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Help me understand the G7 chord #2736826
05/15/18 02:19 PM
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EDV Offline OP
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I am revising an old harmony book and came across the G7 chord. I am a little confused because the book calls it "the dominant seventh" chord. In the attachment, primary triads of C are listed ( top of the page ) I IV and V ( dominant ) Now, what I am not clear about is whether "the dominant seventh" chord is called dominant because the G is the dominant of C ? In that case "the dominant seventh" chord beginning on G, is always relative to C major? Then it would be wrong to have "the dominant seventh" chord built on the Tonic triad of G and say it's relative to G major?

Thanks in advance


[img]https://imgur.com/a/7yE9WKx[/img]


Last edited by EDV; 05/15/18 02:20 PM.
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Re: Help me understand the G7 chord [Re: EDV] #2736829
05/15/18 02:25 PM
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Also... in the attachment

[img]https://imgur.com/a/7yE9WKx[/img]

the nine chords described are all built on G. What key do they belong to? Are they all relative to C ( if we assume G7 is relative to C major ) ? or are they relative to G ( the note they are built on ) and therefore belong to the key of G ?

Last edited by EDV; 05/15/18 02:26 PM. Reason: spelling
Re: Help me understand the G7 chord [Re: EDV] #2736833
05/15/18 02:45 PM
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In Western, tonal music, the dominant 7th chord is almost always built on the fifth scale degree (dominant) of a major or harmonic minor scale. Don't use the word "relative" because that's for keys sharing the same key signature.

A dominant 7th chord can be built on any scale degree, but if they are not built on the fifth, they are probably a secondary dominant chord, and you'll likely see accidentals of some sort.


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Re: Help me understand the G7 chord [Re: EDV] #2736873
05/15/18 04:21 PM
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So I guess as long as the chords are built a certain way ( attachment describes rules for building chords ) they can be
major, minor, diminished, augmented, dominant seventh, major seventh, minor seventh, diminished seventh or half diminished seventh then?
Again, this makes me a bit confused because in jazz sometimes these chords are presented in first or second inversions, omitted notes, etc. So to me there's no easy way to spot them either by ear or by reading them on the page.

Re: Help me understand the G7 chord [Re: AZNpiano] #2736880
05/15/18 04:31 PM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
In Western, tonal music, the dominant 7th chord is almost always built on the fifth scale degree (dominant) of a major or harmonic minor scale. Don't use the word "relative" because that's for keys sharing the same key signature.

A dominant 7th is ALWAYS built on the 5th degree of one of the 12 major scales. There are very few "always" rules, but this is one. However, it also has to "go to" the "right place", so a G7 has to move to C "something". If it does not, it's not a dom7. And when it gets to "C something", it has to has to stay there and convince us that C is the home or the "tonic".

The mess is caused the book or the source, which is essentially correct but presents a very practical thing in a very confusing way.

The problem is that a G7 chord can go to lots of other places, and when it does, it's not a dominant 7 chord. I would suggest not using this term in the beginning. It is a problem.

Just one example: A G7 chord can and is a I chord in blues piece that is in the key of G. You and I might want to argue about "key of G", since in this system F is going to be natural. But this is more or less the bedrock of blues.

I won't go further because we all just went down a confusing rabbit hole.

Last edited by Gary D.; 05/15/18 04:37 PM.

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Re: Help me understand the G7 chord [Re: EDV] #2736908
05/15/18 05:15 PM
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I had to sort this out some time ago when I was working with theory books. Here goes:

First: Chords have qualities such as major and minor triads. Secondly: the diatonic chords built on the notes of a major scale will have specific qualities: In C major, I, IV, V (C, F, G) is always major; ii, iii, vi (Dm, Em, Am) is always minor. Now when qualities are introduced in some books, they seem to start with these degrees to "explain them" (which I disagree with). Somewhere along the way, this confusing situation has come about in regard to the chord you're talking about.

