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Secondary Dominant and Key Signature

Secondary Dominant and Key Signature is part 7 in a series on How to Write a Song. This dominant is the V of the V chord. If you travel around the circle of fifths (circle of 5ths) counterclockwise, you can touch on every dominant chord and end up where you began.

The purpose of this chord is often to modulate to a new key signature. This is often done to make the chorus sound fresh at the end of a song. This is advanced music theory so if you need a review on the circle of fifths and key signature visit G Major Chord and the Circle of 5ths.


Secondary Dominant

If you are in the key of C, then C is the I chord and G is the V chord. D is the V chord in the key of G and is called a secondary dominant chord. We know that a V to I is an authentic cadence and our ears feel a complete resolution.

An extended dominant chord is the V of the V of the V.

It's used to erase the key you're in so your ear believes you are in a new key. If we go counterclockwise around the circle of 5ths and start on C and resolve by fifths, we end up on C again.

C - F - Bb - Eb - Ab - Db - Gb - B - E - A - D - G - C

C7 - F7 - Bb7 - Eb7 - Ab7 - Db7 - Gb7 - B7 - E7 - A7 - D7 - G7 - C

secondary dominant

Here's an example of how it can be used. Let's say your progression was G - D - Am - C and you wanted to modulate up a whole step to the key of A to give the song a lift. You could play the following:

G - D - Am - C - B7 - E7 - A - E - Bm - D

Here's another example using both a secondary (E7) and an extended dominant (B7) going from the key of C to the key of D:

C - F - G - B7 - E7 - A7 - D - G - A

*Thanks for visiting this page. Let's take a look at feel/style/groove as we explore the process of excellent songwriting!

Continue to Part 8, Feel/Style/Groove

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