Tag Archives: secondary dominants

Spice up your Blues playing Pt 1 – 6 + 2 chords

Hi there,

Want to add some variety to your blues chord progressions? Thought so 🙂

If you are used to just playing the traditional 1, 4, 5 chords in a 12 bar blues (usually with dominant 7,9 or 13 chords) you’re only sticking with 3 possible chords.

There are some cool chords you can add to make the traditional 12 bar sequence more interesting.

So are traditional 12 bar blues in D could be:

D7   D7   D7   D7   G7   G7   D7   D7   A7  G7  D7   A7

2 really classy chords you can add are the 6th and 2nd chords from the key. So in D major the chords would be:

D Em F#m, G, A, Bm, C#dim

Now for a really bluesy sound we’re going to make the 6th chord Dominant 7th and the 2nd chord a minor 7th.

The 6th dominant 7th chord can be seen as a secondary dominant (please refer to my blog on secondary dominants for an explanation of this)

The 2nd chord is diatonic (belongs to the key)

Here is a suggested chord progression using these chords.

In roman numerals they would go like this . I  IV  I  I    IV   IV  I  VI     IIm7  V   I   IIm7 / V

1.D7  2.G7   3.D7   4.D7    5.G7   6.G7   7.D7    8.B7    9.Em7   10.A7    11.D7    12.Em7  /  A7

(in the 12th bar you can split it between the 2 chords – this bar is often referred to as the turnaround)

Have a play around with the above then have a go in different keys. So in A the progression would be:

1.A7  2.D7   3.A7   4.A7    5.D7   6.D7  7.A7.   8.F#7    9.Bm7    10.E7    11.A7    12.Bm7 / E7

Hope you’ve found this blog useful

Thanks for reading

You can find Js Music School on twitter via @jsmusicschool @harvey_jsmusic



Leave a comment

Posted by on January 22, 2014 in The Blues


Tags: , , ,

Songwriting tricks – Secondary Dominants / Metallica and The Beatles case studies

Hi there,

In previous blogs you’ve started to grasp how chords and scales can link together and how you can start to write your own songs.

You may have come across chords in songs that don’t fit within the standard Maj,Min,Min,Maj,Maj,Min,dim or Maj7,Min7,Min7Maj7,7,Min7,min7b5 rule

There are certain exceptions to these rules which songwriters use that can really add some depth and variety to your songs.

You can also be aware of these tricks when listening to music that you love, to see how other people use it.

What dominant substitution does is introduce another 6 possible chords that you can add to the 14 above.

Let’s take the key of A major for example:

The notes are:


  • Your chords/triads would be Amaj,Bmin,C#min,D,E,F#min and G#diminished
  • 7th chords would be Amaj7,Bmin7,C#min7,Dmaj7,E7,F#min7,G#min7b5

With dominant substitution you could now include:

  • A7,B7,C#7,D7,F#7 and G#7

But in order for it to really work properly you need to resolve back to a chord that’s a FOURTH (2 and a half tones) above your substituted chord.

Let’s take an example:

  • A major, Amajor7  Bmin7, B7 then E

What the B7 does is reinforce the next chord (E) which is a perfect 4th above B

Some very popular songs you’ve heard over the years use these techniques.

Let’s take Nothing Else Matters by Metallica which is in the key of Em/Gmajor

The chords in G major are

  • G,Am,Bm,C,D,Em,F#dim or
  • Gmaj7,Am7,Bm7,Cmaj7,D7,Em7 and F#min7b5

In the verse you have a nice picking pattern which uses the following chords:

  • Em, D, C, G, B7 and Em (with a few chord extensions)

As you can see the B7 isn’t in the usual harmonized key of G major but works as a dominant substitute as it reinforces the Em that comes after it

The prechorus to Hey Jude by the Beatles also does a similar thing.

It’s in the key of F so the chords would be:

  • F,Gm,Am,Bb,C,Dm and Ediminished
  • or Fmaj7,Gmin7,Amin7,Bbmaj7, C7,Dmin7 and Emin7b5 in 7th chords

The end of the verse goes:

‘The minute, you let you under your skin, then you begin, to make it better.’

Bb                                            F                     C7                       F

Then it goes:

‘And anytime you feel the pain, Hey Jude, refrain, don’t carry the world upon your shoulders’

F7                                     Bb         Bmaj7 Gm7                            C7                      F

As you can see the F7 that precedes the Bb is the dominant substitution which works really well to reinforce the Bb

Hope you enjoyed reading this blog and feel free to ask any questions.

You can find other useful tips via twitter @jsmusicschool which is updated daily


Many thanks


Leave a comment

Posted by on May 2, 2012 in Songwriting skills


Tags: , ,