In Japan, there's a common word "Dominant Motion", which specifically means "V7-I motion" or "any motion that dominant seventh chords resolve to P4th above, to more stable chord". It's presented as a technical term and almost every japanese music theory book has the section introducing this word.

But reading English music theory books, I've never encountered this word. Instead, they are called "dominant resolution", "dominant to tonic motion" or "circle of fifth motion" etc.
I barely found the term "contiguous dominant motion" in Berklee's harmony theory, but it seems to have a bit different meanings.

Actually, whether this term is global-standard or not is sometimes controversial among Japanese people. So I want to know if "dominant motion" is an appropriate word to describe progressions such as V7-I, III7-VIm, VI7-IIm, I7-IV.

  • Thanks for the post, and interesting question! In general, a type of question to avoid on this site is a poll. I really like the question you've asked, but I wonder if you could rephrase it so that it is less like an open poll where all responses are equally valid. Perhaps, instead of asking what they're called in each user's locality, you could ask "what are the various terms we use to describe this technique/harmonic movement?" or you could mention specific regions you're particularly interested in.
    – jdjazz
    Mar 22, 2019 at 16:07
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    Oh, excuse me for misunderstanding the policy of the website. I now edited the title and the contents.
    – Yuta
    Mar 22, 2019 at 17:52

4 Answers 4


No, I've never heard the term 'Dominant motion' either. I guess if I wanted to refer to it I'd say something like 'Dominant - tonic resolution'.

  • Good to know that! :) 'Dominant - tonic resolution' seems to me to make more sense than to call it a "dominant motion".
    – Yuta
    Mar 22, 2019 at 17:03

I've heard of a similar movement. In key C, if the chord gets to E, for whatever reason, it's round the houses to get back home. As in E > A > D > G > C. Basically moving up a fourth each time until back at C. With sevenths if so desired.

By far the most common chord after any particular one is most likely the chord a fourth above. ii > V > I is a common example. Dm to G is a 4th, G to C is another 4th.

  • I'm curious, Tim, is that "round the houses" common in the United States? Or specifically in, say, jazz? Or maybe I just never came across it for whatever reason. Either way, I'll probably start using that to sound cool :)
    – user45266
    Mar 22, 2019 at 17:25
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    @user45266 - not a clue in the states, but in UK I used to hear it with a few bands - not pop groups, but more bands that played standards. I doubt whether many people who haven't heard it would guess its meaning, although it should be imaginable.
    – Tim
    Mar 22, 2019 at 18:24
  • Harmony Music Berklee College of Music. The analysis for extended dominant motion is an arrow to the resolution down a perfect fifth. Even Berklee College uses this term. Mar 22, 2019 at 18:29
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    @AlbrechtHügli - up a 4th, down a fifth - is there really a difference? The shortest distance between two points: 4th wins! Mr Berklee was not God!
    – Tim
    Mar 22, 2019 at 18:33
  • My comment is only concerning the use of the term dominant motion, nothing else. Mar 22, 2019 at 18:36

I can't say that I've heard that one, Yuta. However, I would understand what someone meant if they said "Dominant motion", and I think it's a term that isn't common but would be pretty much applicable in American music theory discussions. It's a pretty self-explanatory term, and I'd be surprised if people didn't catch on to the term once they heard it in context.

  • That's reassuring! Nice to know that it can be applicable.
    – Yuta
    Mar 22, 2019 at 18:36

So we’ve learnt once more that what we don’t know doesn’t exist.

And it does exist - even if I were the only one who uses this expression ... but I’m not!


The most fundamental harmonic gesture in western music is based on the circle of 5ths/4ths relationship of keys. This gesture (small progression) consists of chords whose roots move up a 4th or down a 5th(ii to V,iii to vi,I to IV,etc.) in the same way that the keys in the circle of 5ths relate to one and other (G to C, C to F, etc.). The most “important” of these possible combinations is the V to I progression (or V to i in minor). The V chord (the dominant) moves up a 4th or down a 5th to the I or i chord (the tonic). This is called dominant to tonic motion. The larger part of basic diatonic chord progressions is modeled after this 4th/5th root movement relationship. V → I/i This ascending perfect 4th (dominant to tonic) progression informs other chord relationships that, when put together, allow for larger progressions. If we consider the goal of a progression (like the goal of a scale) to get back to, or just get to, the tonic (I/i), then we can work backwards from the V to I/i sequence to see which chord would most typically precede the V chord. Given that the V is a perfect 4th below the tonic, we can find the chord whose root is a perfect 4th below the V chord’s root: the ii (we will stay in major for now).



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    Mmm... I'm afraid that in this video, "dominant motion" refers to "motion from tonic to dominant seventh chord". In Japan, the term means "motion from dominant seventh chord to tonic". But it's rather interesting if the same word indicates the opposite progression!
    – Yuta
    Mar 22, 2019 at 17:17
  • There are other examples too: jkornfeld.net/harmonic_progressions_long.pdf Mar 22, 2019 at 17:19
  • There's very little content on this answer besides a video. Please put any important info from the video in the answer so if the video is not available for any reason then the answer can stand on its own.
    – Dom
    Mar 22, 2019 at 17:39
  • I find this video awful especially the music. But OP’s question was whether this term is also used in western harmonytheory. One example is enough to say: yes, it is. The video needs no additional comment as min. 2:58 ... Mar 22, 2019 at 17:44
  • @Yuta: I don't believe that you really understood the video. Your question was: is dominant motion "any motion that dominant seventh chords resolve to P4th above, to more stable chord" and this exactly what this video explains when using the term "dominant motion"... Mar 23, 2019 at 13:12

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