I have a couple of questions related to chord function in natural minor. I have been playing around with chord functions and how they relate to each other. The first chord I am confused by is the function of the major VI in a natural minor key. Going by the chord functions assigned to the major key system it could function as a tonic. However when I play it I feel it sounds like it is working in more of a subdominant role in the sequences I play.

Secondly the minor v chord in natural minor does not feel like it has a dominant function again despite the terminology applied to it. It sounds slightly more "tonicy" to me when I play sequences.

In a nutshell, in natural minor does a VI chord function more as a subdominant or a tonic and does a v chord function more as a tonic or a dominant?

Please note I am talking about the function and how it sounds not the terminology.

Thanks in advance, love this site!


3 Answers 3


Don't get stuck in the idea that you're restricted to chords built from the natural minor scale. You'll find plenty of major V chords in the repertoire, and plenty of major IV ones too. As you say, if you want dominant functionality rather than modal meandering (though that's nice too!) a major V or V7 is very useful. That's why the form of minor scale that includes it is called the Harmonic Minor. There's another form, the Melodic Minor, which validates the major IV chord.


When you write that you "feel [VI] sounds like it is working in more of a subdominant role", you have good reason: VI's triad contains ^6 and ^1, and so does iv. The whole of VI's triad is part of the iv7 chord.

One key closely related to any minor key is its relative major key III. VI is IV of III.

One factor which makes v seem like not a dominant is that its triad lacks the all-important leading-note (leading-tone), the raised ^7.

  • 2
    ^ can be used to mean "degree" of a scale, so ^7 mean seventh degree of the scale. That's the easy way to type it on a computer, but properly printed the 'circumflex' should be above the number. Check out en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Degree_(music) Commented Oct 5, 2018 at 18:18

IV has basically a pre-dominant function. Take a look at this harmony chart...

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The minor v will not be a dominant, because it doesn't have a leading tone. Here is one typical way it is used...

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...notice how the second chord is the minor v in first inversion and then the fourth and fifth chords are the dominant V, first inversion and use the leading tone.

So the minor v may be found as part of a descending bass or harmonic sequence, but not in a cadence. To form a cadence you would use the true dominant form with the raised leading tone.


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