More about dominant chords

The question I asked on my Facebook page today was this: which note in a dominant chord is most expendable?
The answer is the 5th. The 5th is not only unnecessary but actually hurts the sound a bit I think. In fact, I never put the 5th in a dominant chord unless the melody actually is the 5th.

So why is the 5th so unnecessary? I talked a few weeks ago about the function of a dominant chord and showed you this example that demonstrates what happens when a dominant resolves down a 5th.


Notice that the two notes that do the real work in a dominant chord are the 3rd and the 7th. Those two notes resolve to the root and 3rd of the next chord.

Most people over on Facebook got it right but some are incorrectly saying the 3rd. The 3rd is absolutely necessary not just because of the chart above but also because a dominant chord without a 3rd in it is not a dominant at all. It is an incomplete chord that could either be a dominant or minor 7th.

The 7th is necessary for the same reason. A dominant without a 7th is not a dominant. It is just a major triad that could become either a dominant or major 7th depending on the 7th that is added.

The second most expendable note in a dominant chord is the root. I know that seems funny but it is true. The 3rd and 7th are the important notes because they are the notes doing all the heavy lifting.

I suppose a legitimate question at this point is why this matters. Here’s why it matters: getting rid of the fifths in dominant chords will not revolutionize your sound but it will slightly improve your sound. It is a baby step but real progress is made with a series of baby steps.

I wish I could say that my music grows with in big leaps and bounds but alas, I am no genius and it doesn’t work that way. My music improves with little baby steps like these.

Have a good weekend.