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Chord Progressions - The vi-chord (relative minor)

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Previous page: Chord Progressions - Major progressions with diatonic minor chords Next page: Chord Progressions - The 50's cliche Part 1: I-vi-IV-V7-I

The vi-chord (relative minor)

The first minor chord we will introduce is the relative minor chord. Just to add to the confusion, we can say that this is the tonic of the relative minor key. It is a minor chord built on the sixth, which we will give the roman numeral vi.

You can do a lot with just the I-iv move, although it may get a bit boring if you do not move on. But hang on to these two chords and learn the sound of the I-iv move. You should also know how it works the other way, which will be i-IIIb if we spell it in the minor key.

Before moving on, we need to know a little about chord substitution. As a starting point we can say that two chords that are closely related can subsitute each other. Chords are closely related if they have many notes in common. If we stick to C-major, we will have these four chords if we add the relative minor to the three primary chords: C (I) - F (IV) - G (V) - Am (vi).

The C has the notes C-E-G, F has F-A-C, G has G-B-D and Am has A-C-E. The C-major and Am share the notes C-E, while F-major and Am share the notes A-C. And all three chords have the C. As C-major and Am have two notes in common, they are closely related. And as F-major and Am also have two notes in common, they are closely related too. The Am can - depending on the context - substitute both the C and the F chords. And it can make a smooth transition between the two chords. If we start from the I-IV-V-I three chord trick, and put a vi between the I and the IV, then we get a progression you can hear in thousands of songs: I-vi-IV-V-(I). I have called this "The 50s cliche", as it is to me a very typical 1950s sound. Dominic Pedler use the term "Four chord turnaround". The name is not important as long as you learn the chords and the sound.

Compare the voice leading in a C-F change and a C-Am-F change:

G -> A
E -> F
C - C
C-major - F-major

G -> A - A
E - E -> F
C - C - C
C-major A-minor F-major

Some progressions with the vi-chord

I-vi vamp
I-V-vi
I-V-vi-I-IV
I-V-vi-IV
I-V-vi-IV-V
I-V-vi-V
I-vi-IV
IV-vi / vi-IV

Previous page: Previous page: Chord Progressions - Major progressions with diatonic minor chordsNext page: Chord Progressions - The 50's cliche Part 1: I-vi-IV-V7-I Next page:

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Previous page: Chord Progressions - Major progressions with diatonic minor chords Next page: Chord Progressions - The 50's cliche Part 1: I-vi-IV-V7-I