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I came across a chord progression in the bridge of a song called Sweet Tooth by Intervals. The progress goes Gm - A# - Dm - C# in the key of Dm. Afaik the first three chords would be iv - IV - I, so my question is what relation does C# have to the the key of Dm, is it a secondary chord or is it simply just outside the key of Dm?

Edit: Fixed Gm mistake. Was written as iii, but should be IV.

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Considering the D-minor key signature has one flat (B flat), the second chord will best be understood as a B-flat chord, not an A-sharp chord. Also, the Roman numerals will be iv--VI--i; the first chord (G minor) is built on the fourth scale degree, not the third.

As for the C-sharp major chord, although it is outside the key of D minor, there are a few ways of conceptualizing this:

  1. First, C sharp is the leading tone in D minor. Since the leading tone is such a strong impetus within dominant chords, we can view this C-sharp chord as a dominant substitute, thus it's just functioning as a dominant to get you back to tonic.

  2. Secondly, let's think about the pitches involved in the C-sharp and D-minor triads. The first has C# E# G#, the latter D F A. You'll note that the E# of the first chord is the same as the F in the latter. Some composers use this relationship, where the chordal third stays the same, but the boundary perfect fifth moves by semitone. (Some call this a slide relationship/transformation, because the perfect fifth slides by one semitone.)

  3. One other possibility is that it is a secondary chord that resolves later in the piece. If so, it would want to move to F#; perhaps F# plays a larger role later in the piece?

  4. Finally, let's imagine it was a dominant for F#. If this dominant of F# were to resolve deceptively, it could move to VI of F#, or a D-major triad. Although the triad in your question is D minor, we nevertheless see how a C# triad can easily resolve to a D triad.

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  • Thanks for the great answer @richard. The C# chord only ever resolves to the Gm and repeats the progression so it I think part 1 and or 2 of your answer best explain the relationship. On the last repetition of sequence the progression goes from Dm to C7 then A# which leads into a chorus starting with Dm. – Jack Vial Apr 1 '17 at 14:42

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