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  1. #1

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    This applies to both chord voicings and improvisation. Note I opted to use the more politically correct term "extensions / available notes" instead of "chord scales".

    I think it's important to develop an organized approach to secondary dominants. So I hope this thread will generate constructive discussions towards that.

    I can identify four approaches to secondary dominants (including one from the forum member Reg). I'm only considering secondary dominants of the major tonality chords to keep the scope manageable. (I'm just making up names to label them):


    The Casual approach:
    If the target is minor (ii, iii, vi), use altered or diminished type chord extensions (b9, #9, b13) and scales.
    If the target is major (IV) use major type extensions (9, #11, 13) mixolydian/dominant scale.
    Moreover, you can always use altered type if you do have a target. If the dominant chord is a modal moment in the tune, use non-altered extensions.


    The Classical approach (examples are in C major):
    If the target is minor, just alter one note in the major scale to create a leading note. So if the target is ii, then create a VI7 by adding the leading note of the ii. Leading note is borrowed from a parallel minor.
    In the key of C, for D minor target, A7 is created by adding the leading note (C#) borrowed from D Melodic Minor.
    Essentially for targets that have b6 (iii, vi, vii) we borrow from harmonic minor. For targets that have natural 6 (ii) we borrow from melodic minor.


    If the target is major (IV or F), just use the IV major scale (C7). For V, same treatment, V major scale (D7)


    The Berklee approach (based on their harmony book):
    Each minor target has specific considerations:

    V/vi: You add the leading note (G#) (Harmonic minor) but keep the scale note as well, G, as the #9. So A minor's dominant is E7,b9,#9,b13. The reason you add #9 is basically: why not? There is a minor 3rd interval when you create a leading note which gives you space to add that note.


    V/iii: When you add the leading note, you get the altered scale. Or you can just transpose V/vi scale (B7, b9, #9, b13). ie you make the b5 of B natural 5.


    V/ii: Here the classical approach would lead to extensions that have both natural 9 and b13. This (according to the book) gives a confusing message about the target (9 indicates major, b13 indicates minor) also it creates a "harsh" upper extension tritone. So 9 is flattened. So you get the same type of chord scale as other minor targets: A7, b9, #9, b13.


    Major targets are the same as what I called the "Classical approach".


    Reg's approach:
    Reg is a member of the forum. I call it the Reg approach as I haven't seen it discussed elsewhere. It's more of an arrangement oriented approach. I won't get into details here as there are many posts about it scattered around the forum. I differs from the Berklee approach in the sense that the choices of extensions are not determined solely by the immediate chord that follows but the choices are based on the intended target of a "chord pattern". A chord pattern may include many chords. Extensions in the chords are used consistently from the chosen tonality of the final target chord. That way there is a more logical and organized sound to the borrowed notes.

    Please discuss any other approaches you might know and which approach do you use and why?
    Last edited by Tal_175; 06-05-2020 at 07:53 AM.

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  3. #2

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    Do you understand Regs approach and can you explain it to me? It sounds much like the practice of tonicisation to me. So for instance when we go A7 Dm in the key of C we treat Dm as a temporary move to Dm which is why we use harmonic minor and so on.

    Perhaps I’ve missed something. I’m not being snarky, I just find it hard to understand what he means sometimes.

    So here’s the thing - I would say the differences are subtle at best. If anything practice here has become more restricted over time as jazz musicians become more theoretically grounded.

    Classical harmony tends to frown on false relations and has no concept of the altered scale so you are unlikely to come across a 7#9 chord for instance, but many principles are common.

    my method for understanding secondary dominants is the following - I listen to musicians I like and carefully listen to their choices. The scale choices you describe as the Berklee method I pretty much learned by listening to jazz musicians.

    altered on III7 is a fairly diatonic choice.. I’m not certain if classical musicians ever made use of this... as it relies on an enharmonic respelling of #5 into b6, maybe not?

    To be honest if you think the classical approach avoids the b9 when going to ii you should check out some more Classical music.

    As classical theory relates the leading tone diminished and dominant of the dominant (a useful bit of info a surprising amount of good jazz musicians seem unaware of) it’s kind of implied.

    But Bach does indeed make use of the 9b13 sound as well.

