Im looking into chord resolution at the moment and i wonder from then way people in online tutorials talk about them if a certain chord always resolves to the same chord. Or does it depend on its role in the scale. Like, does the dominant chord always resolve to the same chord degree in the scale?

If so is it possible to give a pattern like chord IV resolves to XX and chord II resolves to YY and so on.

  • One thing I've noticed varying is the particular inversions that sound most resolved. For whatever reason, I tend to find a I where the highest tone is the third a better ending than one where it's the root. It's also common to have the root as the pedal or lowest tone in the last chord when you want resolution but it doesn't seem to make a difference to my ear as far as feeling resolved. – Luke Sawczak May 3 '19 at 11:16

Common Practice harmony is built around the concept of key centres, tonics and dominants. Having established a tonic, the music feels incomplete until it returns to that note/chord. The seventh note of a major or harmonic minor scale has a tendency to move up to the tonic, the fourth note has a tendency to move down to the third. The combination of them both in a dominant 7th chord has a particularly strong tendency to resolve to the tonic chord.

That tendency may be satisfied in a Perfect Cadence (V7 - I) or it may be frustrated in an Interrupted Cadence (V7 - vi).

So, no, a chord doesn't always resolve to the same other chord. But there may be an expected resolution, letting us give the music variety by NOT following the expected path.

"There was a young man of Tralee

Who was stung on the neck by a wasp

When asked did it hurt,

he replied not at all.

I'm lucky it wasn't a hornet!"

There is an expected path. That poem didn't follow it. Which makes it none the less valid and entertaining!

  • this might be the best explanation of a interrupted cadences I've ever heard. Bravo! – Some_Guy May 3 '19 at 13:50
  • although I always preferred "There was a young woman from Bude, Who went for a swim in the lake. A man in a punt, Stuck his pole in the water, and said you can't swim here it's private." – Some_Guy May 3 '19 at 13:52

You can't go as far as saying chord IV resolves to XX and chord II resolves to YY - if that were true, every piece in a given key would basically have the same chord progression.

You could do a statistical analysis on a set of songs and discover what chords are most likely to follow each chord. However,

  • the results would be likely to vary according to musical style/era
  • in any given musical situation, it might be that a less 'likely' chord is artistically a great choice (perhaps because it's surprising).

Ultimately, as soon as any pattern of expectation has been set up, there will be artistic value in introducing variation in how those expressions are satisfied - so you will never get objective rules in music, or any other art.


I think it is good to distinguish between progression and resolution.

Progression is merely the movement of one chord to the next. I progresses to V6.

Resolution should be understood as the resolving of something unresolved. That unresolved something is traditional a dissonance or some tension producing musical device.

In V7 to I ex. G7 to C the F above the dominant's root is dissonant, it forms a minor seventh above the root which is resolved when F moves down to E in the tonic I chord.

In the case of a plain triad V to I ex. G to C there is no dissonant seventh in the dominant chord, but we can view the leading tone scale degree in the dominant chord (the B in the chord G) as a tendency tone with a tension that gets resolved by moving up to the tonic note C.

If we consider the chords IV to I ex. F to C we certainly have a chord progression, but do we have a dissonance or tension in the F chord? I say, "no." I would simply call this a progression.

We can make a change by inverting the IV chord like IV6/4 to I. In this case the inverted 6/4 chord is traditionally viewed as unstable with the 4th being a dissonance. 6/4 chords normally resolve by the 6th and 4th move down to a 5th and 3rd. In a case where the chord inversion sets up a dissonance we can see both a simple progression along with a resolution.

...people in online tutorials talk about them if a certain chord always resolves to the same chord

It depends a lot on style and whether you are approaching harmony as just templates of common progressions.

Simply put, any chord can move to any other chord.

Even limiting to common progressions any chord can easily go to 2 or 3 possible chords.

Some chord progressions involve a resolution, but not all.


one objective point are the overtones (hamonics) that "want" to lead to a resolution. But actually any tone doesn't want to resolve anywhere. It's the composer and the audience who want, relating to their epoque, their tradition of music and hearing. The rules of music harmony are mostly opinian based.

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