So I'm currently learning about using resolution in guitar chord progressions, and so far I have learned about tension chords which is usually, but not limited to, the fifth chord in the scale that helps you resolve back to your tonic. I'm also learning about backdoor cadences which can also help you resolve back to your home or I chord. As a little practice for myself I'm going through random scales and trying to find what the ♭VII chord would be in them. For D major I learned it would be C because when you flat a note in the scale that note goes down a half step in the scale, and it so happens the 7th degree in D major is C♯. So would the ♭VII chord in A major be G?


Yep. in general the bVII chord will be the major chord a whole step below the tonic. Likewise bVI will be the major chord a whole step below that.

You might find this useful: https://www.secretsofsongwriting.com/2011/05/06/using-a-flat-vii-chord-in-your-songs-progressions/

  • 2
    Great answer and link. I believe the bVII is the most widely used non-diatonic chord in rock and pop music by far. It’s the only non-diatonic chord included in the Garageband for IOS guitar chord instrument. Here is another interesting (and very detailed) article about it: icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/VOLUME22/… – John Belzaguy Apr 11 '20 at 4:19
  • If you subscribe to the 'anything outside the scale needs special justification' way of thinking, it may be time to include bVII as an 'honorary diatonic' chord! It would avoid a lot of the 'what's the theory behind...' questions here. – Laurence Payne Apr 11 '20 at 14:07
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    "in general the bVII chord will be the major chord a whole step below the tonic": shouldn't that sentence start with "by definition" instead of "in general"? In other words, what are the special cases in which ♭VII is not the major chord a whole step below the tonic? – phoog Apr 11 '20 at 15:04
  • I believe he is using the "mathematical" meaning of in general, i.e. it is always true – Edward Apr 8 at 23:47

Just to add to Don's answer. Take care how you name those ♭VII chords. They will always bear the penultimate letter name of the scale.

D>C and A>G are simple. F♯ goes to E, B♭ goes to A♭ (not G♯), A♭ goes to G♭ (not F♯). Although they'll sound the same (they're enharmonic in 12tet), they might as well get the right name!

  • They're also enharmonically equivalent in twelve-tone Pythagorean tuning and 12-tone 1/4-comma meantone and every other 12-tone temperament. – phoog Apr 11 '20 at 15:08
  • @phoog - I guess the names are, but pitches may vary? – Tim Apr 11 '20 at 15:55
  • By definition, a 12-tone temperament has 12 pitch classes, whether or not they are equally spaced. A temperament is something you use to tune a keyboard. On a 12-tone keyboard, there is only one key to play between (for example) G and A, whether it's G sharp, A flat, or F triple sharp or B triple flat. So all four of those notes always share the same pitch in any given 12-tone temperament. – phoog Apr 11 '20 at 16:20
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    Temperament, without an article, refers to modifying (tempering) intervals so they are not pure. If you're playing with different pitches pitches for F♯ and G♭ then you're probably endeavoring to have pure untempered intervals. The need to temper arises when you have a fixed-pitch instrument, typically a keyboard. A temperament is a specific set of pitches chosen, usually for a 12-tone keyboard. Trombones and violins and singers only need to worry about temperaments if they are performing with a tempered instrument such as a keyboard. Even woodwinds can bend their pitches up and down. – phoog Apr 12 '20 at 5:00
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    Also, the specific pitch for a given note in just intonation doesn't necessarily depend on its spelling or even on the key of the piece it appears in. In a diatonic piece in a major key, the second and sixth scale degrees will typically move up and down by a ratio of 81:80. So you generally can't tune a keyboard purely in just intonation for a single piece, let alone a single key, unless the number of chords in the piece is fairly limited. In other words, a temperament is what you need when you aren't able to play F♯ at a different pitch from G♭ (or A at different pitches for F or D chords). – phoog Apr 12 '20 at 5:13

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