Part II: Diatonic Materials, Unit 4

Study Guide 3: The Dominant Seventh Chord in Root Position

Strict Resolution

The dominant seventh chord (V7) consists of a major triad with a minor seventh.


tendency tone is a powerfully directed unstable note that tends to move by step to a note of resolution. The third and the seventh of the V7 are tendency tones that together form the dissonant tritone. When both tendency tones are directed in strict resolution, the diminished fifth contracts to a third; the augmented fifth expands to a sixth.


In minor keys, the third of the V7 (the leading tone) must be raised and indicated with a figured bass accidental in the Roman numeral analysis. The V7 is a four-note chord and all notes may be present. Or, as shown here, the root of the V7 may doubled and the fifth omitted.


Free Resolution of the Leading Tone

In the examples below, the seventh of the V7 chord resolves strictly, but notice the motion of the leading tone (marked in blue). It is permitted for the leading tone to skip down to the nearest chord tone when it is in an inner voice. This free resolution provides an option that allows both chords to be complete, with normal doubling in the tonic triad.


In both examples, the leading tone does not resolve upward to the tonic, but the effect of the full texture is still pleasing because the soprano takes the note of resolution.


Free Resolution of the Seventh

It is also possible for the 7th of the dominant 7th to freely move upward, but this is recommended only in an inner voice, and only in keyboard style.