Over the past
lessons, we've been building the diatonic chord scale as
foundation for our songwriting.
there's just one more chord to add. We'll have then
laid the foundations we need to truly experiment with our own
songwriting ideas. What you've learned so far is actually quite
in-depth as far as music theory goes and, like I've said before, much
the most loved music out there exclusively uses movements within the
scale we've learned.
leading tone vii chord
is the 7th (hence the numeral vii) degree chord in the scale and
precedes the tonic (I) by one half step/semitone, from which the scale
The vii chord is often referred to as a "leading chord" or "leading
tone chord", because of its
position in relation to the tonic and how it naturally leads on to the
tonic (a resolution). A single note being played in this position is
simply called a "leading tone", so when we build a chord on this degree
we get a leading tone chord.
There are two things that make the vii chord a leading chord...
lies one semitone (half step) down from the tonic.
is naturally a diminished chord and often resolves (or "leads to") to
Let's look at that first point now on the fretboard.
first diagram shows us the root
note positions (degrees) of the chords in our
scale with the tonic chord
root note on the low E string...
relationship is movable
and relative to the tonic chord's position
(which also defines the parent key of a progression).
Now with the tonic chord root on the A string...
as you can see, the leading
root note lies just a half step (equivalent to one
fret) down from the tonic.
This is exactly how the 7th note of the
major scale is positioned in relation to the 1st note. Hopefully you'll
remember from the first few parts that this chord scale we're building
based on the intervals of the major
The only difference is we're building chords at each
opposed to just using single
So what chord do we build on that vii
root note? See point 2 above - a
I cover diminished
guitar chords in their
own lesson, but
let's look at some examples to get a flavour of how the diminished vii
resolves to the major I tonic.
diminished vii link
Diminished chords sound unstable or unresolved so they're most
commonly used as links between two more stable chords in a progression.
When that diminished chord is in the leading vii position, we get a
natural resolution. Starting in the key of C
You could also link from the V
chord (in the above example that would be G major or G7).
theorists and composers consider the leading vii as a natural
substitute for the dominant V chord as it is simply the V chord built
from its major 3rd tone and therefore shares much of its function.
The more you experiment with different chord combinations, the more
you'll train your ear to know when a particular sound is needed in your
songs. For example, you'll be sat there writing a song and you'll hear
that "diminished vii sound" in your head as one of your options.
That's the stage you ideally need to be at, and where you will be if
you keep at it.
We'll revisit diminished chords another time as they can be used in
ways other than what we've seen here.
you've been through the entire series...
From just the 7
chords and the variations we learned in the chord progressions section,
songs, well known and not so well known, have been written over the
past decades alone.
But you may or may not know that so far we've only been creating major key
progressions (progressions with a major I
tonic), so we'll need to look
at minor key
progressions at some point. Don't worry, minor key progressions make
same scale we've learned. We'll come to it later.