Leading-Tone Seventh Chords

Let's begin by reviewing the most frequent seventh chord constructed above scale degree 7, the V65. The chord progressions below should be very familiar:

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Operation 1

Exchanging scale degree 6 for 5 yields new harmonic possibilities.

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This half-diminished seventh chord occassionally appears in major mode, usually in root position.

Operation 2

The principle of mixture makes possible the following non-diatonic variants:

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The FULL-diminished seventh chord occurs VERY frequently in both major and minor modes and is an important new harmonic resource.

Note that the root position leading-tone seventh chord is fully diminished and contains TWO dissonant elements above the bass: a diminished 7th and a diminished fifth. Resolving both dissonant elements results in a root position tonic chord. This characterisitic voice leading will help us determine how leading-tone 7th chords function in inversion.


The resultant half-diminished and fully diminished seventh chords produced by operations 1 and 2 are called leading-tone seventh chords. Although these chords all sound different, their voice leading characteristics are quite similar. As the next example shows how leading-tone 7th chords function very much like linear dominant chords.

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In fact, the first three positions (root position, first, and second inversions) differ by only one note to their corresponding inversions of V7

viio7=V65
viio65=V43
viio43=V42.

viio7 (V65) as lower neighbor to I

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viio65 (V43) passing between I and I6

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viio43=V42 as upper neighbor resolving to I6

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Only the viio42(see below) does not correspond to any inversion of V7. Knowing, however, that this chord almost always resolves to V64 , can you explain its harmonic function?

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