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Chord Progressions - The ii-chord (supertonic)

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Previous page: Chord Progressions - The 50s Cliche - Part 2: Relations between chords Next page: Chord Progressions - The I-vi-ii-V progression, part 1

The ii-chord (supertonic)

The ii-chord is called supertonic because it is built on the note one step above the tonic note.

To understand these secondary chords, we need to know a little about chord substitution. The more notes two chord have in common, the more likely it is that they can subsitute each other. As seen, but not pointed out in the vi-chord lesson, the vi-chord has two notes in common with the I-chord and two notes in common with the IV-chord. This means that the vi-chord can substitute both the I and the IV-chord. But for some reason I cannot really explain, the relation is closer to the I-chord. Because of the common tones, the vi-chord makes a smooth transition from the I to the IV chord.

The ii-chord has two notes in common with the IV-chord. If we stick to C-major, the ii-chord is D-minor and the IV chord i F-major. D-minor has the notes D-F-A and F-major has F-A-C. This means that D-minor can substitute F-major.

We can start with a I-ii progression, which is a I-IV progression with ii as a substitute for IV. The Beatles' song "Don't Let Me Down" is probably the most well known example of this progression. It can also substitute IV in the ending, which will give ii-I, which is a weak plagal ending.

The I-vi-ii-V progression

If we start from the I-vi-IV-V progression, we can go one step further and subsitute the IV with the ii. This will give us the I-vi-ii-V progression. If we are in C-major, we play C-Am-Dm-G-(C) instead of C-Am-F-G-(C). The C-Am-F-G-(C) has a rougher edge and is often preferred in pop/rock songs. The C-Am-Dm-G-(C) is smoother and a bit more "sophisticated", and is often preferred in ballads etc.

Now you should listen to the root movement in the two progressions. From I to vi is down a minor third. But when we continue from there, we have important differences. From vi to IV is down a major third. But from vi to ii, we go down a perfect fifth. The root-movement is down a fifth. From IV to V we go up a major second. But from ii to V is down another perfect fifth. Both progressions concludes with the V-I move – once again down another perfect fifth. The I-vi-ii-V progression has a root-movement with three falling fifths down to to tonic. We go three steps to the left through the circle of fifths. This gives a very strong direction in this progression.

The ii-V-I progression

If we add the return to the I-chord in the I-vi-ii-V progression, it ends with a ii-V-I progression. It is two falling fifths. This progression, often referred to as two-five-one jazz musicians, is the mainstay in a lot of jazz. The music develops through series of ii-V-I changes.

Chord stream

You may also hear the ii-chord in a chord stream, where you play chords stepwise up or down.

Progressions with the ii-chord

I-ii
I-ii-iii
I-ii-iii-IV
I-ii-iii-vi-IV-V
I-ii-IIIb-VIb
I-ii-IV-I
I-ii-VIIb-I
I-iii-ii-V
I-III-ii-V
I-IM7-iii-ii-V7
I-IV-ii
I-IV-ii-V
I-IV-ii7-iii7-IV-iii7-V7
I-V-ii
I-V-ii-IV
I-vi-ii-IV
I-vi-ii-V
I-vi-ii-VIIb
I-vi-iii-ii-iv
I-vi-iii-ii-V
I-vi-IV-ii-VIIb-I
ii-I
ii-IV-I
ii-v-IIIb-IV
ii-VIb-I
ii-VIIb-I
ii-VIIb-V-I
iii-iiib-ii
IV-ii-vi-IV
IV-ii-vi-v
IV-ii-vi-VI

Previous page: Previous page: Chord Progressions - The 50s Cliche - Part 2: Relations between chordsNext page: Chord Progressions - The I-vi-ii-V progression, part 1 Next page:

Previous page: Next page:
Previous page: Chord Progressions - The 50s Cliche - Part 2: Relations between chords Next page: Chord Progressions - The I-vi-ii-V progression, part 1