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Chord Progressions - The subdominant (IV) chord

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Previous page: Chord Progressions - The harmonic stronghold: The V7-I progression Next page: Chord Progressions - I-IV Progressions

The subdominant (IV) chord, I-IV, IV-I and I-IV-I progressions

The subdominant is called so because it is the chord one fifth down from the root. The I-IV progression has the root-movement down one fifth, which means that the music "wants" to go from the I to the IV. While the V chord leads the way home, the IV leads the way out. You will notice that a large number of songs start with a move from I to IV.

In many songs you will approach the V from IV, which will give a IV-V-I ending. This is what you have in the basic "Three Chord Wonder". But you find it in many other progressions where you do not go straight from I to IV.

The IV-I ending is called The plagal cadence. As it is often associated with hymns, it is also called the amen cadence. It gives a softer ending than the V-I ending.

A variation of the ending with a IV-chord is what is called unwinding. You go V-IV-I, as you will often do in a 12-bar blues. The ending starts from the V-chord. But instead of jumping down from the V, you climb down via the IV-chord.

You can often hear a I-IV-I proression at some part in a song before it moves on to other chords. You can break the monotony of a long section on the tonic by this quick cange. An example is the IV in the second bar in a 12-bar blues type 2.

Some songs have only the I-IV-I progression, or at least have progressions that are dominated by these two chords. If the IV-chord is the destination in the composition, the message of the IV-chord seems to be get back rather than move on. A song with just the I-IV-I progression can have the carachter of an unfulfilled attemt. To me it is not just a coincidence that the Beatles song Get Back is built around I-IV-I progression with IV as the harmonic destination.

Progressions with I-IV opening

Blues 12 Type2
Blues 12 Type2T
I-IV
I-IV-I
I-IV-V
I-IV-V-IV
I-IV-ii
I-IV-II
I-IV-ii-V
I-IV-II-V
I-IV-ii7-iii7-IV-iii7-V7
I-IV-IIIb
I-IV-iv
I-IV-v (Mixolydian)
I-IV-v-IV (Mixolydian)
I-IV-Vbm7b5-IV
I-IV-vi
I-IV-VIb-VIIb-I
I-IV-VIIb-IIIb-I

Approaching V from IV

I-IV-V
I-ii-iii-vi-IV-V
I-II-IV-V
I-iii-IV-V
I-IIIb-IV-V
I-IIIb-VIIb-IV-V
I-V-IV-V
I-V-vi-IV-V
I-vi-IV-V
I-VIb-IV-V
I-VIIb-IV-V
II-IV-II-VI-V
IV-V-I-IV
vi-II7-V-I-IV-V

Progressions with IV-I (plagal) ending

IV-I
I-IV-I
I-ii-iii-IV
I-ii-IV-I
I-II-IV-I
I-iii-vi-IV
I-IV
I-IIIb-Vb-IV
I-IV-Vbm7b5-IV
I-V-I-IV
I-V-ii-IV
I-V-vi-I-IV
I-V-vi-IV
I-vi-ii-IV
I-vi-IV
I-VIIb-IV-I
ii-IV-I
IIIb-IV-I
IV-V-I-IV
v-ii-IV-I
vi7-II-IV-I
VIb-IIIb-VIIb-IV-I
VIIb-IV-I - Double plagal cadence

Progression with an unwinding ending V-IV-I.

V-IV-I - Blues ending
I-IV-V-IV
I-IVb-IV-V
I-V-IV
I-V-IV-I
I-vi-V-IV-(I)

Previous page: Previous page: Chord Progressions - The harmonic stronghold: The V7-I progressionNext page: Chord Progressions - I-IV Progressions Next page:

Previous page: Next page:
Previous page: Chord Progressions - The harmonic stronghold: The V7-I progression Next page: Chord Progressions - I-IV Progressions