Functioning and Non Functioning Dominants - Part 1

This lessons looks at the terms Functioning and Non Functioning Dominants and takes a simple look at what these mean. Part 2 will look at how we can use the 2 types of Dominants

Ultimate Guitar

Hi Everyone, in this lesson we will look at functioning and non-functioning (static) Dominant chords.

When I first started to learn to play the guitar I kept on hearing the term functioning dominants and it sometime before I finally understood what this term meant. Later when I started playing jazz I started to realize how important these terms where and also their meanings.

What is a function Dominant Chord?

First of all, its important to understand what a Dominant chord is.

Let's quickly go back to the information we covered in the lesson on diatonic harmony.

If we look at the scale of C the chords created when we harmonize the scale are:

If we add the 7th note to these chords we get:


The V chord is the Dominant which is a major triad with a flat 7th: G, B, D, F:


The reason we have a flat 7 is because the G chord is from the scale of the C major.

The C Major Scale

So starting from G as the root we have the B which is a major 3rd, then the D which is a perfect fifth from G. Then the seventh note is F which is a minor seventh interval from the G. Because the chords have to be diatonic this note has to be the note of F and not F# which would give us G major 7.

When we play the G7 chord or V Chord the sound of the chord creates a tension that wants to resolve to the I chord. This sound can be heard in many songs and chord progressions.

Blues uses a I, IV, V progression and in the final bars or cadence the V7 chord resolves back to the I chord.

We also hear this is ii, V, I progression Dm7, G7, C maj7.

When the V7 Chord resolves back to the I chord this is known as a functioning Dominant Chord.

The movement is either a Perfect fourth ascending of a perfect fifth descending.

Below we see the root note of G moving a perfect fourth to the C root on third fret of the A string which is a perfect fourth interval ascending.

 g71  c1

In the example below we see that the Root of G7 moves down 3 frets and down to the C note of the Low E or 6th string which is a perfect 5th interval descending.

 g72  c2

A Nonfunctioning Dominant or Static Dominant chord is any dominant chord that moves to another chords that is not acting as a functioning dominant. i.e. it doesn’t resolve to the I chord.

Why is this important to know?

Well if you can identify your functioning Dominant chords then you can Alter these chords which will be looking at in a later lesson.

By Geoff Sinker

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