Music Fundamentals – Lesson 10


Ah, the last post in our series of 10. We’ve focused on notes, keys, scales, chords, and reading rhythms. This post, I want to talk about putting some of these elements together. The core of composition comes from the combination of a melody working with the chords, and the progression. Progressions are groups of chords which drive the song forward, creating the necessary tension and release. The most common progression in the western compendium of music is the V-I cadence. V-I is everywhere. From Lil’ Wayne to Mozart, V-I is inescapable. What is V-I? Well…

extreme vi


extremem V I example.mp3 Extreme V-I Example

That’s V-I. Its name is derived from the major scale, as C is the I (one) chord of the C major scale, and G is the V (five) chord of the major scale. You’ll notice, both are major triads; however, the V chord, which is G in the key of C, is also known as the dominant chord. the I chord, which is C in the key of C, is also known as the tonic. The relationship of dominant to tonic (V-I!!) has been the driving force in western music since the mid 1600’s. Since that point, the Baroque era, composers have been figuring out ways to delay V-I as long as possible, sometimes through the most elaborate music trickery.


In the most simple rock tunes, and in the blues, the way to get to V-I is through the IV (four) chord. In the key of C, that chord is the F major chord. The IV chord is also known as the sub-dominant chord, because it is the scale degree directly below the dominant (hence the sub). You may have heard this type of sound before, especially in the 1950s type of sound:




I IV V example.mp3 I-IV-V-I Example

This forms the basis for, literally, thousands of tunes, rock, classical, folk, country, jazz, gospel, and many other genres. Where does this harmonic functionality come from? Well, without getting to confusingly in depth (that’s saved for the next theory block), here’s how it plays out on the major scale:

C major example


So, I challenge you to write a composition to be uploaded to this lesson’s dedicated session focusing around these three chords to start. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can expand the harmonic vocabulary. The only thing you must to is upload a WRITTEN OUT version of your tune on staff paper in the session, and if you choose, something recorded. You can print free staff paper at, or write music online for free at

<—-Previous Post


Share on: Tweet Music Fundamentals - Lesson 10 ! Twitter MySpace Facebook  
This entry was posted in Artists in Residence, Rick Louie. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Music Fundamentals – Lesson 10

  1. Ansari Arif says:

    Wow, A good source of information for biggners. I perfectly learn and understand. The language is simple and easy to understand.

  2. Rick Louie says:

    Glad it’s helping. Remember, don’t hesitate to send questions my way.

  3. Gerly Ann says:

    thank you so much for posting this. this has helped me a lot.. :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>