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Music Theory for Guitar - Secondary dominants

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Secondary dominants

So far, this is not much more than a placeholder, as I realized that I need a lesson on secondary dominants.

In short, secondary dominants are non-diatonic dominant chords of diatonic chords. A dominant is a chord one fifth above, and is leading the chord it is the dominant of. The secondary dominants are identified as "V of xx" chords.

A dominant chord will often be the start of a modulation, as it resolves to the tonic of the new key. We use the term "secondary dominant" when we do not have a modulation. They are also called "borrowed chords".

It is not easy to decide when a chord is a secondary dominant and when it is the start of a modulation. In a modulation the new key need some time to establish itself as a key. But in the end, it is just a question of which label to attach to stituation - the music is the same.

We have the diatonic V or V7 chord, which is the dominant of the root (tonic). But we can have dominants on all the chords on the harmonized scale. TYhe most common is the V of V, which is a II(7) chord. A dominant will always be a major or a dominant 7th chord (or an extended dominat 7th chord.)

Diatonic Chord I ii iii IV V vi VIIdim
Secondary dominant V V of ii V of iii V of IV V of V V of vi V of viiidim
Label V7 VI(7) VII(7) I7 II7 III7 VI#7

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Previous page: Music Theory for Guitar - The circle of fifths is a visualization of relations between keys Next page: Music Theory for Guitar - Minor