I VI ii V in C Major - Smarter Guitar
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I VI ii V in C Major

Smarter Guitar / I VI ii V in C Major

IV V iii vi Triads in C Major Chord Chart

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The I VI ii V progression is found in many jazz standards (including the A section of Rhythm Changes) – often as a turnaround at the end of a section or the end of the song.

This works as a turnaround because the V wants to resolve back to the I (the tonic).

What’s unique here is the fact that the VI chord is Major. In a diatonic major key, the 6 Chord is minor.

In jazz, the vi chord is often substituted with a VI7(b9) chord.

In the key of C, the vi chord of Aminor7 is changed to A7(b9)

The VI7(b9) chord creates some nice tension that is resolved when you hit the iim7 chord.

Soloing over the CMaj7, Dmin7, and G7 Chords should be pretty straightforward.

They are all in the key of C Major, so a C Major Scale will sound good over all 3 chords.

You can technically use a D Dorian Mode over Dm7 and a G Mixolydian mode over G7, but it’s simplest to focus on the C Major Scale.

The A7(b9) chord is interesting though. The chord contains the notes A, C, E, G, Bb (although you only play some of those notes in a guitar chord voicing).

The C# and Bb notes are outliers. Playing a C Major Scale (which has natural C and B notes) would sound pretty odd over it.

One thing to notice is that the chord after A7b9 is Dmin7. We can treat the A7 chord as if it was a V7 chord in the key of D minor. The V chord wants to resolve to the I chord.

The 5th mode of the harmonic minor scale works well for this.

The D Harmonic Minor Scale is: D, E, F, G, A, Bb, C#

The 5th Mode (starting with A) is A, Bb, C#, D, E, F, G

This is referred to as the ‘Phrygian Major Mode’. The only difference between the regular Phrygian mode and this mode is that it has Major 3rd.

C Major Scale 8th Fret
C Major Scale 7th Fret