V. Diatonic Harmony, Tonicization, and Modulation

Pre-dominant Seventh Chords

John Peterson

Key Takeaways

This chapter discusses the pre-dominant seventh chords ii7, IV7, vi7, and iii7. ii7 and its inversions is the most common pre-dominant seventh chord, and Example 2 shows which inversions of ii7 are more common than others. When writing with pre-dominant seventh chords, two general principles apply with respect to the treatment of the chordal 7th:

  • Approach the chordal seventh by step or common tone
  • Resolve the chordal seventh down by step


Earlier we saw how adding a chordal 7th to the dominant strengthened its drive toward the tonic. In this chapter we see that something similar can be accomplished by adding a to pre-dominant chords: it can intensify their motion to the dominant (Example 1). Adding a seventh to ii chords is common. While composers do sometimes add a 7th to the other pre-dominant chords (particularly IV and vi), it’s not as common as with ii. All pre-dominant 7th chords share two general guidelines for the treatment of a chordal 7th:

  1. The chordal 7th is usually approached by step or common tone
  2. The chordal 7th resolves down by step

Example 1. A pre-dominant seventh chord in Josephine Lang, “Dort hoch auf jenem Berge”

Adding a chordal 7th to ii

Example 2 lists the various inversions of ii7 from more common to less common. We’ll discuss each in turn.

Degree of commonality Inversion of ii7
More common ii\begin{smallmatrix}6\\5\end{smallmatrix}
Less common ii\begin{smallmatrix}4\\3\end{smallmatrix}

Example 2. Inversions of ii7 sorted by relative degree of commonality.


ii\begin{smallmatrix}6\\5\end{smallmatrix} often substitutes for ii6, meaning that it commonly shows up at the end of a phrase (Example 1). Other than the and, there aren’t any new voice leading concerns when writing with ii\begin{smallmatrix}6\\5\end{smallmatrix} (Example 3).

Example 3. Writing with ii\begin{smallmatrix}6\\5\end{smallmatrix}.


ii7 is typically found at the end of a phrase (Example 1). In addition to following and , there are two main issues to be aware of when writing with ii7:

  1. The chord is often preceded by tonic, and it’s best to use I6 rather than I to avoid potential parallels
  2. When ii7 resolves to V7, either ii7 or V7 will need to be incomplete to avoid causing a voice leading problem (Example 4).

Example 4. Writing with ii7.


ii\begin{smallmatrix}4\\2\end{smallmatrix} typically expands tonic at the beginning of a phrase in the progression I–ii\begin{smallmatrix}4\\2\end{smallmatrix}–V\begin{smallmatrix}6\\(5)\end{smallmatrix}–I (Example 5). This progression is easy to write if you follow the and .

Example 5. Writing with ii\begin{smallmatrix}4\\2\end{smallmatrix}.


ii\begin{smallmatrix}4\\3\end{smallmatrix} is relatively uncommon. When it does show up, it’s usually in place of a strong pre-dominant at a phrase ending. Other than following the and , there’s not anything new to learn about voice leading (Example 6).

Example 6. Writing with \begin{smallmatrix}4\\3\end{smallmatrix}.

Other pre-dominant sevenths

The remaining pre-dominant sevenths, IV7, vi7, and iii7 are not nearly as common as ii7 and its inversions. Of them, IV7 and vi7 are more common than iii7, which makes sense given that iii as a triad isn’t very common in the first place. Both IV7 and vi7 tend to show up as root position chords when they’re used, and vi7 only shows up as a harmony connecting the tonic area to the strong pre-dominant area, and not as part of a deceptive motion (i.e., V7 to vi7 is not common). Example 7 shows sample voice leading involving these chords. It follows and .

Example 7. Writing with IV7 and vi7.


  • Assignment 1: Includes figured bass and analysis



Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Open Music Theory by John Peterson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book