The text you have is actually trying only to give chord qualities. The chord in question is a major triad with a minor 7th from the root (G7 = GBDF, the F is a m7 from g: C7 = CEGBb, the Bb is a m7 from the root). This is what the chord "is". It has a distinctive sound (chord quality) and specific intervals in root position. Unfortunately, through the history of how chords have been taught, it has been stuck with a name related to function (dominant - V). Your book is giving two names "a seventh (dominant 7)" because of this situation. It ends up being given the function name, to describe the quality, even when the function isn't being considered. It is an accident of history.

For the purpose of what they're teaching, ignore the meaning of the word "dominant", and just consider it a name, like Charlie. It could be Charlie7. Pokeymon7. If history had gone differently. The alternate name is "seven chord", and here you escape the idea of function.
--------------
The actual function --- Dominant --- exists too, of course. Music likes to go V-I, and V7-I to move to the Tonic. This is what a Dominant 7 truly is, when the name is used as intended. Btw, G7 can also go to Cm, because often the Bb in the key signature is raised for a stronger movement. That is why you can easily tell if a piece of music is in Cm vs. Eb major, because you'll see sprinklings of accidentals around that B, raising Bb to Bnat.
-----------
For the 9th, you're going from the root of the chord. Forget about the "dominant" function, and therefore, the key it would "belong" to.

Re: Help me understand the G7 chord [Re: EDV] #2736909
05/15/18 05:19 PM
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I'd like to also suggest that when studying this kind of material from a book, to take it to the piano - explore with your eyes and ears. It makes a tremendous difference.

Re: Help me understand the G7 chord [Re: EDV] #2736995
05/16/18 12:17 AM
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Originally Posted by EDV
I am revising an old harmony book and came across the G7 chord. I am a little confused because the book calls it "the dominant seventh" chord. In the attachment, primary triads of C are listed ( top of the page ) I IV and V ( dominant ) Now, what I am not clear about is whether "the dominant seventh" chord is called dominant because the G is the dominant of C ? In that case "the dominant seventh" chord beginning on G, is always relative to C major? Then it would be wrong to have "the dominant seventh" chord built on the Tonic triad of G and say it's relative to G major?

Thanks in advance


[img]https://imgur.com/a/7yE9WKx[/img]



Such great replies from the PW community ITT. Awesome.
EDV: If you study carefully what others posted here for awhile,
you'll understand the V7 moving to the I Chord.
The only genre this doesn't really work for is Blues where
all the chords are Dominant 7s including the I chord.
Best of luck!


Rob Mullins
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Re: Help me understand the G7 chord [Re: Rob Mullins] #2737028
05/16/18 03:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Rob Mullins

EDV: If you study carefully what others posted here for awhile,
you'll understand the V7 moving to the I Chord.
The only genre this doesn't really work for is Blues where
all the chords are Dominant 7s including the I chord.


Are we on the same page, Rob? The book was trying to introduce a quality of a chord, rather than a function, but it gave both names since the seven chord is often called "dominant 7" even when it's not functioning as one.

Is it actually true that the only place where the seven chord (C7 etc.) doesn't have the Dominant (V7) function is in Blues?

Re: Help me understand the G7 chord [Re: EDV] #2737037
05/16/18 05:17 AM
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Some pretty good answers here. But I can't resist summarising.

Yes, the G7 in your examples is called the Dominant 7th because it is the dominant of C.

"In the attachment, primary triads of C are listed ( top of the page ) I IV and V ( dominant )" Well spotted! The writer is giving you these examples in the key of C. It all relates to the key of C.

Now, if we were in the key of D, A would be the dominant and G would be the sub-dominant and D the tonic.

So G can be a dominant only in the key of C! And C is the dominant in the key of F.

I'll stop there.

Re: Help me understand the G7 chord [Re: EDV] #2737068
05/16/18 07:51 AM
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Let me summarize this, too. If in modern notation you see Cdom7 - it's C7 chord, not G7 chord.

The word "dominant" is often mechanically used, but it's not necessary to describe the chord structure. The word "seventh" is perfectly sufficient (major triad + minor 7th = 7th chord).

Re: Help me understand the G7 chord [Re: keystring] #2737086
05/16/18 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by keystring
I'd like to also suggest that when studying this kind of material from a book, to take it to the piano - explore with your eyes and ears. It makes a tremendous difference.


