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The V-chord is the chord based on the fifth note of a scale. Traditionally, this chord has figured prominently in most progressions, being the easiest way to get back to the I-chord. Simply put, V-chords make your chosen key sound like “home.” But a progression of V-I is a bit too obvious for some writers. There are creative ways to avoid the V-chord that you may want to consider.
An online friend of mine, Tom Slatter (Twitter: @TomSlatter), had mentioned in a tweet to me that he prefers to avoid the V-chord, a sentiment I actually share. You know the power of the V-chord simply by choosing a key, and then moving from V to I several times. For example, try V-I in the key of F major, and you’ll be playing back and forth between C (or C7) and F. You can hear how strong that progression is.
But strength, in the chord progression world, can equate to predictability. And if you find that your chords seem to be a bit too obvious, you have options.
Because it’s not just V moving to the I-chord that makes the I-chord feel like home. There’s another factor: the effect of the constant repetition of the I-chord.
If you choose F major as the key for your song, and play F over and over, with all other chords moving eventually back to F, you’ll start to feel that F is “home”, even without the presence of a V chord to cement it for you.
And the nice thing about avoiding the use of the V-chord is that it removes its overly predictable nature from your music.
So here are some chord progressions that avoid the V-chord, and find other ways to get back to the tonic chord:
APPROACHING THE I-CHORD FROM THE ii-CHORD:
F Bb Gm F
F Dm Bb Gm F
APPROACHING THE I-CHORD FROM THE bVII-CHORD:
F Bb Dm Eb F
F Dm Gm Eb F
APPROACHING THE I-CHORD FROM THE IV-CHORD:
F Gm Bb F
F Dm Gm Bb F
APPROACHING THE I-CHORD FROM THE bIII-CHORD:
F Eb Bb Ab F
F Bb Ab Db Eb F (I find this one works well if you hold each chord for 2 beats, but give the Db and Eb 1 beat each.
There are countless other possibilities, including approaching the I chord from a semitone higher: F Bb Ab Gb F.
The great thing about avoiding the V-chord is that you can set up situations of tonal ambiguity; depending on your chord choices, it may not be immediately obvious what key you’ve chosen, and depending on your style of composition, that may be just what you’re looking for.