• # Applying Subsidiary Chords: “Thank You Lord”

In this lesson, we’ll be putting our subsidiary chords to work.

We started out in the previous lesson by defining subsidiary chords, and so many people on our Facebook page asked for the application of subsidiary chords. Today, you’ll be learning how subsidiary chords can be used to spice up simple chord progressions.

I’m recommending this lesson to everyone, beginners especially. Let’s get started!

## “What Are Subsidiary Chords?”

A subsidiary chord is a chord that is related to a given chord by harmonic function.

The harmonic function of a chord talks about its use in a key environment. Here’s the function of the C major triad in three different keys:

 Key C Key F Key G C Major triad Chord 1 Chord 5 Chord 4

Subsidiary chords are basically chords that perform the function of a given chord in a given key. In most cases, a subsidiary chord shares two or more notes with the given chord. For example, the C major triad’s:

…subsidiary chord is the A minor triad:

…and they share two notes in common.

…consists of C, E, and G while the A minor triad:

…consists of A, C, and E.

The common notes between both triads are C and E:

Suggested reading: What Are Subsidiary Chords?

## Primary Chords and Chord Progressions

Chords formed on the first, fourth, and fifth degrees of the major [or minor] scale are known as primary chords. Primary chords in the key of C major:

…of the first degree, the F major triad:

…of the fourth degree, and the G major triad:

…of the fifth degree.

These chords are called primary chords because their chord quality is congruent with the prevalent tonality. These primary chords are major triads on a major key, therefore, they tend to give a feeling of the given key.

### Simple Chord Progressions

Basic chord progressions can be formed with these primary chords, and there are a variety of them out there. In this post, we’ll be exploring the ‘1-1-4-5’ chord progression. Here’s how it works.

Take a look…

The ‘1-1-4-5’ is a numerical code representing a chord progression from chord 1:

…to another chord 1:

…to chord 4:

…and then, chord 5:

Alright, let’s talk about harmonic rhythm…

### Harmonic Rhythm

Harmonic rhythm is the length of time [measured in beats] a chord lasts in a chord progression.

While playing a chord progression, every chord in the progression has the number of beats it lasts before it is replaced by another chord.

For example, 4 counts can be assigned to each chord in the 1-1-4-5 chord progression…

Chord 1:

…four counts.

Chord 1:

…four counts.

Chord 4:

…four counts.

Chord 5:

…four counts.

Alternatively, 2 counts can be assigned to each chord in the 1-1-4-5 chord progression…

Chord 1:

…two counts.

Chord 1:

…two counts.

Chord 4:

…two counts.

Chord 5:

…two counts.

Using simple chord progressions and a harmonic rhythm of 4 counts for each chord, here’s the gospel song “Thank You Lord”

Thank you:

…that’s chord 1 for 4 counts.

LORD, I just want to:

…that’s chord 1 for 4 counts.

Thank you:

…that’s chord 4 for 4 counts.

LORD, I just want to:

…that’s chord 5 for 4 counts.

Thank you:

…that’s chord 1 for 4 counts.

LORD:

…that’s chord 1 for 4 counts.

I just want to:

…that’s chord 4 for 2 counts.

Thank you:

…that’s chord 5 for 2 counts.

LORD:

…that’s chord 1 for 4 counts.

At this point, the 64 million dollar question is, “How do I Apply Subsidiary Chords?”

Now that you’ve seen how simple chord progressions and harmonic rhythm create songs, let’s look at how you can spice up basic versions like this, with subsidiary chords.

## Application Of Subsidiary Chords

Anyone who wants to know the application of subsidiary chords should be acquainted with primary chords. Primary chords are fundamental to harmony, while subsidiary chords are interjected to spice things up a bit.

We’ll be covering two key approaches to the application of subsidiary chords. Check them out…

### Division of Harmonic Rhythm

Harmonic Rhythm is simply the number of counts a chord lasts before it is replaced by another chord. Using Thank you Lord as an example, we have four counts of chord 1, followed by another four counts of chord 1. Put together, that’s eight counts of chord 1.

