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Old 10-03-2012, 03:34 PM   #1
macashmack
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Why is the 7 chord called dominant?

I don't understand.
Before anyone gets confused, i mean the dominant 7, as in 1 3 5 b7 chord.

Last edited by macashmack : 10-03-2012 at 03:38 PM.
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Old 10-03-2012, 03:40 PM   #2
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Because it naturally occurs on the 5th scale degree (V)(dominant) in a major scale. And it has a dominant function - in that - it wants to resolve to tonic (I). [3rd up 7th down]
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Old 10-03-2012, 03:49 PM   #3
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It's considered the strongest way to approach the tonic.

Strongest is synonymous with dominant.
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Old 10-03-2012, 04:40 PM   #4
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Cuz it makes bitches weak at the knees.

Also cuz of what the other two said.
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Old 10-03-2012, 04:46 PM   #5
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It's just a word.

Honestly, I don't think it's particularly productive to go down music-terminology semantic rabbit holes. It's called dominant because dominant is the word that people settled on to describe that quality.

I mean, why is yellow called yellow?

There may be reasons. If there are, they're not particularly relevant.
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Old 10-03-2012, 05:01 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by EpiExplorer
Cuz it makes bitches weak at the knees.

Also cuz of what the other two said.


lol nice
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Old 10-04-2012, 06:20 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chronowarp
Because it naturally occurs on the 5th scale degree (V)(dominant) in a major scale. And it has a dominant function - in that - it wants to resolve to tonic (I). [3rd up 7th down]


This.

It's the 7th chord, built on the Dominant.
The Dominant is the 5th scale degree.
Ergo Dominant 7th.

Short answer: We call the Dominant "Dominant" for historical reasons.

Long answer:

The use of the word 'Dominant' (from Latin 'Dominus' = 'Head of the household') has a long history. In brief:

Gregorian Chant originates some time in the 8th century. It's used to sing psalms, hymns, antiphons - church music, IOW. It uses church modes. Church modes, although having similar names to modern modes (which are utterly pointless), aren't quite the same as modern modes. Look up church modes on WIKI if you want the specific details. What's important right now is the next bit. When singing music using these modes there's a short head-phrase, then a longer phrase sung on one note - the Dominant, and a short tail-phrase which ends on the Final. The Dominant in this kind of music dominates the music because most of the music is sung to that note - it dominates because it occurs most frequently not because of any I > V relationship between it and the Final.

Skip forward just under a thousand years ...

Jean-Philippe Rameau (originator of modern music theory) writes the following in his Treatise on Harmony:

"The first of the two notes forming the perfect cadence in the bass is called the dominant, because it must always precede the final note and therefore dominates it.
...
The note which completes the perfect cadence is called the tonic note, for it is with this note that we begin and end, and it is within its octave that all modulation is determined."

Jean-Philippe Rameau, Treatise on Harmony, 1722, p65

So here we have the same term 'Dominant' being used in a different way. The dominance of the Dominant is explained as: It mustalways precede the final note in a Perfect cadence. Note also that Rameau goes on to use the name 'Tonic' for the final (Final) note.

Skip forward to the present day. Classical mechanics contains the concept of a harmonic oscillator. Harmonic oscillators produce a series - the harmonic series - and musical instruments, being instantiations of harmonic oscillators, also produce this series. Expressed in musical terms the first four tones of the harmonic series are Tonic, Tonic, Dominant, Tonic. As you can see the Dominant occurs shortly after the Tonic in the harmonic series, but equally, if we're talking purely in terms of dominance, it's clear from this series that the Tonic is the most dominant tone (it occurs far more frequently than the Dominant) while the Dominant is next in importance.

So why not go back to using 'Dominant' to mean 'Tonic'? It would be more in keeping with the meaning of the word 'Dominant', and with the use of the term in church modes, and in terms of what we see in the harmonic series.

Well because the terms 'Tonic' and 'Dominant' are so frequently used in music it would take real force of will - and cause considerable initial confusion - to start using the word 'Dominant' to mean 'Tonic'.

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Old 10-05-2012, 02:49 PM   #8
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^ I'm glad he did. That tied up lots of little odds and ends in my head, cheers.
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Old 10-05-2012, 04:48 PM   #9
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^Yeah, that was exceptionally well said.
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Old 10-05-2012, 08:17 PM   #10
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" What's a Dominant chord ? " - Bireli Lgrene
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Old 10-06-2012, 02:49 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by blindjimmy
" What's a Dominant chord ? " - Bireli Lgrene


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Old 10-06-2012, 08:57 AM   #12
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Wow, thank you very much Sleepy_Head!
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Old 10-06-2012, 05:16 PM   #13
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Wow, thank you very much Sleepy_Head!


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Old 10-06-2012, 09:48 PM   #14
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Don't forget to kiss the chains.
Kiss the chains? Not bloody likely! Head under the robe? Not in a million years......
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