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Functioning and Non Functioning Dominants

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



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

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.

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.


Written By Geoff Sinker

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