7.12 Secondary degrees: the third (III) and seventh (VII) degree

 Category: Harmony | Tags: Chords, Triads

Theory

In this chapter you will learn about the third (III) and seventh (VII) degree. You are goning to make third and seventh degrees in different scales yourself in the exercise.

1. The third degree (III)

We will first investigate which tones the third degree (III) has in common with the first, fourth and fifth degrees.

In C major, the third tone is E, the third degree (III) is comprised of the tones E G B.

In C major, the first degree (I) is comprised of the tones C E G. The third degree (III) has two tones in common with the first degree (I), namely, the third E and the fifth G of the first degree. The fifth is the least important tone.

The fourth degree (IV) is comprised of the tones F A C. The third degree (III) has not one tone in common with the fourth degree (IV).

The fifth degree (V) is comprised of the tones G B D. The third degree (III) has two tones in common with the fifth degree (V), namely, the root G and the third D of the fifth degree. These two are the most important tones.

The third degree is most strongly connected to the fifth degree (V).

Examples

Which tones has the third degree in common with the first, fourth and fifth degrees?

2. Dominant and tonic function

The third degree has common tones with the first degree, as well as the fifth degree. For that reason, the third degree has a somewhat harmonically weak character and does not occur as often as the other degrees.

The third degree can have a dominant as well as a tonic function. Still, the third degree is never a truly strong replacement. The third degree can be anticipated by the seventh, first and fifth degrees: VII - III, I - III or V - III, and, it can resolve to the sixth and fourth degrees: III - VI or III - IV. The chord progression I - III - IV occurs most often.

3. The seventh degree (VII)

We will first investigate which tones the seventh degree (VII) has in common with the first, fourth and fifth degrees.

In C major, the seventh tone is B, the seventh degree (VII) is comprised of the tones B D F.

In C major, the first degree (I) is comprised of the tones C E G. The seventh degree (VII) has not one tone in common with the first degree (I).

The fourth degree (IV) is comprised of the tones F A C. The seventh degree (VII) has one tone in common with the fourth degree (IV), namely, the root F of the fourth degree.

The fifth degree (V) is comprised of the tones G B D. The seventh degree (VII) has two tones in common with the fifth degree (V), namely, the third B and the fifth D. The fifth is the least important tone.

The seventh degree is most strongly connected to the fifth degree (V).

Examples

Which tones has the seventh degree in common with the first, fourth and fifth degrees?

4. Dominant function

The seventh degree is most strongly connected to the fifth degree and, therefore has a dominant function. The seventh degree strongly resembles the dominant seventh chord (V7), missing only the dominant tone.

The seventh degree can progress to the first degree or the third degree: VII - I or VII - III. The chord progression I - VII - I sounds like a extended first degree, the seventh degree has, in this case an enhancing and embellishing quality.

5. The seventh degree as a seventh chord

The seventh degree appears also - particularly in the minor scale, as a seventh chord (VII7). This chord has a very strong attraction to the first degree.

6. Practise

Harmony exercise 7c: practise making the sixth degree and seventh degree of various major and minor scales.