How To Play Dominant Chords on Guitar

Welcome to your quick and easy online guide to playing dominant chords on jazz guitar.

Free lessonsI have selected the most practical and useful dominant chord voicings and collated them into my free eBook, #1 Jazz Guitar Chord Chart. What you see below is a section of this eBook so feel free to download the whole thing for reference.

Other jazz guitar websites methodically go through each and every possible chord shape. In the real world, many of those shapes aren’t practical to play so I decided to focus on the most colorful, useful and widely used chord shapes. If you can think of any good ones I missed feel free to comment below.

How To Use This Guide

Thanks for stopping by, let’s get to the chords! A white circle is the chords root note (bass note). Easily move this shape up or down the fretboard, just center the white circle on your root note. Numbers indicate what finger to use.

Dominant 7 Chords

Your plain and simple dominant chord: Root, 3rd, 5th and b7. They key aspect of this chord is the tritone interval between the 3rd and b7th – its NASTY. That crunch is what gives this chord tension that urges it to resolve. Keep reading below for some more colorful options, a plain R, 3, 5, b7 chord sounds pretty lame in jazz (but works good in funk and rock).

dominant chords

Dom9 Chords

Now we are getting somewhere. Adding a major 9th (2nd) to a dom7 chord creates a dom9 chord. This chord is often used in funk. Formula: R, 3, 5, b7, 9

dominant chords

Dom13 chords

This just keeps getting better! If you add a 13 (or 6) to a 9 chord you get a dom13 chord. Formula: R, 3, 5, b7, 9, 13

dominant chords

Suspended Dominant chords

All of these chords have a 4th instead of a third in them; they are suspended, hanging in the air like a spider web or a hammock on a summers day. Each has it’s only flavor of suspension, check them out.

Sus7

Sus 7, Sus9, Sus13 chords all use the Mixolydian Mode.

dom-7-sus-4

Sus9

dom-9-sus-4

Sus13

dom-13-sus-4

Susb9

Susb9 and Sus13b9 chords use the susb9 scale.

sus-b9

Sus13b9

dom-13-sus-b9

Altered Dominant Chords

Now we are getting to the good stuff. These chords have the core functionality of a dom7 chord: a root, 3rd and b7 BUT they all employ different, unique extension notes. Each chord has a different sound and a different use, get to know each one like you know your icecream flavors. Then you can mix flavors: chocoloate with strawberry, #9 with #11, Vanilla with b9. Your options are endless. Nice.

Dom7 #11

Use these chords with the lydian dominant scale. A cool sound. R, 3, 5, b7, #11
dom-7-sharp-11

Dom9 #11

Formula: R, 3, 5, b7, 9, #11

dom-9-sharp-11

Dom13 #11

Formula: R, 3, 5, b7, 9, #11, 13

dom-13-sharp-11

Dom7b9

This is a very handy chord because the upper part of a dom7 b9 chord is a diminished chord. AND you can move dim7 chords up and down 3 frets (minor 3rds) to create some cool lines. Formula: R, 3, 5, b7, b9

dom-7-flat-9

Dom7#5

Also known as a Dom7b13 chord or Augmented 7 chord. Really useful little guy. Formula: R, 3, #5, b7

dom-7-sharp-5

Dom7#9

THE JIMI HENDRIX CHORD WOOO! Formula: R, 3, 5, b7, #9

dom-7-sharp-9

Dom7#5#9

Ok, so you get the picture know. The next chords are just different combinations of the above. Check them out and make your own!

dom-7-aug-sharp-9

Dom7#5b9

dom-7-sharp-5-b9

Dom7#11#9

dom-7-sharp-11-sharp-9

Dom7#11b9

dom-7-sharp-11-b9

Dom13b9

One of my favorites. Pay close attention to that 13th – it sounds great right? It has a colorful clash with the b7 which is music to my ears. Formula: R, 3, 5, b7, b9, 13

dom-13-b9

Chord Formulas

Here is a handy pdf excerpt of the most common chord formulas so you can create any chord you want. This is a free PDF download, enjoy! [wpdm_file id=2]

Thanks for checking out this lesson, please feel free to leave a comment below with any suggestions or questions you may have.

~ Sam Blakelock | pickupjazz.com

Comments

  1. Alex Ward says

    Hi, I love your website and insta page I’M also enrolled on one of your courses, it is really helping me improve as a guitarist. I’m a little confused about one thing, what do the white squares mean on the chord diagrams? because the root is a white circle. I read in the chord pdf that the squares are ‘root but don’t play’ but what exactly does that mean? How can it be the root if you don’t play?
    Thank you!
    Alex

    • Sam Blakelock says

      Hi Alex, often you don’t need to play the root in a chord – because it is implied. Often a bass player will playing the root, or it’s not needed.

      Hopefully that helps!

      San

    • Sam Blakelock says

      A diminished chord is the upper part of a dom7 chord. Dim7 chords are special because they are symmetrical – you can move them up/down 3 frets.

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