Songs that use the Subtonic chord

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Take a look at my video on the mode:.

The chord is the major chord constructed on the decreased 7th degree of the , so in the secret of C significant, Bb significant would be the chord.

The outro music to this video is my track "Mothers Day" which you can hear in full on Spotify:.

This video was modified by David Hartley. Check out his YouTube channel here:.

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0:00 Intro.
1:16 .
2:00 .
4:49 mode.
6:20 Pianote.
7:19 the "open" mixolydian noise.
8:40 Leading tone chord.
11:57 Patreon.

Songs that use the Subtonic chord

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43 Comments

    1. Re 4:30 In equal temperament, C flat is indeed B natural, however, I am not so sure they are the same pitch under just intonation.

  1. YouTube genuinely thought that I was intelligent enough to know what “subtonic” means!

    1. Don’t you remember learning about subtonic particles in chemistry class?

  2. How bizarre! I was trying to figure out how the chords in Mr Blue Sky worked in the song’s key only very recently. I came to the conclusion that the Eb was borrowed from mixolydian. Wonderful to see it covered here and explained.

  3. i love videos like these because i end up applying a lot of what i learn into my songwriting. some videos like ‘songs in 15/8’ i end up skipping because theyre similar to your other videos about time signatures (though that might not be the case because i dont watch all of them)

  4. Hi David, another classic chord progression you could cover is the James Bond chord progression, i-bVI-vi° or i-bVI-IV. It’s kind of like the parallel minor version of the Augmented Climb progression you already made a video about.

    I’ve got some suggestions for songs that use it:

    • i-bVI-vi°:
    – James Bond theme — Monty Norman; John Barry
    – Caravan — Duke Ellington
    – Du côté de chez Swann — Dave
    – Sunny — Bobby Hebb
    – Surrender — Elvis Presley

    • i-bVI-IV:
    – Skyfall — Adele (obviously that’s based on the James Bond theme, so a lot of Bond songs feature this progression)
    – Heart-Shaped Box — Nirvana
    – In Bloom — Nirvana
    – The Avengers main theme — Alan Silvestri
    – Around the World in 80 Days main theme — Hans Zimmer
    – Atomic — Blondie
    – Sorry Angel — Serge Gainsbourg
    – Dieu que c’est beau — Daniel Balavoine
    – Seventeen — Ladytron
    – BABY SAID — Måneskin

    • This one starts it on the relative major so it goes I-vi-IV-II which is equivalent to bIII-i-bVI-IV, but I thought it was worth mentioning:
    – Monde Nouveau — Feu! Chatterton

    • These ones play the progression in the key of the ii chord instead of the i, also worth mentioning I think:
    – Help! — The Beatles
    – I Get Around — The Beach Boys
    – In My Room — The Beach Boys
    – Sunday Morning — The Velvet Underground; Nico
    – Femme Fatale — The Velvet Underground; Nico

    • An honorable mention, because it uses the relative major chord instead of the i, so bIII-bVI-vi°-bVI which is equivalent to I-IV-#iv°-IV:
    All Star — Smash Mouth

    Edit: Also probably worth noting how a lot of these songs use the 1st degree of the minor scale as a pedal tone under all three chords.

    1. I believe the second progression is also used in the Avengers theme? I love it because it has a nice chromatic climb inside the chords. The 5th of the i chord climbs to the root of the VI chord, which climbs to the 3rd of the IV chord.

      Also, the Bond theme that most clearly outlines the “Bond progression” to my mind is Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name.” He even walks up that chromatic climb with his vocal melody.

    2. ​@rome8180Yeah I’d already put the Avengers theme in the list if you look.

      Kurt Cobain also highlights the chromatic climb in In Bloom. Is that like a grunge thing to do or something lol?

    3. ​@Al the Alligator I never thought of the Help! progression being related to the Bond one, cool. In typical Beatles fashion they took something rather cliche and disguised it, or rather, elaborated on it very well:
      * As you point out, it appears on the ii chord rather than the i
      * There is a clear change of chords underneath (ii – bVII – V7). Much of the time this cliche takes the form of a static chord, or pedal in the bass, with the characteristic rising chromatic line above.
      * The aforementioned chromatic line isn’t emphasized – it’s merely implied by the chord progression.
      * There’s a very prominent *descending* bass line that is arguably one of the most recognizable elements; I’d even go so far as to call it a countermelody.
      The combination of the rising upper line being downplayed, along with a prominent falling lower part, really do disguise the cliche and make it sound, well, like there’s no cliche at all!

