Chord I to Chord b7 Movement

This chord movement has come up a few times for me and I’m starting to improvise on it today.

Two songs: Little Wing (Hendrix) & Make You Feel My Love (Adele)

This has also came up in a Sam Cooke Song (Fool’s Paradise), however it was I7 (dominant) to b7 (dominant).

Here are some observations/ questions I have.

  1. I’m trying to sing out natural melodies/ scales that come out. There are two that naturally come to my ear. The first is 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7. This makes sense to me. The second is 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7. Can anyone shed some light on why this movement triggers my ear to want to sing 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7? I’m going to assume that my brain is reminded of blues harmony.

  2. This chord in all three situations is followed by chord 4. David has pointed out that this is an example of 4 of 4.

  3. I find when these chords are played in this order (I to Ib7 to 4) my ear sometimes changes to the fourth harmonic environment.


Total layman here, full disclosure.

When I think b7D, this structure is a perfect fourth above b3, which is why I’m guessing your ears are gravitating to the b3 tone, since that’s the tonic of your resolution… That’s essentially borrowing the 5-1 resolution for the b7D as a secondary dominant.

Following up with a 4 chord is the same movement as a 1-4-5, so I’m not surprised I guess, considering how ubiquitous that progression seems to be in popular music.

Not sure I follow! Isn’t b7D a perfect fourth above the 4 chord? Not sure what you mean with the 1-4-5 bit. Thanks!

I think I figured it out! Haha I know there’s no “answer” but it is nice to make these observations because I think it just makes you a better musician.

So when I’m singing melodies the scale that comes out of my mouth ( 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7 vs 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7) depends on what note I’m starting on. 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7 came out when I started my melody on the b7 and going up. When you flatten the 3 to a b3, you are making a sort of a b7SUS type of sensation. When you sing note 2 over the b7 chord I find my brain likes going up a semi-tone to the b3 (sort of like when you’re in chord one, singing a note 3 to note 4 and back, gives it that suspense feeling. I’m sure there are multiple things to point out and there’s no answer. I think with “mixed harmony” once you exit the accpeted 7 notes in the major scale your brain naturally pulls notes from different places. I want to identify where I’m pulling it so I can at one point in my life be able to improvise these sounds on the fly.

It’s one of those weird interval notations I hate. I don’t know why I used it.

The interval 1-5 is a perfect fifth. The 5-1 interval is a perfect fourth. Similar to 1-3 is a third of 1 is the lowest note, and it’s a sixth if the 3 is lowered an octave.

I think I confused myself with the 1-4-5… ignore that. I was thinking geometrically the shift looked the same but it sounded nothing like it when I played it. Still sounds nice though…

If you look at a 5/1 resolution though, something interesting I’m noticing. Generally, all the secondary dominants that resolve a minor to major (like 2-5-1) step up in the intervals of semitones as

2 > 5 = 5/6/5/5 semitones to next relative chord tone
5 > 1 = 5/5/5/6

Further more, their chord tones are the same “distance” from the root of the next chord in the sequence.

For Half diminished resolving to minor (#4-b5 to 3-) they’re all the same as well. They go 5/6/6/5 (like 3-b5 to 7D) then 5/4/5/5 (7D to 3-).

If you map these paths out they’re all the same (unless you go 6- to 2D to 5D… you’d need to do a 5 major).

I think this is interesting because my guess is we’re accustomed to hearing these relative shifts. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that every secondary dominant as the same relative shift to its “1” chord equivalent.

For b7D to resolve using this same characteristic, you’d go b7D (b7 2 4 b6) to a b3 major chord (b3 5 b7 2). That’d have a familiar motion if you went to 4- (4 b6 1 b3). You’d essentially mirror the the 2-5D-1 but with different sounds. All those tones kinda give you the 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7. Maybe your desire/anticipation to move into 4 Major is why you’re making melody with a major 6th?

Hey thanks for the reply! Yeah I’m sure that’s part of it. I’ve heard Dave make this point before, you really can make multiple observations with harmony and melody. You’re right, part of that is probably why the sound is enjoyable. For me personally counting all those semi-tones make it challenging to use in a practical sense. But it no doubt is reality, and worth noting.