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11-2  CHORD GROUPS

2. Chord Groups. The tonic triad (I) is considered separately in a progression since it is normally the tonal center upon which the chord progression is based. The six other diatonic triads of a key are assigned to one of four groups. These groups relate to the relationship and function of the chords. Figure 11-9 shows the four chord groups.

Figure 11-9. Chord Group Chart

3. Chord Relationship.

a. The strongest relationship between two chords is that of the dominant chord (V) to the tonic chord (I) (Figure 11-10). The root movement of a descending fifth, as well as the voice leading, drives the dominant chord to resolve to the tonic chord.

Figure 11-10. Dominant to Tonic Relationship

b. The next strongest relationship between two chords is that of the supertonic chord (ii) to the dominant chord (V) (Figure 11-11). The root movement of the descending fifth drives the supertonic chord to resolve to the dominant chord.

Figure 11-11. Supertonic to Dominant Relationship

c. The movement from the supertonic chord (ii) to the dominant chord (V) and then to the tonic chord (I) is referred to as a ii-V-I progression. Its strength lies in the successive root movements of a descending fifth. The strength of this root movement, and the tendency of this type of progression to harmonically resolve to the tonic, is the basis of the four chord groups and their functions within chord progressions.

4. Group One Chords.

a. Group one chords in Major and minor keys are the dominant chord (V), dominant seventh chord (V7), and the leading tone chord (viiO6). In harmonic minor or ascending melodic minor, the Augmented mediant chord (III+6) is also a group one chord. Group one chords normally progress to the tonic chord. Group one chords have dominant function. Figure 11-12 shows the group one chords in Major and minor.

Figure 11-12. Group One Chords

b. Root movement of a descending perfect fifth is most frequently used when progressing from a group one chord to the tonic chord. Root movement of an ascending minor second is less frequently used. Figure 11-13 shows group one root movement.

Figure 11-13. Group One Root Movement

NOTE: Root movement of a descending perfect fifth from group one chords to tonic chords shows a dominant to tonic function.

5. Group Two Chords.

Group two chords in Major and minor keys are the subdominant and supertonic chords.

a. In Major keys, group two chords are the major subdominant chord (IV) and the minor supertonic chord (ii). In minor keys, group two chords are the minor subdominant chord (iv) and the diminished supertonic chord (iio). Group two chords normally progress to group one chords. Group two chords have subdominant function. Figure 11-14 shows the group two chords in Major and minor.

Figure 11-14. Group Two Chords

b. Root movement of an ascending major second or a descending perfect fifth is most frequently used when progressing from a group two chord to a group one chord. Root movement of a descending minor third is rarely used. Figure 11-15 shows group two root movement.

Figure 11-15. Group Two Root Movement

NOTE: Root movement of a descending perfect fifth from group two chords to group one chords is a temporary dominant to tonic function.

6. Group Three Chords.

Group three chords in Major and minor keys are the submediant chords.

a. In Major keys, the group three chord is the minor submediant chord (vi). In minor keys, the group three chord is the Major submediant chord (VI). Group three chords normally progress to group two chords. Group three chords have tonic function. Figure 11-16 shows the group three chords in Major and minor.

Figure 11-16. Group Three Chords

NOTE: The vi chord can substitute for the I chord because of its two common tones and similarity of sound. The vi chord does not give the same feeling of repose and resolution as the tonic chord. Using the vi chord in place of the I chord, therefore, keeps the progression moving.

b. Root movement of a descending perfect fifth and a descending Major third are most frequently used when progressing from group three chords to group two chords. Figure 11-17 shows the root movement of group three chords.

Figure 11-17. Group Three Root Movement

7. Group Four Chords.

Group four chords in Major and minor keys are the mediant chords.

a. In Major keys, the group four chord is the minor mediant chord (iii). In minor keys, the group four chord is the Major mediant chord (III). Group four chords normally progress to group three chords. Group four chords can have either tonic or dominant function. Figure 11-18 shows the group four chords in Major and minor.

Figure 11-18. Group Four Chords

NOTE: The iii chord can substitute for the I chord because of its two common tones and similarity of sound. The iii chord does not give the same feeling of repose and resolution as the I chord. Using the iii chord in place of the I chord, therefore, keeps the progression moving. The iii chord can also substitute for the V chord because of its two common tones and its similarity of sound. The iii chord does not have the same strong dominant function as the V chord.

b. Root movement of a descending perfect fifth is most frequently used when progressing from group four chords to group three chords. Figure 11-19 shows group four root movement.

Figure 11-19. Group Four Root Movement

NOTE: Root movement of a descending perfect fifth from group four chords to group three chords is a temporary dominant to a temporary tonic function.

SELF REVIEW EXERCISE 11-2

 Identify which chord group (1, 2, 3, or 4) the following chords belong to (Figure 11-20).

Figure 11-20. Identify Chord Groups

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Answer Key

David L. Heiserman, Editor

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Revised: June 06, 2015