    In fact often in Swing era players you hear the natural 9 on VI7. Listen to some Django or Charlie Christian for instance. Charlie Parker seems to have popularised the b9 into ii minor, so basically the ii minor becomes a temporary minor key centre.

    using the b5 in VI7 is rarer in Parker’s playing. It seems like more of a Monk thing to me.

    But here’s a thing - every dominant, secondary or not can also take 13 - a mixolydian, even Lydian dominant. In a minor key too. They don’t tell you that in the theory books, but jazz musicians do it a lot.

    So - ears and listening. I think it’s important to pay close attention to the sounds you want. Presumably that sort of thing is important when learning to be a musican.

  4. #3

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    Another thought -

    there are two types of dominant -

    sitters (mixolydian, lyd Dom, phrygian dominant)

    movers (altered, tritone, whatever voice leading you like)

    Half whole does for both which is cool.

    also - jazz lines rarely spell out a whole scale. It’s good to conversant with scale fragments if you are interested in learning language for instance. Bebop is famous for using (3)-#9-b9-1 for instance. Which scale is it? Could be one of three.

    The half whole dim scale is two of these welded together at the tritone

    the altered scale is one of these welded to a Lydian/whole tone (1-2-3-#4) tetrachord at the tritone. Hence the old name ‘diminished whole tone’

    Whole tone is two Lydian tritones welded together at the tritone.

    The Lydian dominant on the other hand is the Lydian tetrachord grafted to the dim tetrachord at the tritone.

    So what interval is significant? :-)

    Without that b5 - for instance mixolydian or minor’s dominant (V7 of the minor scale) it’s all diatonic. The b5 is the gateway into more unusual sounds. The whole tone was the first to be used historically. (Debussy influence.) The use of the #9 introduced the diminished tetrachord as an alteration to the harmonic minor.

    but tetrachords are useful because they are short enough to fit into a two beat chord change. Whole scales can be unwieldy.

  5. #4

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    Peter Bernstein really likes 13b9 into everything including minor

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy blue note
    I use a dominant chord (major triad with dominant 7th) with any available note not determined by the target chord necessarily, but rather the amount of tension I want to create. I look at secondary dominant chords not necessarily as single chords, but rather as the entry point to a particular chord that can be preceded by a series of chords of varying tension.
    This idea can be extended to the use of triads over base notes, each of which has its own amount of tensions and each of which contributes to a root movement that forms a sequence of variable tension.
    It's an arrangement technique. Ellington looked at harmony this way (as did the theory teacher I originally studied with), and Herb Pomeroy also had his own version of this. There was an approach to triads/bass notes that I got from Jack Pezanelli, himself a master chordal arranger and he laid out 9 triads over bass notes on a spectrum of tension. Using this, the final chord that approaches the target chord a 4th above can be a harmonic structure of any degree of consonance/dissonance and the resolution to the target chord feels right even without the usual tritone resolution.
    i would go further. I think a lot of the modern aesthetic of players like Lage Lund etc - many of who use triadic and quadrad style structures is actually to avoid that tritone resolution.

    For instance I notice how many of the favoured voicings even of players like Peter seem to avoid the 3rd and 7th together.

    It’s more al a mode (pun not intended) to resolve to the the 7th in the major chord via a #9 in the dominant chord.

    alternatively one can omit the b7th of the dominant by using a major triad to create a 13b9 sound, eg E/G —> Em/C a classic sound but very widely used still.

    My theory is that musicians have aimed more towards hearing dominants as sounds in themselves rather than voice leading to resolutions. as a result you don’t want to hear that tritone in the solo line.

    A good way of getting that sound is using major and minor triads and pentatonics and of course these don’t have tritones in them.

    This goes back to the Wes, even earlier to Prez even, of playing say F or Fm over G7, or Db over G7 as used by the boppers and Django before them. Of course we have more options now - but also we have a move away from playing traditional V7-I sounds.

    So it’s like the opposite of bebop, where the emphasis is on these hungry sounds.

    Just my theory, make any sense?

  7. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Do you understand Regs approach and can you explain it to me? It sounds much like the practice of tonicisation to me. So for instance when we go A7 Dm in the key of C we treat Dm as a temporary move to Dm which is why we use harmonic minor and so on.

    Perhaps I’ve missed something. I’m not being snarky, I just find it hard to understand what he means sometimes.
    I was gonna put a disclaimer in that section I forgot. What I wrote in the "Reg's approach" section is my understanding of his approach. If there are inaccuracies or oversimplifications (no doubt there are), hopefully he himself or someone who understands his approach better will chime in.

