How many dominant scales exist?


I would like to make a list of all dominant scales
which we can use to play with G7 chord (and his tritone substitute)
but it is a bit tricky/hard for me fixing how many dominant scales exist.

Do You have something like list of all dominant scales?


I’d guess anything that does not contain the maj7 or the perfect 4th :slight_smile:


But mixolydian has perfect 4th and it is dominant scale.


You are right, it’s just that I don’t like it! :smiley:

Edit: more precisely, I would consider the perfect 4th a passing tone, if you stop on it it won’t sound good (unless we have a sus4 harmony going on). Same goes for the maj7.

I think that all other tones can in principle sound good as target tones on a dom7 (depending on whether we are going for an altered feel - i.e. something that resolves, or the so-called “secondary dominant” feel - i.e. a dominant that is just there on its own and does not need to resolve).

That being said, I like to talk but I suck at jazz!


hey @nasierszyca - conventional dominant scales off the top of my head, listed in, my opinion, rough order of ‘conventionalness’ (hah) :

5th mode harmonic minor
7th mode melodic minor
4th mode melodic minor (not often used on V7 to I resolutions, but often used on dominant chords)
the half-whole scale (diminished dominant scale)
5th mode melodic minor
5th mode harmonic major
3rd mode harmonic major

However, like @tommo is implying, anything can work, and I’d add that both the major seventh and the perfect fourth can serve useful harmonic purposes over a dominant chord.

So basically I think the question is pretty open ended. What do you want the list for? While I think it’s a good question it’s also possible that the the utility of the answer you’re seeking could be better accessed through a different question or set of data!


There also are bebop scales, and tons of various pentatonic and hexatonic scales that work over dominants…and, and, and…kind of goes on and on forever.


Are you saying that all scales can be used to play with dominant chord?

I need this list for experiments :smiley: just hobby, I like to have everything sorted.
Then my mind is calmer.
I would like to check the sound of every possible one.


Yeah you can justify any note set over any chord. There’s also microtonal stuff…and scales that don’t repeat at the octave…just kind of depends how far into outer space you’d like to be blasted

I would say the list I gave is a good starting point. Then from there there are other activities to get other sounds in your ears, but the above would keep you busy for a while.

Just one example of any of those ‘other’ activities - take any of those scales and ommit a note or two. Then instead of a 7 note scale you get a pentatonic or hexatonic. Automatically a different sound, although in some cases the differences are only slight.

For example, here’s a neat scale over a G7: G Ab B E F.


Pat Metheny says that he can hear any note over a dominant chord, apart from a maj7 IIRC. Scales are just a collection of specific pitches with a name given to them.

If you take Metheny’s approach and ignore the maj7, then you have a ton of options when playing over a dominant chord. It’s just about how good your rhythm is and how well your lines resolve.


When you think of these, do you always calculate them as modes of some other tonality? Or are you just listing them that way here for consistency - which I can understand. In actual practice, if I can’t spell the scale from its tonic, and recognize what it sounds like on its own merits, I find that I can’t really learn it / apply it.


@Troy the latter - i wrote it that way to make the thing easier to read and easier to write.

I definitely have to think of them as relationships to roots (and more usefully at times - relationships to key center)

So for example, 7th mode melodic minor, ‘altered’ scale:

1 b9 #9 3 b5 #5 b7

if we’re doing this mode over a V7 chord (meaning the root of the key is a fourth above the root of our dominant chord) then the spelling is

5 b6 #6 7 b2 b3 4

People don’t usually spell scales that way but I find it useful - we’re looking at harmonic context against the KEY and the CHORD

Also the names aren’t super important to me personally - 3rd mode harmonic major…what do we call it… 1 b9 #9 3 5 b6 b7…I don’t know if I know the Berklee name or whatnot, but it sounds nice and has some obvious context


Also guys nothing wrong with major 7 over dominant, depends on context.

I don’t mean to post clips of myself but it’s relevant here, just yesterday I posted this blues - can anybody spot the E natural over F7?


And to add to that: it bums me out that some of these modes, like Locrian Sharp 2, or Lydian Flat 7, don’t have better names. Because I would be better able to use them if they were called the “Majestic” mode, or something cooler. Everyone can relate to that. Defining everything by what it’s similar to is kind of like thinking of your Dad as “guy who hangs around with Mom”. At some point, we have to start thinking Dad!


I think in some cases they have names - lydian flat seven is more often called lydian dominant in the jazz world.

For me, melodic minor and harmonic minor have very specific sounds as a note set even throughout their different modes, so honestly when I’m thinking locrian natural second I’m actually just thinking something like “the half diminished sound from melodic minor”


Yes, totally and that can quickly become confusing. Do I remember this scale in relation to where I’m at now, or where I’m going toward? It really boils down to memory. If G altered fretboard shapes are always connected to C major in your mind, and you always move from one to the other, then it makes sense to memorize them as connected in that way.


Although Metheny did say that he “can’t hear” maj7 over Dom, I’m sure he’s played it many times.


Both! For what it’s worth, I have students do a lot of work where they analyze a transcription this way - naming the relationship to key, and separately the relationship to chord. They both matter so much. Definitely harder to memorize but we can make stronger harmonic statements in improv when we really know both.

Starts with simpler scales and stuff too of course.


Yeah I mean if we’re doing harmonic substitution it’s easy to access - for example playing over V7 to I as Idim7 to I, just another common cadence - that gives us the b5 of the key and the natural 7 of the dominant. Hell even just approaching the I7 as a VII7 - dominant a half step below , gives us that note over the dominant


Well see that’s the confusing part - for me. All the modes have similar sounds if you play them all back to back, and it makes it harder to really hear what’s different about them. Honestly all the guitar magazine articles that taught modes by showing how C Ionian is the “same” as D Dorian, I cannot begin to tell you how much of my life was wasted reading those things. I could not for the life of me understand what the difference was supposed to be.

Meanwhile, I was busy writing piano pop songs in “C” where the progression went Cmaj, Bb maj, Fmaj, and back to C. I called it the “key of F but in C” key. Honestly that’s how I thought about it. I had no idea that was “Mixolydian”, and I swear I didn’t find out until I got to college years later despite all those articles I had thumbed through probably like everyone else did.


Totally - the C ionian D dorian distinctions are often muddled in guitar literature

But doing a parallel comparison is easier to hear: C ionian vs C dorian vs C phyrgian etc

Same with doing melodic minor modes in the parallel fashion

Coming back to the jazz world thing, I mean, I see a Cm7b5 my brain goes to the note set that is locrian nat 2, or Eb melodic minor - it took a while to get that mental transfer to happen, but once it’s there, it’s just a set of notes, and then if I know my keys really well, I see that note set superimposed into the basic key too.

Obviously all this stuff takes a while, at least it took me quite a while…