IV. Diatonic Harmony, Tonicization, and Modulation

Predominant Seventh Chords

John Peterson

Key Takeaways

  • This chapter discusses the predominant seventh chords [latex]\mathrm{ii^7}[/latex], [latex]\mathrm{IV^7}[/latex], [latex]\mathrm{vi^7}[/latex], and [latex]\mathrm{iii^7}[/latex].
  • [latex]\mathrm{ii^7}[/latex] and its inversions are the most common predominant seventh chord, and Example 2 shows which inversions of [latex]\mathrm{ii^7}[/latex] are more common than others.
  • When writing with predominant 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 predominant 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 predominant chords (particularly IV and vi), it’s not as common as with ii. All predominant 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 predominant seventh chord in Josephine Lang, “Dort hoch auf jenem Berge”

Adding a chordal 7th to ii

Example 2 lists the various inversions of [latex]\mathrm{ii^7}[/latex] from more common to less common. We’ll discuss each in turn.

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

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


[latex]\mathrm{ii^6_5}[/latex] 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 [latex]\mathrm{ii^6_5}[/latex] (Example 3).

Example 3. Writing with [latex]\mathit{ii^6_5}[/latex].


[latex]\mathrm{ii^7}[/latex] 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 [latex]\mathrm{ii^7}[/latex]:

  1. The chord is often preceded by tonic, and it’s best to use [latex]\mathrm{I^6}[/latex] rather than I to avoid potential parallels
  2. When [latex]\mathrm{ii^7}[/latex] resolves to [latex]\mathrm{V^7}[/latex], either [latex]\mathrm{ii^7}[/latex] or [latex]\mathrm{V^7}[/latex] will need to be incomplete to avoid causing a voice leading problem (Example 4).

Example 4. Writing with ii7.


[latex]\mathrm{ii^4_2}[/latex] typically expands tonic at the beginning of a phrase in the progression [latex]\mathrm{I-ii^4_2-V^6_5-I}[/latex] (Example 5). This progression is easy to write if you follow the and .

Example 5. Writing with [latex]\mathit{ii^4_2}[/latex].


[latex]\mathrm{ii^4_3}[/latex] is relatively uncommon. When it does show up, it’s usually in place of a strong predominant 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 [latex]/mathit{ii^4_3}[/latex].

Other predominant sevenths

The remaining predominant sevenths, [latex]\mathrm{IV^7}[/latex], [latex]\mathrm{vi^7}[/latex], and [latex]\mathrm{iii^7}[/latex] are not nearly as common as [latex]\mathrm{ii^7}[/latex] and its inversions. Of them, [latex]\mathrm{IV^7}[/latex] and [latex]\mathrm{vi^7}[/latex] are more common than [latex]\mathrm{iii^7}[/latex], which makes sense given that [latex]/mathrm{iii}[/latex] as a triad isn’t very common in the first place. Both [latex]\mathrm{IV^7}[/latex] and [latex]\mathrm{vi^7}[/latex] tend to show up as root position chords when they’re used, and [latex]\mathrm{vi^7}[/latex] only shows up as a harmony connecting the tonic area to the strong predominant area, and not as part of a deceptive motion (in other words, [latex]\mathrm{V^7}[/latex] to [latex]\mathrm{vi^7}[/latex] is not common). Example 7 shows sample voice leading involving these chords. It follows and .

Example 7. Writing with [latex]\mathit{IV^7}[/latex] and [latex]\mathit{vi^7}[/latex].

  1. Pre-dominant Seventh Chords (.pdf, .docx). Asks students to realize figured bass and analyze.


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