    Here is what meant though. Based on some of Reg's posts, suppose the target of a progression is F major. Blue notes of F major are Ab, B and Eb. If you want blue note tonality then you use these notes as extensions throughout all the chords in the progression that eventually lead to F major. So each chord has different blue notes intervallically (because they are always these 3 notes specifically).

    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    my method for understanding secondary dominants is the following - I listen to musicians I like and carefully listen to their choices. The scale choices you describe as the Berklee method I pretty much learned by listening to jazz musicians.
    I agree 100%. But I still find it useful to get a pen and paper and try to find a unifying organization out of individual examples. That helps me be more productive in my practice sessions when I'm working on lines over tunes etc. The essence of your position of learning from actual recordings is absolutely the ultimate point.

    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    To be honest if you think the classical approach avoids the b9 when going to ii you should check out some more Classical music.
    No doubt they do. I chose the names somewhat casually. I didn't mean that nowhere in classical music anything outside of those rules can be found. The reason I called it classical is because harmonic minor and melodic minor scales are discussed in theory 101 as scales that are created by adding leading notes so a dominant on the 5 degree can exist .
    Last edited by Tal_175; 05-19-2020 at 12:29 PM.

  8. #7

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    So, this is how Peter Bernstein voice-leads a turnaround progression. Such as:

    Bbmaj7 G7 | Cm7 F7 | Bbmaj7

    This one starts on the anacrusis/pickup - Peter is thinking in forward motion into resolutions, which is one thing that marks out advanced changes players above any specific harmonic choices.

    Ebm11 | Dm7 Dbm11 | Cm7 F7#9/Eb | Bbmaj13

    11 x 11 11 9 x
    10 x 10 10 10 x
    9 x 9 9 7 x
    8 x 8 8 8 x
    x 6 7 6 9 x
    6 x 5 5 6 5

    So we can relate the Dm7 to Bbmaj7 and the Cm7 to Cm7 obviously. What's striking is the way the m11 chord stands in for dominants. That shouldn't work according to vertical theories of harmony... while we might relate these chords to the so called Herbie voicing - Dbm7 on G7 for instance, we have the major 7 for instance, if we are thinking of Dbm11 as a sub for G7.

    To frame it in this way is to totally miss the point.

    Peter is not thinking vertically but thinking of the movement. He starts off with simple parallel m7 voicings and introduces the m11 chords to introduce more interesting moments of contrary motion into the voice leading. He honestly doesn't seem to care about any clashes with theoretical dominant seventh chords.

    We have a nice chromatic line in the lead line - G# | A F# | G G# | A against the bass Eb | D Db | C Eb | Bb

    You can do this is because the original dominant seventh chords are movers... they exist only to move onto the next chord. So as long as they do that job it doesn't altogether matter what they are.

    So this is kind of a very old school approach - but also sounds modern and fresh because he is avoiding using some of the dominant or diminished chords that might traditionally accomplish these connections.

    OTOH Reg doesn't think he comps very well, so YMMV.

  9. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Another thought -

    there are two types of dominant -

    sitters (mixolydian, lyd Dom, phrygian dominant)

    movers (altered, tritone, whatever voice leading you like)
    I also made that distinction in the casual approach section I think. Dominants that are non resolving (half cadence? or modal) there seems to be fewer differences in approaches.

    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Half whole does for both which is cool.
    Can you explain what do you mean here?

    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    also - jazz lines rarely spell out a whole scale. It’s good to conversant with scale fragments if you are interested in learning language for instance. Bebop is famous for using (3)-#9-b9-1 for instance. Which scale is it? Could be one of three.
    That is true. Having an organization of extensions does not mean one would have the play the entire scale everytime. But they are relavant even for scale fragments. Afterall you still chose these notes from the implied scale. As you noted, because they are often played in fragments, it's not always immediately obvious what a players approach is from a single line.

  10. #9

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    The half whole scale is such a distinctive sound it can totally be its own thing rather than just movement somewhere else, something which I never think is quite true of the altered scale... You will hear McCoy Tyner, Trane, lots of people use it exactly for that.

    (Part of the reason maybe because the altered scale is such an odd melodic minor mode - it doesn't have a sensible tertial structure, because it is not naturally a dominant scale, it just so happens that we can respell it as one.)