Yes. To me knowing what it sounds like is more important, or at least as important, as knowing why it's called that.

In common use dominant means that top note is flatted. Of course as everybody has explained that isn't technically correct but it's how guitar players know it.

Here, listen to this and hear the difference, this is a 7 chord that is NOT dominant:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZN-AyNsDtN0


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Re: Help me understand the G7 chord [Re: TimR] #2737131
05/16/18 11:22 AM
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Originally Posted by TimR

In common use dominant means that top note is flatted. Of course as everybody has explained that isn't technically correct but it's how guitar players know it.

Tim, I know what you mean because I understand the chord, but it should be set out, I think, so there isn't more confusion. What you are saying is that: C E G B ..... the B is the top note, and this would be a C(maj7) - that B being the interval of a major 7th above the C. For the "seven chord" which has been given the unfortunate name of "dominant 7", that B is lowered or "flattened" so that we have C E G Bb. That's what you're saying.
Quote
Here, listen to this and hear the difference, this is a 7 chord that is NOT dominant:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZN-AyNsDtN0

My ear is not that developed for listening, especially for hearing chord qualities, but what I'm hearing mostly are "major 7" chords (i.e. the C E G B) type. My problem here is that as soon as you write "not dominant", we're back at function. If you had presented a piece of music that has the C E G Bb type of chord being used in a non-functional way (not as V7 I) then I'd see that you're showing that it is not always used as a function and is independent of key, sort of. But you have mixed in a different type of chord - the major 7; so two things going on.

Am I correct that as the music goes on, there are other chord types coming in? As I said, my hearing along these lines is still developing. I have strong areas and weak areas. (Someone might write "Doesn't everyone?" wink )

Re: Help me understand the G7 chord [Re: TimR] #2737134
05/16/18 11:26 AM
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Originally Posted by TimR
In common use dominant means that top note is flatted. Of course as everybody has explained that isn't technically correct but it's how guitar players know it.

This is correct for those of us who know what's going on.

But you'd never say this to a student who's already confused. It will only add to the confusion.


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Re: Help me understand the G7 chord [Re: AZNpiano] #2737140
05/16/18 11:42 AM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by TimR
In common use dominant means that top note is flatted. Of course as everybody has explained that isn't technically correct but it's how guitar players know it.

This is correct for those of us who know what's going on.

But you'd never say this to a student who's already confused. It will only add to the confusion.

Any explanation must be complete enough. That is why I wrote as much as I did. Otherwise short and brief explanations can go awry in a different way.

I read your explanation a few days ago. Per se, there is nothing wrong with it:
Originally Posted by AZNpiano
In Western, tonal music, the dominant 7th chord is almost always built on the fifth scale degree (dominant) of a major or harmonic minor scale. Don't use the word "relative" because that's for keys sharing the same key signature.

A dominant 7th chord can be built on any scale degree, but if they are not built on the fifth, they are probably a secondary dominant chord, and you'll likely see accidentals of some sort.


Starting: In Western, tonal music.... You would need at least a paragraph to explain "tonal music" and "Western tonal music". Well, it's the stuff that they put in our theory books, where all examples are restricted to a relatively small period of music, and leaves out anything that is an exception. If a student is coming in out of the cold, that important caveat won't mean anything. Yet it's important.

The "secondary dominant chord" --- to understand this, a student will first have to understand what such a chord is. The trap here is that for example in the key of C major you might have a D chord (D F# A) maybe shuttling between that and Dm, in order to add colour and effect - and not having any functional role. Otoh, if that D chord is followed by a G7 going to C, then you have a V/V to V7 to I as "secondary dominant".

The problem with all of that is that I think the book is trying to explain chord qualities, and not [/i]chord functions[/i ] and by mixing apples and oranges they have confused the OP. So then we have to try to sort out that mess like Cinderella's pigeons (doves?) with the lentils in the ashes.

Re: Help me understand the G7 chord [Re: EDV] #2737143
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Here is what I saw recently in some theory book that somebody was using, recommending, or promoting. They were explaining major and minor chords.

