Over the past 5 parts in the chord progressions section, we've been
building what's known as the diatonic chord scale - 7 chords built upon
the degrees of the major scale.
There are 3 remaining chords to complete this foundation
scale. By just playing around with the 4 chords we've already added (I,
you can create simple, 4 chord songs using different chord combinations
may even recognise some of these combinations used in songs you know.
This scale is used by songwriters more often than you
might think. It's where many of those "radio friendly" hit songs come
from, but classical music also uses the scale. However, I don't want
you to be restricted to this scale, so
we will build on these foundations in later lessons.
In this lesson we're going to add the 6th
degree of the chord scale - the vi chord (or 6
chord on the fretboard
with the other chord positions we've been learning, don't worry about
what the name "submediant" means, just get to know its relationship with
the other chords in the scale.
The submediant, in its natural form, is a minor chord,
represented by the lower case numeral vi (6), but as we'll
we can turn it into a major
The vi chord is often referred to as the relative minor of the major
key tonic (I). This is because when playing in a minor key, the vi
chord becomes the new tonic. More on this another time!
First, let's look at its position on the fretboard in relation to the
chord. Below is a movable major
Just like we've done in previous lessons, all you need to do is
identify the same degree of the major scale as the chord degree. So in
this case it's iv/6 - the 6th degree of the major scale...
as we're building chords
on this 6th degree, we need to know its
position on one of the lower strings of the guitar, as this will
be the bass root note for our vi
chord and gives us a good visual reference for playing between chord
Let's say our tonic chord
(built on the first degree of the scale) was rooted on the low E
string. Here's how the submediant root note would look in relation to
Don't forget the A string as well...
With the tonic
rooted on the A string, the same submediant
lies in two immediate places. The position on the low E string allows
us to build barre/movable
chord shapes that
use a low E string bass note (or at least use this root position as a
reference point). You can see also how this then links to
the first diagram, with the vi on the low E string.
If you know your interval names, the tonic can be seen as a minor 3rd
interval from the vi chord.
Also, the position of vi
can be identified as one
whole step (two frets) up from the V
chord (which we learned about in a previous lesson)...
This whole step V - vi relationship interval is the same on the E A and D root note strings.
we were to combine the positions of all the root notes of the chords
we've learned so far, here's how it would look, starting with the tonic
(I) chord rooted on the low E string (hint: it's exactly the same as
the major scale's intervals!)...
...and the tonic chord rooted on the A string...
how these root note positions sit alongside each other in their
sequence. Once you learn their positions, you'll be able to move
between the chords intuitively.
now we know the basic vi position in relation to the other chords,
let's get to know the sound of its chord relationship. Starting with a
major - F# minor
from hearing/playing this, you may recognise this movement as used in
popular and classical pieces. The relationship between the tonic and
submediant is similar to that between the tonic and subdominant -
it's a relaxed movement that doesn't create much tension/resolution at
all (unlike the relationship between the tonic and dominant, for
Let's look at how the submediant can interact with the other 4 chords
we've learned in this course so far...
Chord progressions involving the vi chord
By now, you should know what the next stage is! Yep - simply experiment
with different combinations of the chords in the scale and try and
memorise their positions in different keys.
just like in previous lessons, I'll show you a few example combos.
Remember, you don't have to use all 5 chords and you don't always have
to begin on the tonic chord.
When I say experiment
I really mean it! ;)
are some commonly used major key progressions that involve
chord (we'll come to minor key progressions in a later lesson)...
don't forget, as your songwriting develops, you might want to create
progressions that use alternating patterns. For example...
The most important thing is that you learn, using both your ears and
eyes on the fretboard, these relationships in any key. It's all
movements. If the tonic chord changes position, so does the rest of the
chord scale, along with the major key centre, but the scale's intervals
time, you'll be able to "feel" when, for example, a vi chord might be
an effective addition to one of your chord sequences. By learning its
sound in relation to
the other chords in this scale we're building, that feeling will become
more and more intuitive.