Secondary Dominants- Write Better Chord Progressions!

Secondary Dominant chords are a great addition to the 7 chords we normally see in major keys and their modes, they are outside of the key but will take us to chords in the key. This occurs a LOT in modern music, especially the V7/vi, and learning your secondary dominants will help you write better and more interesting chord progressions. These chords introduce non-diatonic notes (notes outside the scale) so it is usually obvious to the ear that there is something unique and interesting about these chords when they appear. In this video, we explore all the usable secondary dominants except the V7/iii. The only reason I excluded it is was because the video was getting long and I didn't have any good examples of it, also I don't find it to be very usable but I encourage you to play with it. These chords work in ANY MODE but you will find it's fairly difficult to use them outside of major and minor due to the other modes not being as stable. The "mini modulations" within the key cause our tonality to get shifted around and maintaining a modal tonal center can prove tricky. 


Please note, this transcription was computer generated and has not been checked for errors. However, I do hope you find it helpful. Be sure to check out The Ultimate Modal Poster!

If you're sick of right and chord progressions with the same four or five or six chords, one of the quickest ways to break outside of that box is to learn your secondary dominant chords in this video. What I want to do is go over the concept of what is the dominant chord? What are our secondary dominant chords and then really focus on how can we write music using these where have we seen them before an actual music all that kind of good stuff. Now this video won't make a lot of sense unless you really understand building a major scale and building the diatonic chords of the major scale. So if you're not familiar with that concept, please check out the video I did on right a major chord progressions. I've linked to it in the description.

I want to get started though by understanding the concept of the dominant chord. So here's the deal. Let's pick any major chord or minor chord. I'm going to pick G major. All right.

So here's a pretty little G major and the dominant chord is the cord that will take me to G major. There's a cord out there that when you play it your ear is just going to be praying to come back to G major and that's the dominant chord. I can find it just by counting up a perfect fifth. Like five notes of my major scale one, two, three, four five.

It's also seven Frets away and it takes me to the note D.

And then once I find that note, I just build a seventh chord on top of it. So D7.

All right. This is the cord that will take us to G major Listen to How strong of a landing how definite of a resolution it was when we got back to G. There's no mistaking it g is our home G is our tonic G has Ben Tata sighs. That's the word. I'm going to be using quite a bit in this video.

So very simple you want to find the dominant chord of a major chord. Just go up a fifth play a 7th chord and here's the great thing. This also works with minor chords as well. So G minor you want to find the dominant chord of G minor easy go up a fifth. One, two, three, four, five. Give it a a seventh chord D seven and listen as it comes back to G minor very strong resolution right there.

So really all you have to keep in mind is that dominant? Words will pull you back to a tonic. All right, and they're easy to find you go up a fifth you build a seventh chord for them. This works for major chords or minor chords. Now if that makes sense to you, all we have to do is apply that concept to every single chord in Mikey.

So let's figure out the key of G. All right Kia G has a G major chord and a minor a B-minor a see a d and e minor and F sharp diminished and a G major. All right. So I've got all those seven chords. I can build a dominant chord off of Of all these different chords like I had an A Minor in there. What's the dominant chord of a minor? Well go up a fifth make it a seventh chord, that would be up a fifth as e and a seventh chord is E7 so I can build the dominant chord of my second chord. We would call that the five of to the dominant chord of my second chord and that would be an E7 B7 would take me to a minor even though I'm in the key of G. So, how can I use that cord right there? Well, let's just play a G major chord and Just bringing that E7 and you see it sounds all right. It does want to come back to that a minor and maybe let's just end with my normal dominant chord D 7 is the dominant chord in the key of G. So now I've got ge7 a minor since 87 And that sounds good really really nice interesting chord. You can hear how much color pops up with that E7.

We've all of a sudden got a note in there that is not in the key of G specifically with this E7 we're bringing in a G sharp and you're not allowed to play a G sharp in the key of G. So anytime you're introducing one of the secondary dominant chords, you're going to be introducing a non diatonic note and you're going to have to accommodate that. I'll talk about that a little bit at the very end of the video. We can also hear this five of to change in the song. Let It Snow that song is in the key of C we go from a one to a five and then from R2 to our five then all of a sudden it goes from our 2 chord to our dominant chord of the tube and then finally back to our dominant chord to our topic so we've got all the weather outside is frightful but the fire is so delightful than right here and when there's really no place to go here are nice of a change that is a lot of tension in the middle of my verse right there that a Seven pulls me so strongly back to D Minor that it's almost like temporarily.

It's like temporarily where the key of D Minor if you picked up the song right there if you started playing it from right there, that's pretty clearly the key of D Minor with the dominant chord in there. So, you know, it's interesting to think of the secondary dominant changes as little tiny modulations.

You don't have to think of them that way but I really like to think that these are temporary modulations into a new key and that helps you accommodate that part later on down the line now also with this song at the very very end of it. I like to close it. With that five of to again, but with a little bit different of a context, you've got let it snow. Let it snow let it snow and then bringing in that A7 again really cues you off to hear that again. Let it snow let it snow let it snow.

