Magic Choral Trick #112 Balancing the Dominant 7th Chord

Although the Dominant 7th chord appears in every genre of choral music, it’s Barbershoppers who have it as a staple part of their diet. I’ve never known any other choral musicians to take it so seriously.

The same rules apply here as with the Major chord – Root and Fifth predominant, with the Third just laid in gently. The only addition with the Dominant 7th is the 7th itself – which, like the Third is just lightly breathed into place.

This is usually not difficult to balance in a Barbershop chorus because the 7th is often given to the Tenors, who sing the top part, and who are deliberately very few in number. In a chorus of about 25 singers, the best Tenor balance would be achieved by having 2 Tenors. (though it seems that it’s always prudent to have one more in case one is laid low by illness)

In a regular choir it may take a little more reminding and convincing to get the part singing the 7th to back off a bit.

When the chord is inverted, and the Root is on the top right next to the 7th, the plan is a little different. In Barbershop this is called (for reasons that I really don’t know) a Chinese 7th.

I’m going to give the last word on this to Barbershop Harmony Society judge and coach Ig Jakovac:

“To properly balance a “Chinese seventh”, the root (typically sung by the tenor) needs to be really predominant followed by the fifth – also, I have found that there is almost never enough third in this type of chord.”


About janetkidd

I've been waving my arms in front of choirs now for more than 35 years - and these are descriptions of all the very best things I've learned. I direct a Women's Competitive Barbershop Chorus, a Men's Competitive Barbershop Chorus, a Med School choir, and for a few weeks each year - Big Choir (about 100 voices) - which performs at an annual fundraising concert. Hope at least some of these Choral Magic Tricks will be useful to you - and thanks for reading. Janet

Posted on April 2, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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