Secondary Dominants

     Harmonic cadences are used to prepare and reinforce the tonic but other diatonic chords can also be reinforced. The dominant chord that exists in the tonality we are using is called a primary dominant.

     But if you wish to emphasize another diatonic chord from that tonality you can use a dominant chord that is related to that specific diatonic chord. These dominant chords are called secondary dominants and they can be used for “color” and bring some “unexpectedness” since they are outsiders from that tonality.

     The following table shows how different dominant chords are named depending on their relation to the tonic or another diatonic chord:

     As a side note, something that works well on chords than have already been substituted, like a G7 that has been substituted by a Db7; is to transform the latter into a Db maj7 or a Db6 for a different “harmonic flavour” and still maintain the harmonic function of the substituted chord – see chromatic approach chords.

     However, some chords may cause the cadence to lose its strength, like using a Dbm7(b5) to resolve to a C∆:

     The reason why this happens is because the Dbm7(b5) has too many common notes with the C∆ – all except the Db. On the other hand, using it to go to a Cm7 would work well because all chord tones change except for the G that is enharmonic to both chords:

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