Secondary Dominants

Naturally, chord progressions do not always include just diatonic scale degrees. The most common exception is the secondary dominant. A secondary dominant is considered the V degree of a new, temporary tonic; the same idea is applied when improvising melody lines.

In the next exercise, the chord progression in Example 5 (Jazz Style > Scales > Tension Between Melody Line and Chord) has been modified by adding two secondary dominants. The first secondary dominant, C7, is resolved into Fmaj7, and the new temporary key is F major with C7 as the V degree. Consequently, you will use F major tones (with the nonharmonic tones) to improvise above C7 and Fmaj7.

The second secondary dominant, E7, will resolve into Am7 and is the V degree of A minor, the new temporary key. You will use the A harmonic minor tones to improvise above these chords. Nonharmonic tones:

  • Cmaj7 : F
  • C7 : F
  • Fmaj7 : Bb
  • E7 : A
  • Am : F
  • G7 : C

Example 10
example 10

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The next exercise involves modulations to a few new keys with secondary dominants.

Example 11
example 11

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