I make music in FL Studio and I have this chord progression which goes: VI - i - VII - i - iv - i - VII - i

I guess my question is what is the decision behind putting the tonic (i) in the 2nd, 4th and 6th spot? Isn't a chord progression supposed to be a 'flow' of tension and release, and most chord progressions have their 'home' or 'release' at the end/start of the loop? I know this isn't a rule, but I just can't wrap my head around the tonic chord being in the 2nd place of the progression, it sounds weird to me. Maybe my ear is just trained to hear more pop progressions that are overused nowadays, I don't know.

When writing a progression like this, is this type of a decision completely a creative decision or is there a specific reason why they're placed like that? Like can I shuffle this exact chord progression into something else and if it sounds good to me just go with it?

I have more chord progressions like this saved in my folder and I'm always frustrated because my ear doesn't know where the tonic chord is, which is something that I want to practice at the moment.

  • Do you mean that your progression is for example: A - Cm - B - Cm - Fm - Cm - B - Cm? What are the concrete chords in some key, for example? Or is it Ab - Cm - Bb - Cm - Fm - Cm - Bb - Cm? It would make the question clearer if you could confirm this. Jul 28, 2022 at 20:52

2 Answers 2


It's ultimately an aesthetic decision.

The "harmonic rhythm" makes a difference

One possibility is that the VI, although the first chord, is actually in a rhythmically or melodically "weak" position, such that the i is still the "strong" chord.

Hiding the tonality is a thing

Romantic-era classical composers often tried to make the key of a piece ambiguous. One example is Chopin's Prelude in E minor. A root position E minor chord doesn't occur until the very last chord of the piece.


I assume that your progression is, for example Ab - Cm - Bb - Cm - Fm - Cm - Bb - Cm in C minor, or F - Am - G - Am - Dm - Am - G - Am in A minor.

Chord progressions are harmonic swaying from side to side, and back to center. The tonic is your center position, center of balance.

One way to think about chord progressions around a tonic is what I call 3 + 3 basic chords: 3 on the major side and 3 on the minor side. Let's say the major side is "front" and minor side is "back", dominant is "left", tonic is "center" and subdominant is "right". We have two dimensions: back-to-front and left-to-right.

three plus three chords

If we map your chord progression F - Am - G - Am - Dm - Am - G - Am to this model, we get the following dance moves for the left-right dimension:

Right - Center - Left - Center - Right - Center - Left - Center

Now to your original question: how can a progression start with something else than a tonic? If we map that to the dance moves chart, the question becomes: how can a sequence begin from anywhere else than center position?

This is about the art of song-writing IMO. What kind of a harmonic story do you want to tell? Where do you place the moments of feeling tense, and where do you place the moments of release, in your story? It's a matter of taste, but your chord progression could work as a chorus or maybe a bridge. Or why not a verse as well, as long as you have established where the center position is, with an intro or something.

To make the progression slightly more interesting - and this is a matter of taste - you could add some variety in the back-to-front direction. How about: F - Am - G - Am - Dm - C - G - Am ? The C in there makes it slightly less boring, when it's not going back home to Am all the time, immediately. And if you want some extra interest and glue, how about repeating it but with a special interest chord in the middle... and add more back-to-front movement by replacing the G with Em which is also on the dominant side:

F - Am - G - Am - Dm - C - G - Asus4 ... F - Am - G - Am - Dm - C - Em - Am

What I'm saying is, it's about form and structure. What is your big structure. Is it a limerick, haiku or 12-bar blues? What is the form.

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