ii-V-I’s Explained


When we begin learning harmony in music, we start to notice some of the same sequences of chords appearing in hundreds if not thousands of songs. These chord progressions can lead us to very different musical destinations in a song’s home key or even lead to other keys entirely but serve as a dependable, memorable basis for a lot of music. Every style that uses chords has its own set of common progressions referred to by Roman numerals that correspond to a note of the scale, and one progression that appears in many styles is the ii - V - I.

What is a ii - V - I? It is a sequence of three chords derived from the notes of a scale, specifically, the scale’s second (ii) degree, the fifth (V) degree, and the first (I) degree, or tonic. Each note of the scale has a corresponding chord, and the progression between those chords gives us the movement of musical tension and release that lets us tell our musical stories. The ii - V - I is one of many chord progressions that return us to the tonic or root chord of a scale, providing a sense and sound of “coming back home.”

To keep reading, click 'subscribe' below!