I'm sure this has been asked before but I cannot find in anywhere. Say you are in the key of C major. What is the name of a dominant chord on the 6th scale degree, i.e. A C# E G. This device is ubiquitous in pop music, and off the top of my head 'Fallen Down' from the Undertale soundtrack is the first simple tune that comes to mind which features it. I have been mentally referring to this as a Neapolitan chord but this is a different harmonic device.

  • 2
    Unclear: the name of the chord is of course A7, or VI7. What more are you looking for? Some clarification in the question title and in the body of the question might be helpful, but any more detailed explanations would require more information about the context in which the chord is found.
    – user39614
    Nov 9, 2018 at 13:31
  • @DavidBowling I was just wondering if this chord had a name, really. A name might mean I could find pointed information on its history and usage. I hit a break in my search with the term 'VI7' and It seems as though it's so elementary and ubiquitous that it doesn't have one
    – basket
    Nov 9, 2018 at 13:38
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    Again, context matters. It is likely a secondary dominant, e.g. in the common I - VI - ii - V "Rhythm changes" variation.
    – user39614
    Nov 9, 2018 at 13:43
  • @DavidBowling Yes that sounds about right, or rather, consistent with how I hear it. The example I mentioned in the OP goes I - IV - IV - iv. Another example is the progression I - VI7 - ii - IV. The contexts that I am thinking of are essentially when it is juxtaposed with the root chord so you get the really nice voice leading of the one to the flat two or vice versa.
    – basket
    Nov 9, 2018 at 13:53
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    The "name" of the chord is independent of the context within the progression. As has been stated it is A7 (regardless of the key). Being in C identifies the root as being on the 6th degree of the key and Tim's answer describes that dynamic. But the chord is identified by its formula (1, 3, 5) = Maj, (1, b3, 5) = min, (1, 3, 5, b7) = dom 7, etc, etc.
    – user50691
    Nov 9, 2018 at 17:02

1 Answer 1


Often it'll be a secondary dominant or V/V, V/ii, V/iii, V/vi. In other words, it's non-diatonic (containing C#), and often leads, in this case, to Dm. It's the V of Dm, - A7. It can be named VI7, but that doesn't give much of a clue as to what it's actually doing in relation to other chords around it. But if it doesn't lead to Dm (ii), then it's more of a standalone, and can be labelled VI7.

So to sum up, in key C major, it's called, in RN, V7/ii. Or simply, A dominant 7.

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