Leading Seventh Chords

Theoretical information

The leading-tone seventh chords are the half-diminished and diminished seventh chords on the seventh scale degree, or leading-tone, in major and harmonic minor, resolving to the tonic. A leading-note (also subsemitone, and called the leading-tone) is a note or pitch which resolves or “leads” to a note one semitone higher or lower, being a lower and upper leading-tone, respectively. More narrowly, the leading tone is the seventh scale degree of the major scale, with a strong affinity for and leading melodically to the tonic. In music theory, the leading note triad is symbolized by the Roman numeral VII, while the leading-tone seventh chord may be VIIo7 or VIIø7.

The half-diminished seventh chord also known as a half-diminished chord or a minor seventh flat five is formed by a root note, a minor third, a diminished fifth, and a flat seventh. Its consecutive intervals are minor third, minor third, major third.

In diatonic harmony, the half-diminished chord occurs naturally on the seventh scale degree of any major scale (for example, B in C major). By the same virtue, it also occurs on the second degree of any natural minor scale (e.g., D in C minor). It occurs as a leading-tone seventh chord in major and can be represented by the integer notation {0, 3, 6, 10}. It has been described as a “considerable instability”.


A diminished seventh chord is a four note chord that comprises a diminished triad plus the interval of a diminished seventh (alternatively regarded enharmonically as a major sixth) above the root. It occurs as a leading-tone seventh chord in harmonic minor and can be represented by the integer notation {0, 3, 6, 9}.

Because of this it can also be viewed as four notes all stacked in intervals of a minor third. The diminished seventh contains two diminished fifths, which often resolve inwards.

Diminished seventh chord resolution: both diminished fifths tend to resolve inward, doubling the third of the tonic chord. The diminished seventh chord can appear in first, second, or (least common) third inversion.

1) Resolution of the dominant seventh chord to the tonic triad:
VII7 – I 53
VII65 – I 6
VII43 – I 6
VII2 – I 64
2) Resolution of the leading seventh chord through dominant seventh chord to the tonic triad:
VII7 – V 65 – I 53
VII65 – V 43 – I 53
VII43 – V 2 – I 6
VII2 – V 7 – I 3

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