EpISODE 39 HARMONIC Progression Part 3: The VII CHORD

HOSTS- Jeremy Burns, Matthew Scott Phillips


TYPE- Ear Training




BUMPER MUSIC-"The Bipolar Progression" (Area 47 Music)

ANNOUNCER- Mike Cunliffe


Continuing where episode 31 left off, this episode will cover the previously discussed chords: I, II7, IV and V7 (in major and minor) and their inversions. We now add the VII and it's inversions. Listen for the chord qualities (major, minor, dominant 7th, minor 7th and diminished) and use your theory brain to find out how to decipher chord progressions. Use this skill to learn songs faster and know music better!

KEY WORDS DIATONIC- When a triad, chord or melody consists of notes solely from the given key, it is considered to be DIATONIC. TONIC ( I )- A note in a melody or a chord in a progression based on scale degree 1 of the given key. SUPERTONIC ( ii )- A note in a melody or a chord in a progression based on scale degree 2 of the given key. SUBDOMINANT ( IV )- A note in a melody or a chord in a progression based on scale degree 4 of the given key. DOMINANT ( V )- A note in a melody or a chord in a progression based on scale degree 5 of the given key. SUBTONIC ( VII )- A note in a melody or a chord in a progression based on scale degree b7 of the given key. LEADING TONE ( vii° )- A note in a melody or a chord in a progression based on scale degree 7 of the major key or #7 of a minor key. SEVENTH ( 7th )- This would be the 4th chord tone added to a TRIAD. It will be a 7th above the root of the given chord. It can be major, minor, augmented or diminished. *It should be noted that all the above Roman numeral examples given were shown as uppercase (major) or lowercase (minor) as they relate to the MAJOR SCALE, as seen below: I - ii - IV - V - vii° - I In the MINOR SCALE, the diatonic chords will be built as seen below: i - ii° - iv - v - VII - i EXAMPLES

On average, you may be given between 3 and 5 listens to identify a chord progression. Below is a good strategy on how to use your listens wisely for each time the progression is played.

We will use 4 listens for this approach.


Use this listen to focus on the bass line. In our first example, we hear the following scale steps in the bass, beginning with scale degree 1 (C):

1 - 4 - 5 - 1

Notate it!


Use this listen to focus on the melody or the soprano voice. When you hear that note, try to identify what scale degree it is and where it goes from there. Sometimes singing (in your head), from the identified note down to the the tonic, can help zero in on what scale degree it is. In this case, we hear that scale degree 5 begins the following progression in the highest voice:

5 - 4 - 4 - 3

Notate it!


Something harmonic is coming together! We now have enough information to ENGAGE OUR THEORY BRAIN and start making educated guesses at how this progression might develop. Here's an example of the process:


-I hear scale degrees 1 (bass) and 5 (melody).


-Both of these notes are in the tonic (I) chord.


-We are in a MAJOR key and this is sounds like a MAJOR chord.


-The tonic chord is always the same quality as the key its in.


Let's call this the I chord and see how that works!


-I hear scale degrees 4 (bass) and 4 (melody).


-This note (F) is in both the SUB DOMINANT (IV) chord and in the

SUPERTONIC (ii) chord.


-We are in a MAJOR key and this is sounds like a MINOR chord.


-In MAJOR, the IV chord is MAJOR and the ii chord is MINOR. So, it can't be the IV chord.


Let's call this the ii chord for now and try to listen for a confirmation that it's major next time around.


-I hear scale degrees 5 (bass) and 4 (melody).


-Scale degree 5 is the ROOT of the V chord. Scale degree 4 is the SEVENTH  of the V7 chord. Plus it has a less stable sound. Not quite as "clean" as a regular major TRIAD.


-We are in a MAJOR key and this is sounds like a DOMINANT 7th chord. Both the I and V chords are MAJOR in said key, but only the V chord is normally a DOMINANT 7th chord in major. This really wants to go somewhere.


Let's call this the V7 chord for now and check out the next one.


-This sounds like the end of the race and it contains scale degrees 1 (C) and 3 (E). That's 2/3 a C major triad, the TONIC. It sounds like we've reached a resting point.


This mystery is just about solved! Let's call this a

I chord and give it one final listen for confirmation.


Ideally, this listen will be your confirmation listen. Check out all the voices you filled in and make sure they make sense with what you're hearing. Fill in the middle voices (the ALTO and TENOR), if you haven't already.

Here's what it will look like.



-When trying to determine which scale degree is in the highest voice, try singing down the scale from that note. If you feel you've reached the TONIC on the 3rd note down, that note is the 3rd. If you can keep going, perhaps not.


-When trying to determine a ii chord from a IV chord (in MAJOR), listen for a certain richness or an emotive appeal. This occurs because the ii chord is minor in the major keys so it stands out more.


-When trying to determine a V7 chord from a ii° (in MINOR), listen for a "sweetness" in the V7 (Mm7) compared to the "crunchiness" in the ii° (diminished).


-Try practicing progressions using these 4 chords (I,ii7,IV and V7) using CHORALE or KEYBOARD styles.


-Don't neglect the MINOR keys while working on these progressions.


-Try to get good at singing "in your head" or to your self. When you hear a chord, try to arpeggiate the notes in your head.


-Try to get good at identifying the bass lines when listening to music. These will be the first that you will want to identify when taking your listening exams.


-Budget your listens wisely. First identify the lowest notes. Second, identify the highest notes. Use the third listen to engage your theory brain and then the fourth to confirm.