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Chord Progressions - The dominant (V-chord)

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Previous page: Chord Progressions - The tonic (I-chord) Next page: Chord Progressions - The harmonic stronghold: The V7-I progression

The dominant (V-chord)

Our second chord is built on the 5th of the scale, which is why it is labeled the V-chord. It is also referred to as the dominant. And it is a dominating chord which has a strong message. Usually the message is something like "go home!". In a progression, this is chord that clearly will point us in the direction home.

To understand one aspect of how this chord function in a progression, we have to introduce the term root-movement. We can analyse how the notes move when we change from one chord to another. This is what we know as voice leading. When analysing voice leading in general, we will usually see how notes in one chord move to a neighbouring note in the following chords – if they move at all. For instance if we go from G to C, the root in the G-chord (G) will not move, but change function from root to fifth in the chord. The third in the G-chord (B) will move to C and become the root in the new chord. And the fifth in the C-chord (D) will move up to E and become the third in the C-chord (or move down to C).

When we look at root movement, we look at how the root move from one chord to the root in the next. The root in the G-chord is G, and the root in the C-chord is C. The root-movement is G to C, which is down a perfect fifth. Play the two notes, and listen to how the G "wants" to go down a perfect fifth, and how it comes to rest when we land at the C. This is one of the elements that gives the lead from the V to the I chord: The root moves down one perfect fifth, and comes to rest on the tonic. For more on the voice leading in the V-I change, go to The Authentic Cadence and The harmonic stronghold: The V7-I progression.

The most important function of the V-chord is in the The Authentic Cadence and The harmonic stronghold: The V7-I progression. So you should take a closer look at the V-I progression. There are many ways that can lead to this ending. But there are songs where you go straight from I to V and have what is called a half close or imperfect cadence. You may then return to I, which gives a I-V-I progression. If we stick to the journey metaphor, this is like going out to get the newspaper and then return home.

I will not in this lesson comment on other ways you can get to the V-chord. Some of them will be covered en lessons to come. But here are some major progressions that end on V before going home to I:

I-IV-V
I-IV-V-IV
I-V-IV-V
I-II-IV-V
I-ii-iii-vi-IV-V
I-II-IV-IIIb-V
I-II7-V7
I-IIbdim7-ii7-V
I-iii-ii-V
I-III-ii-V
I-iii-IV-V
I-iii-V
I-III-VI-II-V
I-IIIb-IV-V-VIIb-V
I-IIIb-IV-V
I-IIIb-V
I-IIIb-VIIb-IV-V
I-IM7-iii-ii-V7
I-IV-ii-V
I-IV-II-V
I-IV-ii7-iii7-IV-iii7-V7
I-IVb-IV-V
I-V-vi-IV-V
I-V-vi-V
I-V-VIIb-V
I-vi-II-V
I-VI-II-V
I-vi-ii-V
I-vi-iii-ii-V
I-vi-iii-V
I-vi-IV-V
I-vi-iv-V
I-vi-V
I-vi-VIb-V
I-VIb-IV-V
I-VIb-V-I
I-VIb-VI-II-V-I
I-VIIb-VI-VIb-V
I-VIIb-VIb-V-(I)

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Previous page: Chord Progressions - The tonic (I-chord) Next page: Chord Progressions - The harmonic stronghold: The V7-I progression