In the major scale the V is the dominant chord, and the IV is the sub-dominant chord. Is it the same exact thing in the minor scale?

Also, I saw that the V and IV chord are the most played chords in the major scale (see: http://www.hooktheory.com/blog/i-analyzed-the-chords-of-1300-popular-songs-for-patterns-this-is-what-i-found/)

But are they just as popular in the minor scale? Meaning, is the iv and V in minor function the same as IV and V in major


In the major scale the V is the dominant chord, and the IV is the sub-dominant chord. Is it the same exact thing in the minor scale?

"Dominant" in these two terms means fifth. The V chord is called the dominant because its root is a fifth above tonic, and the IV chord is called the subdominant because its root is a fifth below tonic. (It's not called subdominant because it is "below dominant.")

As such, these terms hold true no matter what key or mode you are in. If the root is a fifth above tonic, it is the dominant triad; if the root is a fifth below tonic, it is the subdominant triad. This obtains in minor keys, the dorian mode, etc.

Regarding the frequency of these chords in minor keys, HookTheory seems not to have published that information, because that's not how they went about collecting their data. They discuss it here:

As you have noted, Hooktheory currently stores data in the relative major mode. We chose this because we felt that the majority of progressions in popular music are either in the major mode, or ambiguous enough that analyzing them in the major mode is satisfactory. For songs that are properly in a different mode, the relationships between chords would be preserved (e.g., vi → IV of the ionian mode and i → ♭VI of the aeolian mode are counted as the same trend).

One of the reasons they chose not to focus specifically on minor keys is due to the size of their data set, because over 90% of their tabs are in the Ionian mode.


Most of the chords in the minor mode have the same function as in the major mode. The i, iv, and V function exactly the same way.

Exceptionally, the VII in the minor mode is common in sequences and as the V/III. The ii0 in the minor is even stronger in the ii0-V-i pattern than the corresponding ii-V-I. The ii can also be used in a ii=V-i pattern. Likewise a chromatic II-V-i can be used similarly to the II-V-I in the major. The III needs a bit of care so as not to sound like a tonic. The VI is used similarly in the minor mode; a deceptive V7-VI works here too.


V (complete with being a major chord) is just as popular in minor keys as in major keys. Both types of keys use it as a dominant-function chord.

IV (the major chord) is significantly less popular in minor keys than in major ones, especially since it doesn't tend to resolve to the tonic in minor keys (as opposed to IV in major keys). It's still used, though, and it still plays a subdominant role otherwise.

In minor keys, iv (the minor chord) tends to take over IV-in-major-keys's role, including resolving to the tonic.

  • oops yes, I meant IV = iv when I wrote the question
    – user34288
    Apr 22 '17 at 21:19

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