  5. I use to think of it like a little bit of mixolidian. In fact, every single mode has its own vibe. So I think subtonic chord bring this mixolidian vibe into chord pregressions

    1. No. Stop trying to make everything about modes. It’s about keys. Keys.

    2. @Sam Brockmann I agree. People say “in a mode” too much. What does that even mean? You’re never limited to just using the notes of that mode. Like you said, a mode isn’t a key, so to be “in a mode” really doesn’t mean much, other than when a song just happens to never use any other note than a specific mode — but I mean… it could have… You’re in a key, not a mode.

      But regardless, the bVII is absolutely making use of the mixolydian mode, which has implications like for example tonicizing the IV and ii chords.

    3. @althealligator1467  , no. The bVII is using a non-diatonic chord in that key. Modes died a long time ago; let them stay dead.

  6. Thank you for another excellent video. I’m always indebted to your broadening my appreciation of music in general (as well as featuring some of my favourite artists – in this video, Fleetwood Mac and ELO)

  7. I always thought of this as modal interchange as you say. The Beatles use it a lot in their early songs. I feel like Help! would be an example, with the verse starting Aeolian and having a Mixolydian turnaround so that it doesn’t feel too resolved and it can loop around again.

  8. Great video, in “Tiny Dancer” I think that adding the note G also makes a smoother transition from Am7 as it’s also part of that chord. Bdim sounds too isolated to me.

    1. I actually like that sound quite a lot. To make it better I would probably use a Cmaj7 or Cmaj6, but I’m not sure as I haven’t checked on my instrument yet. Back to the point: I think the isolation of it makes it unexpected, which can be resolved very nicely if done correctly! 🙂

    2. @AliceN I quite agree – it seems to give a stronger resolution to the dominant. Of course, both are excellent, but provide different sounds…and the beauty of music is that both are great artistic interpretations that each of us can have different but equally valid experiences with.

    3. ​@Steven Krameryeah i always felt diminiahed chords had a stronger resolution and dominant chords feel a little smoother.

  9. Excellent video! Probably my favorite major chord that can come up in a key (even though it’s not even in the major key). Three examples of the bVII jump to mind for me… “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” by Billy Joel, “When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars, and “I Love You Always Forever” by Donna Lewis. Interestingly the iii chord presents itself in each of these too as it did in one of your examples here.

  10. Brilliant. You have such a talent for making things clear. If there were more teachers like you, then there’d be fewer middle-aged rock guitarists like me playing catch-up!

  11. The bVII-V-I resolution is probably the most wide-open sounding progression I’ve heard! I even call it the ‘Wondrous Cadence’. It appears prominently in High Sierra (by The Trio), Rocky Mountain High (by John Denver),and Someday, Little Children (from the Sesame Street soundtrack), to name a few.

    Another song that uses the subdominant chord is George Strait’s ‘Heartland’, where it appears in a bVII-IV-I sequence (essentially replacing the V with a IV).

  12. I’m from Chile, our national music or dance or something is Cueca, it frecuently uses, by example, C-Bdim-Am-G and then inmediatly G-Am-Bdim-C , all together as an intro for different songs and of course in different keys

  13. Laura Nyro’s “And When I Die (One Child Born and a World to Carry On)” has a beautiful bVII to IV to I movement in every verse. She pairs the move each time with lyrics that contain (what linguists would call) a shift in intonation. The loveliest example is the first time she sings the line “but I pray there ain’t no hell”. Also, I’m pretty sure the chorus of Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends” begins with a bVII…. THANK YOU FOR YOUR WONDERFUL VIDEOS!

  14. Your channel is absolutely useful. I can pick up a subject any time and focus on a scale, or any other detail I would like to get inspired by. Thank you so much for your work!

  15. Probably my favourite chord to write songs with. Just something fantastic about it.

  16. An example of the leading tone chord usage is Oh Such A Spring by Fontaines DC, the song is in the key of F# the first chord of the bridge is Fm7b5. You’re quite right in that it is rarely used in practice that was the only example I could think of! Great video once again 🙂

  17. As a guitarist, I think that using the subtonic chord for basic rock and pop songs is just easier and more intuitive. I do t have to think about which notes to play, because these chords are already ingrained in our heads. The diminished chord is one that I always have to “spell out” in my head.

  18. Great video as always David. I’m currently trying to write 100 songs and just recently wrote one with the chord built from the flattened seventh degree.

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