Thomas Berglund
Thomas Berglund
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Soloing scales to the dominant chord

The dominant chord is an important chord in improvisation and in music in general. You can experiment a lot with the dominant chord what it regards to scales and chord shapes.  In this lesson I´ll talk about three scales that works very good to use when you improvise. I´ll show them in G and I´ll use this chord progression.

Dominant chord progression

The G7 chord is the dominant chord here and the C7 is the tonic. As you can see, this is the first two chords in a G blues. So what I´m talking about in this lesson you can use in a blues as well, especially in a jazzblues or if you want the blues to sound more jazzy. I will also say that in this chord progression the tonic is a major chord and when the tonic is a minor chord these scales can works good as well but it´s important to open your ears and listen what scale to use depending on the context in the tune that´s played.

If you´re not certain what a dominant chord is, there are plenty of explanations on the net both in articles and in lessons. I´ll strongly recommend to learn that if you´re into improvisation.

The first scale I´ll show is the dominant diminished scale in G (Root - b2 -  # 2 - major 3rd -  # 4 - perfect 5th - major 6th - minor 7th).

Dominant diminished scale in G:

Dominant diminished scale in G

The second scale is the wholetone scale in G (Root - 2nd - major 3rd - # 4 - # 5 - minor 7th).

Wholetone scale in G:

Wholetone scale in G

...and the 3rd is the altered scale in G (Root - b2 -  # 2 - major 3rd -  # 4 -  # 5 - minor 7th).

Altered scale in G:

Altered scale in G

The common scale to use to the dominant chord in this chord progression is the mixolydian scale (Root - 2nd - major 3rd - perfect 4th - perfect 5th - major 6th - minor 7th) but in the scales I show here there are some alternatives that consists of some altered tones that sounds more jazzy. If you´re not used with these kind of scales it can take a while to get used to the sound of them but when you get it, they´re very fun to play and improvise with to the dominant chord.

When you´re soloing to the chord progression in this lesson since it´s quite long time on each chord, you can start soloing on the mixolydian scale to G7, and one or two bars before the chord change to C7 you soloing on altered, dominant diminished or the wholetone scale that leads to the mixolydian scale in C to the C7 chord.

Like this:

Dominant chord progression scales

This is a very effective way of using these scales and it sounds real great at least in my ears! Experiment and you´ll find your own way.

If you want to use the backing track I´m playing with in the video lessons just click here .

Good luck!

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@pauljones   5 years ago
Another great lesson Thomas! I am familiar with the scales mentioned here, however, I sometimes have a hard time including them in my phrasing when playing over dominant chords. I will try the techniques explaind in this lesson (playing mixolydian over the first chords and switching to altered scales on the last few bars) thanks for the useful tips! :)
Thomas Berglund
@thomas-berglund   5 years ago
Hi Paul and thanks for the comment! Glad you like the lesson and hope the tips will be useful in your playing.