Jazz basics 3: the dominant 7 chord in jazz

Why is the dominant 7 chord in jazz so important? To answer this question I will first separate this chord into two categories: moving and static.


This applies generally to any classical harmony but when this dominant 7 chord in jazz is moving towards its resolution it can be thought of as a tension chord. To increase this tension we can add notes that don’t belong to the chord. These notes can be extensions or alterations.

There are 3 extensions: notes 9, 11 and 13.

There are 4 alterations: notes b9, #9, #11, b13.

In a G7 chord these 3 extensions are A, C and E.

In a G7 chord these 4 alterations are Ab, A#, C# and Eb.

Here are four examples of the G7 chord moving to Cmaj7 with 9 (extension), b9 and #9 (alterations).

And here’s how these four progressions sound.


A dominant 7 chord in jazz is static when it stands in its own right rather than pointing to its tonic. An example is in a basic 12 bar blues sequence. Here are the first 4 bars in F.

Jazz basics - bars 1 to 4 of a basic blues.

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