They did it this way. They took the key of C major. They explained that the chord built on the 1st, 4th, and 5th degree, i.e. I, IV, V were major chords. Which they are. But they were explaining that this is how you recognize a major triad; and how you build a major triad. Am I the only one to see how this apples & oranges approach is problematic? It gives a quick first trick, instant results in the moment.

They did not explain that in root position, a major triad has a P5 from bottom to top note, which also has a distinct sound (try playing dim5 i.e. C Gb vs. CG). There is an M3 from bottom to middle note, an m3 from middle to top note: for minor triads this is reversed. Most people will hear a major triad as happy or sunshiny in comparison to the minor triad. Major and minor are chord qualities.

This is what they did not explain. So the student memorizes a quick trick where he always relies on a key, and will probably get lost or do complicated things when he tries to work with chord qualities. You should be able to create a Dm triad without having to first think that it is ii in the key of C.

The same kind of thing has slipped into that book.

Re: Help me understand the G7 chord [Re: keystring] #2737171
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Originally Posted by keystring

Quote
Here, listen to this and hear the difference, this is a 7 chord that is NOT dominant:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZN-AyNsDtN0

My ear is not that developed for listening, especially for hearing chord qualities, but what I'm hearing mostly are "major 7" chords (i.e. the C E G B) type. My problem here is that as soon as you write "not dominant", we're back at function.


Hah! Yes, you're completely right. I missed that totally.

I knew what I meant, that it was CEGB type rather than CEGBb. But when I said not dominant, that could have been the chord spelling or the usage in the harmony.

Off topic, or maybe not, but the first time I saw a D2 on a lead sheet I had to go look it up. Then figure out what it should sound like, then tell the guitars how to play it.

Last edited by TimR; 05/16/18 01:39 PM.

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Re: Help me understand the G7 chord [Re: EDV] #2737188
05/16/18 02:51 PM
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The problem is that almost every answer here is full of completely wrong information. I tried to set this up so it would not happen, but I got drowned out.

Dom7 is about FUNCTION.

Keystring's information is correct.

If the term "dominant 7" is used for 7 chords like G7, C7 and so on, it is a wrong term, period, unless those chords are FUNCTIONING in a particular manner.

If a G7 is not setting up a move to some kind of C chord, which is also FUNCTIONING as a I chord, it is still a G7 but it is NOT a dominant 7 chord.

That "C chord" can be C, Cm, of C7, or Cm7 or even something else. For instance, you could be in blues, where G7 goes to C7, and C7 is your final chord.

There is an easy solution. Don't use that term incorrectly. If the 7 chord is not setting up a move to a clear I chord, it is not a dominant 7 chord.

I'll be more than glad to clarify if I don't have to fight against about 20 posts that are not understanding this simple, basic concept.

Last edited by Gary D.; 05/16/18 02:56 PM.

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Re: Help me understand the G7 chord [Re: Gary D.] #2737190
05/16/18 02:55 PM
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The point: musicians using the term "dom7" for any 7 chord like G7 and C7 is common. I'm not sure I don't use it myself in a sloppy manner.

As AZN pointed out, the problem is for students, because they will not understand function yet. They won't understand the concept of V to I yet.

Last edited by Gary D.; 05/16/18 02:58 PM.

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Re: Help me understand the G7 chord [Re: Gary D.] #2737202
05/16/18 03:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Gary D.
The point: musicians using the term "dom7" for any 7 chord like G7 and C7 is common. I'm not sure I don't use it myself in a sloppy manner.

That is the what I have been trying to say. Thank you for being to make it more succinct than my attempts. In both your attempts.

The OP's book was trying to teach chord quality (major, minor etc.), but it was using function to do so. That is what set up the confusion.

Tim was trying to explain the non-function aspect, but his explanation was too brief by talking of a "top note" but not fleshing out what that meant. But it went in the intended direction, I think.

