In the harmonic major field, the chord of second degree is minor. But an interesting resource (really used) is playing the chord of second degree as major. The feeling which is produced is similar to a secondary dominant, because the second degree could serve as V7/ V7 (dominant of the dominant). For example, in C major tonality, D is minor, so playing D major would give the sensation of preparation to a fifth degree (G). Without adding the seventh (D7), the feeling of the dominant is attenuated.
We will show some examples of use of the major chord of second degree, for you to be used with this sensation:
- In this first file from Guitar Pro, the tonality is C major. Notice the feeling of the D major chord in this context: IImajordegree.gpro
- Now pay attention in B7 chord in tonality A major. Notice that it is serving as secondary dominant to E major: II7.gpro
How to improvise in major chord of second degree (II7)
Nice, let’s say now that you are improvising a solo in a song that has the major chord of second degree. What to do? You can use the melodic minor scale in it, which is located one fifth above it. Any surprise in this? No! Because it is the same resource that we used in non-altered dominants, and as we already said here, the major chord of second degree gives the feeling of the secondary dominant. We can also consider that it is an borrowed chord from the Lydian Mode. This doesn’t change the resources that we can use in the point of view of improvisation, because the idea would be the same that we just said.
Listen to the examples we gave and practice this concept in other songs too. Train your ear to identify the feeling of a major chord of second degree. As in many times this chord has the seventh (to definitely mark the dominant function), it is denoted by II7.
This chord doesn’t appear only in harmonically rich styles, but also in popular songs, providing interesting variations. Now that you know this resource, try to identify it as always as possible.
Go to: #IVm7(b5) chord
Back to: Module 11