    So over an isolated G7 chord, you can play G, E, Db, Bb, Gm, Em, Dbm, Bbm, really go to town.

    The half whole scale is also great for setting up resolutions because it has lots of nice funny notes in it. So we can set up nice efficient cadences with a mix of half steps and common tones into the target chord.Even more so for minor, in fact...

    G13b9 --> Cm(maj7) or E/G into G/C for instance.

    It's a very strong flavour, like truffle oil.

  11. #10

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    nice chords..

    Jim Hall might add some crunch to it


    Ebm11 | Dm7 Dbm11 | Cm7 | F13b9/Eb Ab13b9/Gb B13b9/A | B13/A (slide) Bb13/Ab | D note


    11 x 11 11 9 x
    10 x 10 10 10 x
    9 x 9 9 7 x
    8 x 8 8 8 x
    x 6 7 7 7 x
    x 9 10 10 10 x
    x 12 13 13 13 x
    x 12 13 13 14 14
    x 11 12 12 13 13--Hold---
    10

    and creating more movement with the top notes..a melodic riff..and a basic turnaround could now be on its own...
    Last edited by wolflen; 05-19-2020 at 04:26 PM.

  12. #11

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    Obvious but sometimes overlooked info:
    What colors and tensions are already built into the basic major scale
    in relation to secondary dominants.

    Key of C:

    V7 of II ..... A B C D E F G ..... 1 2 #9 4 5 b13 b7

    V7 of III ..... B C D E F G A ..... 1 b9 #9 4 b5 b13 b7

    V7 of V ...... D E F G A B C ...... 1 2 #9 4 5 6 b7

    V7 of VI ..... E F G A B C D ...... 1 b9 #9 4 5 b13 b7

    These b3's are heard as #9 when played against the secondary dominants.
    They can be played as they are or replaced with the ma3 or with some integration of both.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by bako
    Obvious but sometimes overlooked info:
    What colors and tensions are already built into the basic major scale
    in relation to secondary dominants.

    Key of C:

    V7 of II ..... A B C D E F G ..... 1 2 #9 4 5 b13 b7

    V7 of III ..... B C D E F G A ..... 1 b9 #9 4 b5 b13 b7

    V7 of V ...... D E F G A B C ...... 1 2 #9 4 5 6 b7

    V7 of VI ..... E F G A B C D ...... 1 b9 #9 4 5 b13 b7

    These b3's are heard as #9 when played against the secondary dominants.
    They can be played as they are or replaced with the ma3 or with some integration of both.
    Excellent! I hadn't seen this spelled out this way before, but it reflects what I learned from Warren Nunes.

    He would conceptualize this as playing in tonal center C and then adjust to the individual chord tones. So, you're in the key of C. You come to an A7. You have choices. One basic choice is whether you're going to play a C#. If you raise the C to C#, you're now in 5th mode melodic minor, but Warren didn't think that way, as far as I know. He just knew that an A7 has a C#, which is out of the tonal center, so you can adjust the C to a C#, if you want that sound.
    I think Warren did it, at least at times, by superimposing triads. But, mostly, I suspect, by ear.

    You have similar choices to make about F vs F#, Bb vs B, and Eb vs E, I suppose.

  14. #13

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    It's like Barry Harris says, play C7 down to C# (the 3rd of A7)

  15. #14

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    Although Barry builds a separate dominant scale into each target chord (e.g. in C we might use G7 in Am, C7 into F or C7 into Dm), so he’s thinking in a more ‘modulatory’ way to Nunes who is this case is more diatonic. Barry’s thing is coming (obviously) out of Bird, but Nunes sounds more swing era here in his conceptualisation.

    So as Ethan Iverson points out musicians in the pre war era used to view everything diatonically anyway. So the idea of relating extensions to the chord would have been a little strange. the probably wouldn’t have understood what you were talking about.

    in fact the place where people really did seem to build separate tonal systems on the dominants was on long cycles of dom7s, such as the middle 8 of Rhythm changes. Usually this was a mixolydian or major pentatonic type tonality.

    I think that still remains an effective strategy. But anyway, check out Charlie Christian and Lester for the masterclass on that.

  16. #15

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    The other thing is Barry points out in early recordings Parker always elects to ignore the VI7 on Rhythm Changes. (When he does express it he only plays it bar 3. Try it... it sounds way better than using VI7 each time...)

