In the major key, the second degree chord is minor. However, an interesting feature (often used) is to play the major second degree.

The sensation produced resembles a secondary dominant, since the major second degree could serve as V7/V (dominant of the dominant).

For example, in the key of C major, D is minor, so playing D major would give the feeling of preparation for the fifth degree (G). Without adding the seventh (D7), the feeling of dominant is attenuated.

Okay, now let’s say you’re improvising a solo in a song that contains a II7 chord. What to do? You can use the melodic minor scale, which is located a fifth above it. Any surprises in that? No, because it is the same resource that we use for unaltered dominants, and we have already said here that the II7 chord has the feeling of a secondary dominant.

We can also consider that the II7 chord is a Borrowed Chord from the Lydian mode. This does not alter the resources that we can use from the point of view of improvisation, as the idea would be the same as we just said.

Take a tonality and train your ear to identify the sensation of a II7 chord. Since this chord often contains the seventh (to definitely mark the dominant function), it ends up being denoted by II7.

This chord appears not only in harmoniously rich musical styles, but also in popular songs, providing interesting variations. Now that you know this feature, try to identify it whenever you can.

Go to: The IVm6 Chord

Back to: Module 11