The VI chord

Roman numerals in music refer to chords based on scale steps. The VI chord can mean different things depending on the actual musical key. In the key of C major, the VI chord is A.

Chords and intervals

The table shows how scale steps and chords are related in the key of C:

Scales steps 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Roman numerals I ii ii IV V vi vii
Chords C Dm Em F G Am Bdim

The sixth scales step is A, which result in the diatonic A minor. The sixth note of a scale is also referred to as the submediant .

Whereas the sixth degree is minor in the context of the Major scale, the sixth degree is flatted major (bVI) in the Phrygian mode. The following table is based on the C Phrygian:

Scales steps 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
Roman numerals i II III iv v vi vii
Chords Cm Db Eb Fm Gdim Ab Bbb

The VI chord in all keys

The VI chord is identical with the sixth degree of the key, a list of the sixth chord would look like this:


C major key = A major
C# major key = A# major
D major key = B major
D# major key = C major
E major key = C# major
F major key = D major
F# major key = D# major
G major key = E major
G# major key = F major
A major key = F# major
A# major key = G major
B major key = G# major

 

So, for example, in the key of C#, the VI chord will be A#.

The vi chord in all keys

A similar set of relationship can be seen for the minor keys:


A minor key = Fm
A# minor key = F#m
Bm minor key = Gm
Cm minor key = G#m
C#m minor key = Am
Dm minor key = A#m
D#m minor key = Bm
Em minor key = Cm
Fm minor key = C#m
F#m minor key = Dm
G minor key = D#m
G# minor key = Em

 

So, for example, in the key of C minor, the vi chord will be G#m.

The VI and vi chords in progressions

Since the sixth degree become a minor in major keys based on diatonic chords, the vi chord is most often minor. A progression based on the C major key could be F (IV) - Am (vi) - G (V) - C (I). The same progression including extended chords: F6 (IV6) - Am7 (vi7) - G7 (V7) - C (I).

One famous song that involve a major sixth degree chord is Bob Dylan's "Tangled up in Blue"; the verse begins A (I) - G (VI).

See also Chord theory | Music theory.

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