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Dominant Jazz Chords - Jazzing Up The 5 Chord

The 5 (V) chord, often called the "dominant", plays a crucial role in creating the tension-resolution dynamic in music. As harmony in jazz tends to be richer and more complex, this dominant function is all the more special... and mysterious.

In this lesson you'll learn how to get that complex "jazz sound" out of your guitar by enhancing this 5 chord function. Not only will it teach you how chords can be extended to sound more colourful and sophisticated, but it will also train your ear to pick up on these "tension chords" when you hear them.

All in all, it should prove a very satisfying and enjoyable lesson for any jazz-inclined musician!

Dominant (5) Chord Function

As we looked at in the video, the 5 chord (often represented using the numeral V) plays an important role in establishing and re-affirming a key center.

The 5 provides a direct route back to our "home" or I chord (also called the tonic).

For example, in the key of C major, Cmaj would be our 1 chord and Gmaj would be our 5 chord.

If we played a typical 1 4 5 sequence - Cmaj / Fmaj / Gmaj - you should be able to hear how Gmaj creates tension, or a "pull" back to the home/tonic of Cmaj. If you hang on that Gmaj chord, the tension builds even more.

Another common "cadence" (a resolving sequence of chords), especially in jazz, is 2 5 1 - Dm / Gmaj / Cmaj.

Again, the Gmaj 5 chord creates a "gravitational pull" to the key affirming chord of Cmaj. That's not to say it HAS to go there, but there's a natural flow of tension and resolution when it's used in this way. It can also work in minor keys, where a minor chord is the tonic or i (lower case numeral for minor!).

This is the tension-resolution function of the 5 and 1 chords - arguably the most important relationship in tonal music.

In jazz, this 5 chord tension is enhanced by extending the chord, first to a dominant 7th (e.g. G7) and adding additional tones to the basic chord (e.g. G9, G13, G13♭9, Gaug7, Gsus9). We'll look at all these interesting chord forms in a bit.

Finding The 5 Chord On Guitar

Related chord positions are easiest to visualise on the neck by referencing the bass roots of their shapes.

For example...

In the below diagram, we have our tonic chord root on the 6th string. From this, we can visualise the 5 chord root two frets higher on the 5th string...

6th string tonic dominant root positions

In the below diagram, our tonic root is on the 5th string. From this, we can visualise the 5 chord root directly beneath it (same fret), on the 6th string...

5th string tonic dominant root positions

These related positions are movable, so the frets we position them at are determined by the key in which we're playing.

Jazz Dominant Chord Chart

Let's go through some dominant jazz voicings that sound good on the 5 position. In the below charts, you can choose either the interval maps of the chords or the fingering using the tabs...

6th String Root

dominant jazz chord chart fingerings
dominant jazz chord chart intervals

5th String Root

jazz dominant chord chart on 5th string fingering
5th string dominant jazz chords interval chart

Try Using These Chords In Your Own Music

Once you have an ear for extended and altered dominant chords, and are comfortable with fingering the shapes, try incorporating them into your own music.

These chords aren't just good for jazz. They also work well in blues, funk, soul, bossa nova and other jazz-influenced styles. Even in "middle of the road" rock and pop songs, you can throw in some of these chords for a little extra spice!

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