Re: Help me understand the G7 chord [Re: EDV] #2737309
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I surely appreciate Keystring's and Gary's clarity on the confusion surrounding the two different uses of the term "dominant." I’ve never come across any explanation before that made clear this distinction in terms of quality and function. Thank you both!


April
Re: Help me understand the G7 chord [Re: AprilE] #2737345
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Originally Posted by AprilE
I surely appreciate Keystring's and Gary's clarity on the confusion surrounding the two different uses of the term "dominant." I’ve never come across any explanation before that made clear this distinction in terms of quality and function. Thank you both!

April, one further bit of clarification.

In each key there is one and only one dominant 7 chord, so there are 12 in all, not counting enharmonic spellings. So in the key of C (or C minor) G7 is the dominant 7 chord of that key.

With that in mind, we really don't have a handy name for the chord. If I say that G7 is a 7 chord, there is a problem, because there are many kinds of 7 chords.

I have a friend, a very good teacher in jazz, who will use the name "dom7" for G7 or any chord like that. I have no problem with that. It's clear and handy, and this guy is a superb musician and a great teacher.

I was just pointing out that in very strict, formal theory the term "dominant" always refers to some kind of V chord. When jazz musicians refer to dom7s, they are talking about the chord itself most of the time, and not it's function. For function they say "V7 chord".


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Re: Help me understand the G7 chord [Re: EDV] #2737425
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When I took formal theory we were given degree names for the actual notes in a key: (So in C major, C,D,E etc. become 1, 2, 3 etc. called "1st degree note" etc.), and then degree names of chords in Roman numerals (generically I, II, III, IV .... but with the convention of I ii iii IV to show minor chords (quality) in lower case letters; also shown as I, IIm, IIIm, IV as an alternative).

Then we were also given function names we had to memorize: 1 Tonic, 2 Supertonic, 3 Mediant, 4 Subdominant, 5 Dominant, 6 Submediant, 7 Leading note (but if it's a whole tone from the next Tonic, called I think Subtonic since it's lost its 'leading' quality). I puzzled why the overkill, then realized that these names described functions and relationships. The only ones that really made sense to me were Tonic and Dominant, because of the strong roles they play.

The word "dominant" has also come to mean "5th note" and "chord built on the 5th note" whether or not it has a dominant function. Personally I would prefer people to say what they mean and be precise about it. But maybe it's faster to say "dominant" than to say "5th note" or "chord built on the 5th note of a key".

Re: Help me understand the G7 chord [Re: EDV] #2737434
05/17/18 01:22 PM
05/17/18 01:22 PM
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A story: our music director at church walked by as I was puzzling out an accompaniment for a tune I was trying to play by ear. He stopped and said you need the subdominant chord there.

Well, yes, but I had to think about what that was, and then I wasn't sure. If he'd said "that's the IV chord" my fingers would have known what to play. Of course all of you are more expert and it would have meant something more to you. But it's an example of how formal language can differ from common usage.


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Re: Help me understand the G7 chord [Re: EDV] #2737519
05/17/18 06:02 PM
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Tim, I would have known what key you were playing in, and I would have said to play the IV chord that belongs in your key, giving you the exact chord. But if you asked me what chord that is, in any key, I'd say: "You need a IV chord there."

I would never say "sub dominant".

I WOULD say: "The first movement of the K545 Mozart Sonata returns to the sub-dominant when the main or principle or primary theme repeats in the recapitulation."

See my point?

Vocabulary is related to the moment and also to the style of music you are playing - and also you keep in mind the mindset of musicians you are working with.


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Re: Help me understand the G7 chord [Re: EDV] #2737631
05/18/18 09:39 AM
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Let me add that in Russia and I guess in some European countries, too, the terms "tonic", "subdominant" and "dominant" are prevailing both in spoken language and in notation (T, S, D instead of I, IV, V). In Russia you will hear the term "subdominant" far more often then IV degree and in the mentioned case you would for sure hear, "Play the subdominant chord". The term is used for any style of music at any moment. It's just a synonym for IV degree.

I'm pretty surprised to know that in US there are situations when it would be inappropriate to call IV chord a subdominant chord.