So that five of to to me is a really funny jazz jazz hands, you know show's over kind of chord. I really have a very distinct identity of it and hopefully you'll hear that. It's Kind of a like a ritzy kind of sound to it. So let's go back to the key of G for a little bit here.

And I want to look at my 1 chord to my for cord to my 1 chord and that for court specifically if I want to get to my four chord, I'd have to play a G7 but I'm starting here on a G major.

Right and G7 is not in the key of G major. If I do it anyways, though Listen to How strong it's going to pull to that four chord, which once I've got there. I could do all sorts of stuff I could borrow.

And then come back to my tonic.

So really nice change is that 7th chord built off of my tonic because it takes me to my four chord great example of this is Hey, Jude Hey Jude is in the key of f we got my 1 chord five chord is C stay on the 5 chord make it a C7. That's just my natural dominant chord back to F. Here's my for corned beef last minute eunetta into your heart five four. And then you can stop now check it out. I'm going to come back to my tonic F but then I make that F and a half seven because that's really going to warm us up and get us ready for a really nice change. Just collapsing into our four chord right there Tana sizes the for very well to the point where it really feels like you're in the key of B flat major there for a little bit but you're not you're in the key of f they just play a really great trick on you. Now, what about my 5 of 5 so I mean the key of G my fifth chord is D and once the dominant chord of D. Well, that's a seven.

So if I wanted to play an A7, that would take me to a d which would then resolve me to G and I'll actually play it as a D7 that we have got my dominant the secondary dominant of my dominant that I've got my dominant then I got my tonic so A7 D7 to G and here that chromatic movement there. I've got a c-sharp right here on my second string and then on a D7 there's a natural.

See and then on G major, there's just that natural be so bummed nice little natural chromatic descent to help us resolve their we hear this exact same change at the end of Kokomo by the Beach Boys, which is a perfect chord progression. It's in the key of C.


So here's my four chord in the key of C. Here's my borrowed for chord. Here's my tonic.

Then D7 is the 5 of 5 takes me to my natural 5 and then back to my tonic awesome chord. Now the most common secondary dominant chord that we hear is the five of six. This might be one of the most overused chords in history. If I'm in the key of G, my 6 quart is E minor and if I want to get to E minor I would play a B7 first so you can hear how nice even if I just went from G major play that secondary dominant chord right off the bat. It's going to take you to E minor and then I can follow up with pretty much anything.

So great progression right out the door just by sneaking in that 5 of 6 and following up. The six what's weird about that one is a lot of times people will use that secondary dominant that five of six and they won't even follow it up with a 6. For example, the song Creep by Radiohead is in E Major. We've got our one chord and our three chord would normally Jeep be G sharp minor in this case. It's G sharp major, which is the dominant chord of C sharp minor. So this is the five of six, but they don't give you the six the give you the forward step. So following up the secondary dominant chord with the wrong chord little little surprising from the Social point of view but I think it works just fine. We hear this a lot also in the song You by CeeLo Green it's in the key of C major.

We've got our one chord. We've got our five of five which you would expect us to take to the 5 chord, but no they take you to the four chord instead. All right. So C Major D. Seven F major C major awesome little chord progression just a few months. Back, I finished a country track that uses this exact same chord progression. We've got a 1/2 R 5 of 6 and then it takes a straight to our for and then our five and step now before we wrap things up. There's a few things I want to talk about here. When you introduce one of these chords, you're introducing a note that is outside of the key and you usually have to do a little work to make sure that whatever you're seeing. King or whatever you're playing lead guitar on is going to accommodate that new note. So here's my suggestion because this is a very deep topic and we can spend a lot of time talking about this with that seventh chord. Keep comes up. Keep in mind. It's only four notes. It's a route 1/3 1/5 and a flat 7 and there's a lot of scales that contain those notes. So I would say pick a scale that contains those four notes try playing it on top of that cord and see if you like the way it sounds your primary candidates would be the mixolydian scale that's got all those notes in it. Also the phrygian dominant scale has all those notes in it, but you would be working off of that. At mainly if you're resolving to a minor chord, so for example, if I'm going from the 5 of 2 to the 2 then I would think about using the phrygian dominant scale on that first chord to accommodate both the chords.

Also. I have no problem just dropping the seventh completely.

You know it the seventh chords can get a little old timey and a little not so modern sounding sometimes so we do here the same kind of ideas just without the seventh just using as a major chord instead and one last thing the reason I didn't give you a dominant chord off. My seven chord is because no matter how hard you try you'll Not going to be able to resolve to a diminished Triad. You can't really Tana size it so you could build a seventh chord off the 5th air and call it 5 of 7 and that's been done before it's just doesn't function like these other ones do so once again diminished is the cause of the odd man out in these cases. So I hope you enjoyed this video. Hope you learned something and I hope you've expanded your cord vocabulary a little bit. If you really liked this video, you can consider supporting my patreon page really these lessons wouldn't exist. If it weren't for the fine folks over there who are donating to support these lessons and if you can't do that, Ooh, that that's totally fine. You can just like comment subscribe all that kind of stuff helps me out. So thanks for watching.


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