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.”

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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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