Teaching Half-Diminished and Fully-Diminished Leading-Tone 7th Chords: Using a Pattern-based Approach

Paula J. Telesco

This resource was originally published in 2014 under the title "Spelling Fully-Diminished and Half-Diminished Leading-Tone 7th chords"

This discussion and worksheet is appropriate for high school AP students, liberal arts college non-music- majors, music minors, or music majors.

Pattern recognition ability has been shown to be an important predictor of success in Music Theory courses. This handout includes some basic information regarding Nancy Rogers’ and Jane Clendinning’s testing of the correlation between pattern recognition and success in Music Theory classes.

While the dominant 7th chord is identical in parallel major and minor keys, the leading-tone seventh is not, differing from the dominant 7th by just one note. Yet students typically have difficulty spelling them.

The attached set of materials employs a systematic pattern-based pedagogical approach to discuss and spell leading-tone seventh chords in major and minor keys, with four different but complimentary approaches that may be used: as diatonic chords within a key signature; as chords built intervallically above a root; as the upper three notes of a V7, to which a 7th is added; and as the upper four notes of a V9. Students are asked to notate leading-tone sevenths in parallel major and minor keys (C major, c minor, etc.), moving up by step through the octave.