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Dominant Chords with Altered 5th

If last time I was talking about Dominant chords with an altered 9th, now I’m going to deal with the alteration of the 5th.


The 7(b5) chord is basically a symmetrical chord. Olivier Messiaen would define it a chord with limited transposition: the 7(b5) is enharmonically equal to its tritone transposition. For instance:

C7(b5)                 =              Gb7(b5)
C E Gb Bb                           Gb Bb Dbb Fb

We find this chord in the harmonization of both the diminished and whole-tone scales, but it can also be built on the IV degree of the melodic minor.

If we add two of these chords a 3rd apart we end up with a complete diminished scale. In the same way, two 7(b5) chords a tone apart give us the six notes of a whole-tone scale.

C7(b5)  + Eb7(b5)
C E Gb Bb Eb G Bbb Db     =     C Db Eb E Gb G A Bb     (C dim S-T)
+ D7(b5)                =     C D E Gb Ab Bb
D F# Ab C

On the guitar we can play the 7(b5) chord like this:



The harmonization of the whole-tone scale and the melodic minor also gives us the 7(#5) chord, while there is no such chord in the diminished scale.

On the melodic minor scale we find it on the V and VII degrees.

Even if it’s not a symmetrical chord as the 7(b5), the augmented triad on which it is built is.

In a D melodic minor scale we find A7(#5) and C#7(#5), a major 3rd apart and both containing the augmented triad F – A – C#. They only differ for the minor 7th: G in the first and B in the second chord.


Sound Experiments

Let’s now make an experiment with the 7(#5) chord.

Imagine being in D melodic minor: D-E-F-G-A-B-C#. If we consider the augmented triad, each one of its notes could be considered as the fundamental tone. Just like we talked about A7(#5) and C#7(#5), both containing the triad A-C#-F, we can consider F as fundamental and build an F7(#5).

This chord (F-A-C#-Eb) introduces the note Eb, shifting the sound towards the whole-tone scale:

F – A – C# + Eb  F7(#5)
G  A7(#5)
B  C#7(#5)