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Submediant in chain of fifths[1] About this soundPlay .
vi–ii–V–I in J. S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier Book I, Prelude in F major.[3] About this soundPlay 

In music, the vi–ii–V–I progression is a chord progression (also called the circle progression for the circle of fifths, along which it travels). It is "undoubtedly the most common and the strongest of all harmonic progressions" and consists of "adjacent roots in ascending fourth or descending fifth relationship", with movement by ascending perfect fourth being equivalent to movement by descending perfect fifth due to inversion.[4]

The circle progression is commonly a succession through the seven diatonic chords of a diatonic scale by fifths, including one progression by diminished fifth, (in C: between F and B) and one diminished chord (in C major, Bo), returning at the end to the tonic. A circle progression in C major with chords I–IV–viio–iii–vi–ii–V–I is shown below.

      \new PianoStaff <<
        \new Staff <<
            \new Voice \relative c' {
                \clef treble \time 4/4
                \stemUp e2 f d e c d b c
            \new Voice \relative c' {
                \stemDown c2 c b b a a g g
        \new Staff <<
            \new Voice \relative c' {
                \clef bass \time 4/4
                \stemUp g2 a f g e f d e 
            \new Voice \relative c {
                \stemDown c f, b e, a d, g c,
    >> }

Shorter common progressions may be derived by selecting certain specific chords from the series completing a circle from the tonic through all seven diatonic chords,[4] such as the primary triads bookending the progression:

I V I About this soundCircle progression excerpt: I–V–I 
I IV V I About this soundCircle progression excerpt: I–IV–V–I 
vi–ii–V–I in Mozart's Sonata, K. 545[1] About this soundPlay .

The ii–V–I turnaround lies at the end of the circle progression, as does the vi–ii–V–I progression of root movement by descending fifths, which establishes tonality and also strengthens the key through the contrast of minor and major.[1]

The circle progression may also contain dominant seventh chords.


I−vi−ii−V is a very common[5] "chord pattern"[6] in jazz and popular styles of music. It is often used[7] as a turnaround, occurring as the last to two bars of a chorus or section.[6] IviiiV typically occurs as a two bar pattern in the A section of the rhythm changes.[8]

In the jazz minor scale the diatonic progression

|: iM7 viø7 | ii7 V+7 :|
|: CmM7 Am75 | Dm7 G713 :|  Play 

is possible.[9]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c William G Andrews and Molly Sclater (2000). Materials of Western Music Part 1, p.227. ISBN 1-55122-034-2.
  2. ^ Andrews, William G; Sclater, Molly (2000). Materials of Western Music Part 1, p.226.  ISBN 1-55122-034-2.
  3. ^ Jonas, Oswald (1982). Introduction to the Theory of Heinrich Schenker, p.26 (1934: Das Wesen des musikalischen Kunstwerks: Eine Einführung in Die Lehre Heinrich Schenkers). Trans. John Rothgeb. ISBN 0-582-28227-6.
  4. ^ a b Bruce Benward and Marilyn Nadine Saker, Music In Theory and Practice, seventh edition, 2 vols. + 2 sound discs (Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2003) 1:178. ISBN 978-0-07-294262-0.
  5. ^ Lees, Gene (2000). "Jazz and the American Song". In Kirchner, Bill (ed.). The Oxford Companion to Jazz. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 259.
  6. ^ a b Strunk, Steven (2007), "Harmony", in Kernfeld, Barry (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz;, 2nd Edition, New York: Oxford University Press
  7. ^ Moore, Alan F. (2002). "XII". The Cambridge Companion to Blues and Gospel Music. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 126.
  8. ^ DeVeaux, Scott Knowles (1997). The Birth of Bebop: a Social and Musical History. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 310.
  9. ^ Arnold, Bruce E. (2001). Music Theory Workbook for Guitar: Scale Construction, p.12. ISBN 978-1-890944-53-7.