How many dominant scales exist?


I remember how I could not cope with understanding how to distinguish first note of the Ionian scale (which is C) from seventh note of the Dorian scale (which is also C).
It was very frustrating…and when I found out how simple it is I felt even greater frustration :smiley:


I’m lucky. When I started learning about modes, learning them in parallel forms was how I started so the difference in “sound” clicked pretty fast for me. Being able to take advantage of moving tonal centers around using relative modes is pretty powerful but I feel like you really need to know the modes and their sounds to use that way of thinking.

@nasierszyca I recognize you from the Metal-Archives forums. I think you’ll have an better time getting answers to questions here. Welcome!


Yes! For my students that want to improvise with more advanced harmony, one thing I want them all to eventually be able to do is sing all modes in that parallel fashion over a C drone (or whatever works for their vocal range.) And eventually be able to sing the chromatic scale in good pitch up and down an octave. We do a lot of singing for different things, making sure they are really hearing what they’re working on.


Not sure how many total dominant scales there are, but here is my essential list.

Here’s how I think about scales and arpeggios - from the root by numbers: ie… Dominant Scale = 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7 1, C7 Arpeggio = 1 3 5 b7 etc…

Remember there are only 4 altered “Outside” notes (b9 #9 b5 and #5) - All or any one of these = C7(alt)
Learning the arpeggios help a lot in making sense of the scales. Know what the chord sounds like first.
Know the most common dominant chords:

Basic “Inside Chords” using only scale tones in the dominant scale:

C7 - 1 3 5 b7
C9 - 1 3 5 b7 9
C13 - 1 3 5 b7 9 13
C7(sus4) 1 4 5 b7
C9(sus4) 1 4 5 b7 9 (C11 - Old Name) 11 = sus4
C13(sus4) 1 4 5 b7 9 13

Most common altered dominant chords with one altered note:

C7(b9) 1 3 5 b7 b9
C7(#9) 1 3 5 b7 #9
C7(b5) 1 3 b5 b7 (C7(#11) - Old Name) b13 = #5 #11 = b5
C7(#5) 1 3 #5 b7 (C7(b13) - Old Name)
C9(b5) 1 3 b5 b7 9
C9(#5) 1 3 #5 b7 9 (C9(b13) - Old Name)
C13(b9) 1 3 5 b7 b9 13
C13(b9,sus4) 1 4 5 b7 b9 13

Most common altered dominant chords with two altered notes:

C7(b9,#5) 1 3 #5 b7 b9
C7(b9,b5) 1 3 b5 b7 b9
C7(#9,b5) 1 3 b5 b7 #9
C7 (#9,#5) 1 3 #5 b7 #9

(There are others, but they get weirder sounding and require good ears to resolve as they go more “outside”) from here - Many are hard to voice on guitar Ex. C7(b9,#9,#5) 1 3 #5 b7 b9 #9

Monty’s most common dominant scales:

Mixolydian/Dominant - 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7
Dominant Bebop #1 - 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7 7
Dominant Bebop #2 - 1 2 3 4 5 #5 6 b7
Dominant Bebop #3 (Dominant b9) - 1 b9 2 3 4 5 6 b7
Dominant Bebop #4 (Dominant #9) - 1 2 #9 3 4 5 6 b7
Dominant Bebop #5 (Dominant b5) - 1 2 3 4 b5 5 6 b7
(Just a note that there are others! Just add in a half step anywhere in the Dom. Scale)
Dominant b5/Mixolydian b5 - 1 2 3 4 b5 6 b7
Dominant #5/Harmonic Dominant? - 1 2 3 4 #5 6 b7
Whole Tone - 1 2 3 b5 #5 b7
Altered Dominant/Melodic Minor up 1/2 step from the root of the Dom. Chord- 1 b9 #9 3 b5 #5 6 b7
Symmetrical Diminished (1/2 Step whole step scale) 1 b9 #9 3 b5 5 6 b7
Minor Pent - 1 #9 4 5 b7
Minor Blues - 1 #9 4 b5 5 b7
Major Pent - 1 2 3 5 6/13 (6 is 13 on Dom. chords)
Major Blues - 1 2 #9 3 5 6/13
Melodic Minor Down a Whole Step from root of Dom. Chord - 1 b9 #9 4 5 6 b7
Melodic Minor Up a 4th from root of Dom. Chord - 1 2 3 4 5 #5 b7
Melodic Minor Up a 5th from root of Dom. Chord - 1 2 3 b5 5 6 b7
"Modern Jazz" Dominant 1 2 3 b5 #5 6 b7


So…dominant basis are 1/3/b7
and other notes are freeform,any alteration?


Theoretically you could play Dorian and Phrgian as well off the root. You may not think to but just cause it has a b3 dose not disqualify it. and the Phrygian would sound good over a b9, #9 right and b13. When learning sounds it is best to relate to the parallel counter parts. say E aeolian E Dorian E phrygian and Locrian. And E major E Lydian and E mixolydian. This way your ear can hear the differences.


yeah phrygian is a nice sound over a dominant - this sounds odd but technically locrian is as well, but I think of that really as Phrygian from the I

So, key of C, V7 is G7, could play Phrygian over the G implying a bit of a G7sus4b9 sound or ‘all the dominant stuff except the leading tone’

To me that also just sounds like a iv to I (Fm to C) cadence depending on how you play it

but a nice harmonic approach to G7 to C is to treat it as Dbmaj7 to C. That’s Db lydian, or C phrygian, or G locrian, however you want to think of it (I favor Db lydian) over a G7 sound. No B natural, but enough tension to ask for a resolution


@nasierszyca - Yep, Only 4 altered notes


In jazz alterations on a seventh chord often hint at what is to come and or defy expectation. For example, the b13 becoming the minor 3rd of a tonic minor or the b9 suggesting resolution to a chord containing a perfect 5th. They may give nod to the key of a song, or directly clash for spice. They create expectations or defy them. Some scales like the lydian dominant are effective with chromatic resolution. Sometimes straight mixolydian is called for… Ultimately for me, noting the function of the alterations has proven more useful than memorizing scale names. The Berklee chordscale theory addresses this stuff, and I came across it by way of Nettles and Graf’s book on the same. Outside of that world I can see a list being useful to draw from. Nevertheless, I still come back to dominant arpeggios with color notes and passing tones. An altered fifth is sometimes demanded, otherwise not. I recommend singing the scales for internalizing the character of each. My two cents.

Hope everyone had a good Rev Dr MLK Jr day, and goodnight from Denver. Peace, Daniel




Haha! So I was way off the mark there, huh?

Thanks Jake! And an extra decillion or so back at you. Kind regards, Daniel