricter. These dominant chords can be tritone substitute dominants, or other dominants such as IV7, bVI7, bVII7 and all have a natural 9 and 13 and many sound great with an added sharp 11 (subV's especially). Occasionally you could sneak a sharp 9 in there, but it must sound appropriate.

The key to dominant chord tensions is experimenting with different voicings and tensions to find combinations that sound colorful and interesting. A lot of the time it is just using tensions that voice lead to the next chord smoothly.

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