Instead of playing chord 1 for eight [boring] counts, we can divide the harmonic rhythm into two parts, play the given chord for four counts and its subsidiary chord for four counts.

In the key of C, the subsidiary chord of the C major triad is the A minor triad. So we are moving from chord 1 to chord 6. We’ll be playing chord 1 for four counts and then play its subsidiary chord which is the A minor triad for the remaining four counts to make up eight counts.

Here’s an example in the key of C…

Thank you:

…that’s chord 1 for 4 counts.

LORD, I just want to:

…that’s chord 6 (a subsidiary chord for chord 1) for 4 counts.

Thank you:

…that’s chord 4 for 4 counts.

LORD:

…that’s chord 5 for 4 counts.

Did you see how we moved to chord 6, which is the subsidiary chord of chord 1?

Instead of playing chord 1 for eight [boring] counts, and then chords 4 and 5, we’re dividing the harmonic rhythm of chord 1 into two to accommodate and its subsidiary chord. Four counts for chord 1; four counts for chord 6.

### Substituting the Given Chord with its Subsidiary Chord

In this case we are totally replacing the given chord with its subsidiary. Still on the song ‘Thank you Lord’, we can change the ‘1-1-4-5’ chord progression to a ‘1-1-2-5’. Can you guess what we just did?

Chord 4 in the key of C is the F major triad:

…while its subsidiary chord is the D minor triad:

…which is chord 2 in the key of C.

So, what we did was to change chord 4:

…to chord 2:

Consequently, a ‘1-1-4-5’ chord progression changes to a ‘1-1-2-5’ chord progression.

Let’s put this to work in the song ‘Thank you Lord’,

Thank you:

…that’s chord 1 for 4 counts.

LORD, I just want to:

…that’s chord 6 (a subsidiary chord for chord 1) for 4 counts.

Thank you:

…that’s chord 4 for 4 counts.

LORD:

…that’s chord 5 for 4 counts.

Did you see that? We threw in the D minor triad to do the harmonic function of the F major triad.

## Final Words

We’ve come across two variations of the basic 1-1-4-5 chord progression…

1-6-4-5 chord progression

1-1-2-5 chord progression

In the 1-6-4-5 chord progression, we’re shortening the harmonic rhythm of chord 1 to accommodate chord 6, while in the 1-6-4-5 chord progression, we are substituting chord 4 with chord 2.

Putting these two chord progressions together can give us another variation – the 1-6-2-5 chord progression. From chord 1:

…to chord 6:

…which is the subsidiary chord of chord 1, then to chord 2:

…which is the substitute for chord 4, then to chord 5:

Let’s put it together in the song Thank you Lord

Thank you:

…that’s chord 1 for 4 counts.

LORD, I just want to:

…that’s chord 1 for 4 counts.

Thank you:

…that’s chord 4 for 4 counts.

LORD, I just want to:

…that’s chord 5 for 4 counts.

Thank you:

…that’s chord 1 for 4 counts.

LORD:

…that’s chord 1 for 4 counts.

I just want to:

…that’s chord 4 for 2 counts.

Thank you:

…that’s chord 5 for 2 counts.

LORD:

…that’s chord 1 for 4 counts.

We’ll continue our discussion on the 1-6-2-5 chord progression in another post.

P.S.

We’re about to release our course on the secrets to chord progressions and lots more. If you

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#### Chuku Onyemachi

Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group
Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as the head of education, music consultant, and chief content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with hundreds of thousands of musicians across the world.

#### Latest posts by Chuku Onyemachi (see all)

1 sunday

hlep me to hw to pay the piano

2 Aisha

Nice lesson. Good explanation of how to use subsidiary chords.

3 joh

Wow this is very good I thought subsidiary chord is just for chord 1 in the key. Thank you