  17. #16
    Barry Harris would be (what I casually call) the classical approach, no? Just change one note of the major scale to create a leading note the to the target. 2 notes in the case of VII.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175
    Barry Harris would be (what I casually call) the classical approach, no? Just change one note of the major scale to create a leading note the to the target. 2 notes in the case of VII.
    Well not really because in practice we can end up playing the C not against an A7. I think it’s much more like the Berklee approach (lol.)

    But Barry doesn't really think in these sorts of harmonic terms, #9 that sort of thing. He's interested in lines. So framing it from the perspective of ‘harmonic minor scale’ or whatever is sort of missing the point in a way.
    Last edited by christianm77; 05-20-2020 at 07:24 AM.

  19. #18
    An interesting case is when secondary dominants are played in cycles like in the bridge of rhythm changes or the middle section of Yesterdays.

    For example do you alter the 6th when the target is no longer the diatonic minor chord but another secondary dominant? If your target is an altered dominant, you do have a #9 in the target, then use a b6?

    One approach is to look at the melody. In the case of Yesterdays both E7 (8th bar) is altered and has an altered melody note(b9). A7 (9th bar) is altered and also has an altered melody note (b6).

    On the other hand the bridge of Anthropology does not have any altered notes. So I guess with cycled dominants that have targets anything goes?
    Last edited by Tal_175; 06-05-2020 at 10:12 AM.

  20. #19

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    Here’s a video I did yesterday. The relevant bit is at 8:20ish



    I cover some stuff I didn’t think to mention above....

    Interested to know your thoughts.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175
    An interesting case is when secondary dominants are played in cycles like the bridge of rhythm changes or the middle section of Yesterdays.

    For example do you alter the 6th when the target is no longer the diatonic minor chord but another secondary dominant? If your target is an altered dominant, you do have a #9 in the target, then use a b6?

    One approach is to look at the melody. In the case of Yesterday's both E7 (8th bar) is altered and has an altered melody note(b9). A7 (9th bar) is altered and also has an altered note (b6).

    On the other hand the bridge of Anthropology does not have any altered notes. So I guess with cycled dominants that have targets anything goes?
    yeah, I think so.

    (TBH in jazz anything goes. It’s more useful to study what are norms etc for different players and get to know different sounds and get good at hearing lines and playing what you hear than construct rules.)

    The B section of Rhythm Changes is kind of the vertical bit. That’s cos the chords sit around for long enough to be explored as something other than simply movement like the Bernstein examples above. All of Me is like that too.

    I can imagine Charlie Christian playing major dominants in Yesterdays. Wes plays the C7 in Caravan as a major dominant.

    (Again: broken fucking record - the big change in modern post 60s jazz is to see improvised lines and chords as being ‘different sides of the same coin’ as Nettles and Graf put it, or needing some sort of common chord scale. Before then comping chords could clash, and everyone did what they heard.)

  22. #21

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    what is a major dominant?

  23. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by marvinvv
    what is a major dominant?
    I think he means unaltered dominant. Like a vanilla dominant with a major target (not saying you can't alter dominants with major targets, nor does he).

  24. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Here’s a video I did yesterday. The relevant bit is at 8:20ish


    I cover some stuff I didn’t think to mention above....

    Interested to know your thoughts.
    I see the point you're making. There is a perception that jazz is a collection of stylistic conventions and theoretical concepts that require a high level of musicianship to execute. One fears that one doesn't belong to the club if they trust their "inferior" instincts instead of elevating themselves by humbly putting their faith into the intellectual constructs that claim to encode the art form. So when you play a note over a chord during a performance that is not considered correct by the chord scale theory, it must be that "you are just being sloppy because you didn't shred the tune enough or you don't hear the changes well".

    I think your point is very valid that we have to recognize the flaws in this line of thinking and not get too carried away with it. You're all you got as a musician.

    On the other hand in order to reach a high level, I think you need to have some mental organization of music. I find these jazz theory constructs to be very useful devices for mastering the instrument, developing ears and attention to nuance, improving productivity of practice sessions. As I posted in another thread recently, the important thing is to realize that the real progress comes from experimentation with the constructs in the context of tunes while paying attention to the fundamentals. At least that seems to be true for me. So a balance has to be found.

  25. #24

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    I liked the way you put that.

    This stuff can't really be top down.

  26. #25

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    again wtf is a major dominant? targets dont mean anything what is a major dominant?