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Guitar Chord Progression:

ii - Supertonic - Chord

Other Chord progressions

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

The chord will often precede the V-chord, before resolving to I, and we get the ii-V-I which is the main chord sequence in jazz. In this context, the chord is a substitute for the IV-chord. If you compare the sound of I-IV-V-I and (I)-ii-V-I, you will hear that the latter has a smoother sound. And as you will see in the next lesson, the ii-chord may substitute the IV-chord in the 50's cliche progression, giving I-vi-ii-V-I instead of I-vi-IV-V-I.

Backing Track
Listen to these tracks to hear the difference between I-IV-V and I-ii-V. You will hear I-IV-V, then I-ii-V, back to I-IV-V, etc. I have applied different styles to each key, to illustrate how it sounds with different instruments and musical styles.
C D Eb E F G A Bb

If we once again go to the key of C-major, the ii-chord is D-minor. Dm has the notes D-F-A, and you will see that is has two notes, the F and A in common with the IV-chord F. And as these are the two most important notes of the F chord, Dm will often work well as a substitution. If you try to look for a substitution in the other direction, it will be the chord with it's root one diatonic third below D, which in this case will take us to B. You will get a chord with the notes B-D-F, which is the Ddiminished, often labeled B°, Bdim or B-. But this is a different sounding chord, and we will leave it for later.

We can play a little more with the Blowing In The Wind chords. First we can substitute all the F-chords where they are preceding a G7 chord in the chorus.

C F C Am
C F G7 G7
C F C Am
C F G7 G7
C F C Am
C F G7 G7
Dm G7 C Am
Dm G7 Am C

And the we can substitute the other F-majors preceding G7.

C F C Am
C Dm G7 G7
C F C Am
C Dm G7 G7
C F C Am
C Dm G7 G7
Dm G7 C Am
Dm G7 Am C

An finally we substitute the rest of the F-chords.

C Dm C Am
C Dm G7 G7
C Dm C Am
C Dm G7 G7
C Dm C Am
C Dm G7 G7
Dm G7 C Am
Dm G7 Am C

In my ears, this is far too much Dm. It does not sound wrong in the sense that it crashes with the melody, but it sounds dull. But this might be so because I have been playing the progression we were starting from for 35 years, so a new harmonization does not sound as I am used to hear the song. Experiment, and let your ear decide. Maybe just the last F should be substituted by Dm?

We who are playing folk, blues, rock or pop will usually play the same chords in each verse of a song. But you might vary the harmonization from one verse to the other just for the variation, or to underscore the mood in the lyric. In more "composed" songs, this is often the case (the melody might vary as well). If we stick to our Blowing In The Wind example, you might for instance try to use minor harmony when the lyric goes "how many deaths will it take till he knows, that too many people have died?". (If you want the lyric, the lyric to all Bob Dylan's songs are on his official web-site.)

In this MIDI-file you can hear all 5 harmonizations of the tune. First the two from the The vi-chord - relative minor , and then the three variation presented here. Listen to how we start with major chord only, and introduce a few new minor chords for each new verse, until we end up with no F-chords. Then it goes back to first all major version, and the whole sequence is repeated (total three times).

You can also hear the ii-chord in a chord stream, but we will come back to these progressions soon.

Recordings with the ii Supertonic progression - Annotaded


Books covering the progression -

Further references:

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