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Dominante ( French (note) dominante (adj.) Or simply: dominante (noun) from Latin dominans (Part. Pre ,. From dominare ) , ruling, dominant, predominant ' ; Italian and Spanish dominant ; English dominant ), too Upper dominant , denotes the fifth step of a scale in harmony and the function of all chords based on it . The dominant feature is a fifth above the tonic and, together with this and the subdominant (also subdominant known) one of the three main steps or main functions of the tonal harmony . So the dominant is the fifth note of a key.

Dominant tension


The fifth progression from the tonic to the dominant function creates an expectation (psychological 'tension') of a relapse into the tonic position of rest (the harmonic progresses from the tonic, i.e. out of the tonic position of rest).

The relapse into the tonic rest position is felt as the occurrence of the expected cadence (release of tension). The strive for resolution of the dominant to the tonic is the tendency of the strut contained in the dominant chord leading tone supported.


In the "natural minor " the major seventh is not a leading tone to the tonic conductor own . On the 5th level of the minor key there is a minor chord, the third of which g (here related to A minor) is a whole step below the tonic root a . In order to maintain the familiar major strut effect, a major chord is also used in the minor as a dominant. To do this, the underlying scale is transformed into a harmonic minor by increasing the G to G sharp . If this leading tone is not used, one speaks of a minor dominant .

Reinforcement of the dominant tension

Dominant seventh chord

The dominant tension can be sharpened significantly by adding another leading tone to the dominant triad. The dominant seventh chord is created by adding another (minor) third . With the fourth tone, this now contains the underlying scale (in C major the f ), which, as a downward leading tone ( sliding tone ), strives to dissolve into the underlying e with a semitone step . Since the chord (again based on C major ) now contains the notes b and f , which - at the same time - can only occur in C major (and the tonic parallel , which does not play a role here), it thereby sets the key of C- Major clearly fixed. Due to the tritone between the third and the seventh, the dominant seventh chord is so tense (and so familiar through listening experience) that it is automatically perceived as a dominant.

More dominant chords

The dominant can (add another third) for by so-called "Überterzung" Dominantseptnonakkord be extended. Both chords also have a “shortened” form, that is, when the root note is missing, dominant. Further translations result in the dominant undezim and the dominant treadmill chord .

All chords that contain a high level of tension and dissolve into a subsequent, lower-tension sound also have a dominant function in the broader sense. Chord extensions, which are generally dissonant in the major minor system , are particularly suitable as dominants. Also altered chords of the fifth stage act primarily dominant table.

Step and function theory

The term dominant is used in both level and function theory, but with slightly different meanings. In degree theory, only those chords are designated as dominant chords whose root note is the fifth degree of a scale and which actually contain this root note. In functional theory, on the other hand, all chords that tend to dissolve towards the tonic are referred to as dominants, even if the dominant root (fifth degree) does not appear in them. So z. For example, in C major, the seventh chord of the seventh degree (Hdfa) is seen as a dominant function by function theory and interpreted as a "shortened" or "substitute" dominant seventh chord (GHdfa) with a missing root.

In jazz the dominant can be altered differently. For example in C major as a seventh chord (GHDF = G7), as a seventh chord with a minor or excessive ninth (GHDF-As = G7 / b9 or GHDF-A sharp = G7 / # 9), as a seventh chord with an older fifth (GH-D flat) F = G7 / # 5), as an undezimal chord (GHDFAC = G7 / 9/11) or as a tredezima chord with a small or excessive treadmill (GHDFA-Es = G7 / 9 / b13 or GHDFA-Eis = G7 / 9 / # 13)


The word dominant is older than major-minor tonal music. Already in 1615 Salomon de Caus used this designation for authentic church tones for the 5th, for plagalen for the 4th level. In general, the term dominant was often used synonymously for the other names of the recitation tone of church tones (repercussa, tenor, tuba). At the beginning of the 18th century, the dominant as the 5th tone of the ladder, along with finalis and mediante (according to Brossard ), belonged to the sons essentials (essential tones) of a mode .

The current meaning of the term as one of the three basic functions of tonal harmony goes back to Jean-Philippe Rameau . By dominant he understood in general any tone that is the base of a seventh chord , the latter dissolving into a chord with a root that is a fifth lower. The dominant tonique ( translated by Marpurg as a tonic dominant ) is the special case of the seventh chord on the fifth above the root note, which dissolves into the tonic triad (which is very close to today's understanding of the dominant). Only a few of Rameau's immediate successors (e.g. Johann Friedrich Daube ) adopted the new doctrine of basic functions.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau weakened the prominent meaning of the terms tonic, dominant and sub-dominant again by expanding the naming of the individual scale levels (e.g. Sus-dominant for the 6th level). In Heinrich Christoph Koch and Gottfried Weber , however, a distinction is expressly made between essential or main harmonies (tonic, dominant and subdominant triad) and accidental or secondary harmonies of a key. Weber was also one of the first to point out that the triad on the upper dominant is always a major triad (also in minor). The final consolidation of the dominant term was done by Moritz Hauptmann , who derived it from the fifth, the second of the three directly understandable intervals (octave, fifth, major third). The now common function designation D for the dominant was introduced by Hugo Riemann .

The dominant feature was in the first half of the 20th century in German-speaking and super-dominant mentioned.




  1. Reinhard Amon: Lexicon of Harmony. Reference work on major minor harmony with analysis codes for functions, levels and jazz chords. Doblinger et al., Vienna et al. 2005, ISBN 3-900695-70-9 , p. 114.
  2. Arnold Schönberg preferred the term "Oberdominante", since in his opinion the name Dominant deserves much more of the actually "ruling" level, the tonic . Only in order to introduce any new terminology, it retains the designation dominant at the V. stage, but weakens its significance somewhat, calling them by the name change to super-dominant least with the sub-dominant applies a rank. (Arnold Schönberg: Harmonielehre. 3rd, enlarged and improved edition. Universal Edition, Vienna 1922, p. 36 f.)