the course of this series, we've been building
the foundations we need to create naturally flowing chord progressions
songwriting shouldn't be a rule-bound process, but the steps I'm taking
you through here can be seen as the building blocks, to
which you will naturally add your own embellishments as you become more
it's important you have a basic understanding of chords on guitar. The chords section on the site
has everything you need to learn chords!
So, time to add a new chord to our foundation scale, known as the
supertonic or ii chord.
In music theory, the chord we're about to add to the scale is called
represented by the roman numeral ii
(2). This is because it's the 2nd chord in the scale following
tonic 1 chord (which we looked at in an earlier part).
So far, then, we have: I
(sub-dominant) and V
notice that the supertonic is represented by a lower case numeral.
is because lower case numerals indicate the chord is a minor chord. The
supertonic's natural chord type, therefore, is minor.
a similar format to the previous lessons, we first need to understand
position on the fretboard, in relation to the other
chords we know. For this, we need to refer back to the major scale -
the foundation of the chord scale we're building.
The above diagram shows the major
scale in its 1st position box pattern. We can see that the
(ii) lies one whole step
from the root
- the root note of the tonic I
Therefore, we can use this 2nd note position as the root/bass note of
our ii chord/supertonic chord!
already know that 1
= tonic root, 5
= dominant root
and 4 =
subdominant root. It's just a case of building a chord on each
of the major scale's degrees, onto those bottom 3 bass strings. This
gives us a visual relationship for building our chord scale in our
supertonic in relation to the tonic
So from above, we can single out the root note relationship between the
chord in the scale, first on the low
This relationship is the same no
matter where you are
on the fretboard. For example, if the tonic/I chord's root note was
positioned on the note G,
you'd know the supertonic/ii chord would be
a whole step higher, on the note A.
If you've been through the
chord section on the main site, you'll know we can build chords onto A
and D string
root/bass notes as well...
is a good starting point for knowing where to build chords - identify
the root/bass note on the E, A or D (usually E or A) strings and build
the chord (e.g. a barre chord form) from that position. Or, you might
know how to play that same chord in a different position - all the
I mentioned earlier that the ii
in its basic form is a minor chord. So, with this knowledge, we could
create a very simple two-chord progression changing between the major
tonic and minor supertonic. Take a look below at an example using one
of the string relationships from above...
- G major
- A minor
In this example, the root notes are G
(I) and A
(ii), so I
play the open chords G (I) and Am (ii) if I
So, whatever key it's played in, you should train your ear to that relationship.
The ii chord is part of that "journey away from home" that either
resolves to the tonic, or provides a gateway to another chord in the
progression and a continuation of that journey. Let's look at involving
and V chords from previous lessons to see how they can interact with
I ii IV V progressions
not necessarily in that order! See, as the chord scale grows, we have
more and more combinations to pick out. Some popular ones...
a staple part of jazz harmony, often referred to as a "2 5 1 cadence".
And of course, we can extend those progressions to
include more than one combo, either separated by a verse/chorus or
simply as one longer, more progressive sequence (e.g. I - V - ii - IV -
V - I - IV - ii - repeat).
look more indepth at these common examples, based on our knowledge
of the root note positions of the 4 chords we've learned so far.
Remember, some of these positions will allow you to play open chords,
such as the first chord example below - we know that G, D, Am and C can
be played open from the open chord series. Otherwise, I'm
playing the basic barre chord shapes (E and A)
around those root note positions.
we can see that, as we build our foundation chord scale, we
can literally pull out chords in different combinations and create very
As you continue through the chord progressions section (and I hope you
will!), you'll see your songwriting options open up more and more.
Plus, you won't just be limited to the chord scale we're building here,
because you'll discover how you can add in chords around the scale and
essentially link up these chords in interesting ways.
The "in-scale" chords will keep things from wandering aimlessly
off-track, whereas the "outside" chords will inject some spice and
unpredictability to your songs. They both complement each other.