Major, Parallel Minor, and Secondary Dominant Chords

In this post I cover Major Chords, Secondary Dominant Chords, and Parallel Minor chords.

Combining the Major, Secondary Dominant, and Parallel Minor chords is a great way to add more variety and color to your chord progressions.

The chords in the tables below are in the key of C. Use the roman numerals to transpose the chords to any key.

Full Reference Table

IiiiiiIVVvivii°
MajorCD-E-FGA-B°
Secondary DominantA7B7C7D7E7
Parallel MinorC-D°E♭F-G-A♭B♭
iii°♭iiiivv♭vi♭vii

Major Chords

ChordsIiiiiiIVVvivii°
MajorCD-E-FGA-B°
Secondary DominantA7B7C7D7E7

The Major scale is your starting point and foundation.

If you need to review the seven modes that make up the Major Scale, start with this modes lesson by legendary guitarist Frank Gambale.

Example Major Chord Progressions

  • I – IV – V – I (C, F, G, C)
  • vi – IV – ii – V (A-, F, D-, G)
  • I – vi – IV – V (C, A-, F, G)

Secondary Dominant

The Secondary Dominant is a 5th above the respective chord. It’s referred to as the 5 chord. For example, A7 is the 5 chord of the 2 chord, D-. The symbol is written as: V/ii

The Secondary Dominant can be played as either a Major chord or a Dominant 7 chord.

My circle of 5ths lesson can help with memorizing which note is the 5th above another note.

Example Major Chord Progressions with Secondary Dominant

  • I – V/vi – IV – iv (C, E, F, F-) *note the F- is a Parallel Minor chord
  • I – V/IV, IV – V – I (C, C7, F, G, C)
  • I – V/ii, iii – V (C, A, E-, G7)

Parallel Minor Chords

iii°♭iiiivv♭vi♭vii
C-D°E♭F-G-A♭B♭

The Parallel Minor is built of the tonic (C in this case) and a minor scale (Aeolian). The C Aeolian scale is: C, D, E♭, F, G, A♭, B♭.

Taking chords from the Parallel Minor is a great way to spruce up your Major chord progressions. They are also effective in adding resolutions to your chord progressions, for example:

  • ♭iii to I (E♭, C)
  • ♭vii to I (B♭, C)
  • ♭vi to I (A♭, C)

Example Parallel Minor Chord Progressions

  • I – v – IV – I (C, G-, F, C)
  • I – v – ♭vi – ♭vii (C, G-, A♭, B♭)
  • I – V/ii – ii – ♭vii – V (C, A, D-, B♭, G7)

Further reading

  1. The Circle of 5ths: A Foundational Music Theory Tool For Guitarists
  2. Frank Gambale’s Modes: No More Mystery Lesson Notes
  3. 10 Basic Guitar Chords For Beginners
  4. John Petrucci Invisible Monster Guitar Lesson
  5. Guitar Notes for Beginners: Names of Notes on Every Guitar String

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