Quick & Dirty Altered Dominants
Updated: Jun 27
The Dominant is the most-altered chord type so that is what we'll deal with here. The chords I'm going to show you are based on Open and Close-Voiced 7th Chords. It would be helpful to have gone through Unit 6 of my Vertical Truth method but not essential; you can still get tons of value out of this Quick & Dirty installment without that background. After all, that's the whole idea of, "Quick & Dirty."
Open and Close-Voiced 7ths eliminate the 5th and therefore consist of 3 notes: the Root, the 3rd and the 7th. There are 3 positions for an Open-Voiced 7th and 4 positions for a Close-Voiced 7th; commensurate with the "Quick & Dirty" concept we will cover the one most functional position each. An Open-Voiced Dominant 7 chord has the Root on the 6th string, the Close-Voiced Dominant 7 chord has the Root on the 5th string:
To each of these shapes we will add a note on the 2nd string. On the 6th-string Root it will be a 5th, on the 5th-string Root it will be a 9th:
Drill these two chord-shapes around the Circle - recite names.
If you don't know what I mean by, "around the Circle," you need to stop right here and download the 5-Lesson Foundational Series. This series of lessons teaches the Circle of Keys as an organizational mechanism by which you ensure that whatever you learn is drilled in every key. It also gives you a method to find any note, anywhere, without memorizing note names on every string. That is a beautiful thing!
You can download the 5-Lesson Foundational Series right here for free with no further obligation or commitment:
The 5ths and the 9ths are alterable - they can be sharped or flatted. I will put both chord-shapes at the 5th fret; therefore the 6th-string Root (Open Voicing) will be A and the 5th-string Root (Close Voicing) will be D:
Let's go through each possibility. Open Voicing first:
If you double-sharp the 5th you get a 6th. The octave of the 6th is the 13th. The general-rule-of-thumb is that if there is a 7th in the chord it's a 13th; if there is not a 7th in the chord it's a 6th.
A sharped 5th is called, "Augmented," or "Aug" for short. It's notated with a plus sign; +. The Augmented 5th can also be called a Flat 13; #5 and b13 are the same note.
With a natural 5th the chord is notated simply, "A7."
The flatted 5 can also be called a sharp 11; the 11th is the octave of the 4th, thus #4(#11)=b5:
Now for the Close Voicing.
The natural 9 is notated, "D9":
The 9th can be sharped or flatted;
Dominant Cycles are very common in music. The word, "Cycle" refers to the Key Circle or, relative to the way I teach it, the " Circle or Cycle of 4ths." "Cyclical movement" means movement around the Key Circle - usually 4ths.
When drilling around the Key Circle (see the note on the 5-Lesson Foundational Series above), because we only have one position for each voicing, the key of B must be repeated, firstly as close-voiced and then as open-voiced.
There are many other combinations possible, of course, but this is enough for the Quick & Dirty version!
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