Are all Dominant Chords Seventh Chords?

seventh chords

Do dominants, secondary dominants, or tritone substitutions have to be seventh chords?

You might think yes. But really, no….

This deserves further explanation which I provide in my response to the Quora poster.

Included in my explanation is how even single notes can imply the dominant effect. And a deeper dive into the all-important tritone.

I also touch on how and why the tritone doesn’t always imply a dominant effect either. (Hint: Think minor six chords or a simple IV chord.) And why the Blues totally drives he classical theorists crazy.


The reason seventh chords are used so often setting up a resolution to the tonic, is that they have two drivers of the need to resolve. Can you guess what the two drivers are?

That answer and my full explanation to this question can be found in my Quora answer

Related Posts:


Tritone Tricks


Music Theory book

The Rainbow of Modes (Video, Student Feature)

Really hearing the modes

It is quite fitting to use a song about the rainbow as a teaching tool for the (often dreaded but oh so beautiful!) modes…

Watch my student Carmie – who starred in another student feature a while back – beautifully demonstrate a terrific ear training exercise he picked from our popular Ear Training Course “Ear Confidence – Six Paths to Fearless Ears”

The points of the exercise are:

  • Identify the modes from brightest to darkest sound
  • Apply playing the modes to a song
  • Play the song in all modes (from brightest to darkest) and
  • observe that only one note changes from one shade to the next



I have written extensively about the modes on this blog:

Where to start if they are all Greek to you.

The importance of distinguishing between modal and functional harmony.

Super easy shortcuts hearing the modes.

And even a technique exercise (Talking Technique Video) to get the modes under your fingers on one string.

Had a student demonstrate a great exercise on how to practice the modes.

Hear the dorian mode in a pop song

David Bowie treats us to Phrygian

Groove Creation Station – New Course!!

Truefire Groove Creation Station

Fresh off the printing press…

This course that Wolf and I created for Truefire is now available!

Probably one of the most frequent requests I get from students is t learn to create their own grooves. And in this course, I bring you a clever formula that will get you started, follow it up with a useful template and how to use it, and, most important, we talk about how to make it groove.

What-o-what is a Groove?

It is such an elusive question, isn’t it? You know it when you encounter it! You know it when you are your band mates are getting together and the magic happens. It feels great and is “grooving” and in that moment all feels complete.

Here is my groove formula that I talk about at length in this course – it will help you find your path to groove city:

(Rhythm + Harmony + Repetition) x The Pocket = Groove

How to Create a Great Groove?

In the course, I break down all the parts of the above groove formula. We show you rhythmic and harmonic templates you can use to create your own ideas.

Then, pay close attention to the elements you can use to make the groove more driving or more static.

And heed the advice on effectively using the concept of the “groove nucleus” to strike just the right balance to spice things up a bit! The goal is to be repetitive enough to still make it feel like a cohesive groove, but at the same time you want to have enough variation to keep it interesting.

Of course, it is super important to keep the song front and center – the arrangement, the melody, what the drums and other band mates are doing…

I give you guidance on what to listen for and how to create lines that serve the song.

How to Make it Groove

Making it groove is about many elements. Here are the most important ones:

  • the subdivision
  • precise timing (we do a great timing exercise!)
  • good technique (helps the timing!)
  • phrasing

We will talk about all of that!

Did you know? Syncopated ≠ Shuffled

Though many think that, syncopated is not the opposite (so to speak) of straight. A shuffled or swung rhythm is the opposite of a straight rhythm. And both straight and shuffled rhythms can be syncopated. Or not syncopated.

What are the effects of what, why is it important and how does this play into making it groove?

Big words, but to feel it is crucial! Check it out!

The point of DIMINISHING returns…

Is it true that when music calls for a diminished chord, it really means a diminished 7th?

Ahh… the diminished chord. It does cause confusion.

Because one needs to be really precise with nomenclature, it generates questions like this one from a Quora poster. Diminished chords come your way in a variety of styles of music. The most important feature of a diminished chord is that the fifth is diminished. Because of that they sound darker. There is a variety of them and context is key.

So, I understand where the question is coming from and I provide the answer in Quora below. Since the seventh in a diminished four-note chord could be minor or diminished, I thought I better lay out all options. And then there is the fact that this could also just refer to a triad…

So, I lay out all the various possibilities with examples that clearly highlight the differences. It’s critical that you understand the notes in play when faced with a diminished chord!


Match Game

For fun, let’s play the match game. Match the chord types on the left with the correct chord notes on the right:

Chord Name 

  • 1)  Adim7 
  • 2)  Amin7b5 
  • 3)  Adim or Ao 

match with Chord Notes

  • a)  A – C – Eb – G
  • b)  A – C – Eb – Gb
  • c)  A – C – Eb

(To check your answers, click over to the Quora post!)

Quora POST click here

Related Posts:

Do dominants, secondary dominants, or tritone substitutions have to be seventh chords?

What is the distinction between using a flat five chord and a sharp eleven, besides the octave?

Related Blog Posts:

What you need to know about “diminished”

The Diminished Scale