Re: Help me understand the G7 chord [Re: EDV] #2737665
05/18/18 11:48 AM
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Sub dominant is long, and it has no relationship to what is notated for chords themselves.

You will see it in things like sonata form analysis, but for a lead sheet you will usually see chord symbols with letters, and a lot of jazz players will use Roman numeral notation to show function. So I am very surprised at the "any style of music" comment.

For me it is a matter of brevity, not usage.

For my first year students I write out I through VII and the 7 chords we will learn in each key. I don't call and Fmaj7 chord a "sub dominant seven chord".

I have NEVER heard a musicians say:

I want you to play a mediant, submediant, super tonic dominant tonic progression when the goal is iii vi ii V I.

Who would do that?

That would be nuts.


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Re: Help me understand the G7 chord [Re: Iaroslav Vasiliev] #2737671
05/18/18 12:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
The term is used for any style of music at any moment.

In order for a chord to be a "subdominant",there has to be function, or at least a definite key the music is in, and the music needs to be rather diatonic. There is music that meanders around not being in any particular key, either for long stretches or otherwise, to which you can give no function and also no degree. Yes, in the simple, simplistic Common Practice music we are often fed in formal lessons in some places, everything fits into those nomenclatures. Otherwise not necessarily.

Something more important:

In this thread we were sorting out confusion that was caused by mixing apples and oranges. A couple of us tried very hard to differentiate between QUALITY and FUNCTION. The explanation in the book was trying to explain chord quality by leaning on degrees and function names, which created massive confusion. When you are writing about these things, is this separately from the original topic, and going off into the function realm? (Several other people did as well.)

A couple of months I tried to help someone in another forum who was almost hopelessly tangled up in this chord-quality vs. chord-function conundrum because things apparently had been explained in that mixed up way. A chord quality is independent of function. A chord can be major whether it is the Tonic, Subdominant, or Dominant chord in a major key; or if it's a ii chord that has been made major by the composer just to sound cool. The notes C E G Bb (C7) do not necessarily denote a V7==>I movement or even a "deceptive cadence of V7==>vi. As a QUALITY, it is (in root position) a major triad topped by a minor 7.

This is what we've been trying to sort out. And for some reason, people keep coming back to functions and function names. Well, ok, Tim related a recent story that happened to him.

I had a teacher who emigrated from a Soviet block country and used the terms Dominant, Subdominant etc. Actually, he was fluent between different ways of naming things, and switched between them like a polyglot switches languages. I am not unfamiliar with these terms. But if I think back, the music I played tended to be Common Practice type.

Re: Help me understand the G7 chord [Re: keystring] #2737686
05/18/18 12:42 PM
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Originally Posted by keystring

A chord can be major whether it is the Tonic, Subdominant, or Dominant chord in a major key; or if it's a ii chord that has been made major by the composer just to sound cool.

A warning to everyone: what you are calling a "ii that has been made major" will not be II in formal analysis. It will be V/V (five of five.)

I'm not supporting this convention, just explaining it. D major in the key of C becomes the V chord of G.

I personally find this absolutely ridiculous, since III VI II V I in the key of C will be E A D G C, circle of 5ths. That happens frequently in everything from pop to Mozart. Note the additional problem of upper and lower case numerals.

In formal theory:

V/VI to V/II to V/V to V to I.

I've argued against this thinking for decades. But as a teacher I have to be able to explain it in order to explain WHY there are more sensible ways to put in chords.


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Re: Help me understand the G7 chord [Re: keystring] #2737688
05/18/18 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted by keystring

In order for a chord to be a "subdominant",there has to be function, or at least a definite key the music is in, and the music needs to be rather diatonic.

I explain it this way:

In the key of C, F major is a IV chord. We can probably agree on at least this. So if we have a final set of chords that goes: C, G7, C: F, C, it's pretty obvious we have a IV I at the end, a kind of "amen" sound. Sub dominant for sure.

No problem.

And this can happen in any key.

That's a function.

In very simple music, function is clear.

But that same F chord may go anywhere in the world, and when it does, it is neither a IV chord nor a sub dominant, because its function changes totally.


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