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Backdoor Chord Progressions MEMBER LESSON
Published: 2013-09-10 Updated: 2013-09-10 00:00:00 • 2327

Backdoor Chord Progressions

by Curt Sheller, Curt Sheller Publications

In jazz and jazz harmony, the chord progression from iv7 to bVII7 to I has been nicknamed the backdoor progression or the backdoor II-V. This name derives from an assumption that the normal progression to the tonic, the II-V-I turnaround ( II-V7 to I ) is, by inference, the front door. It can be considered a minor plagal cadence in traditional theory.

Backdoor also refers to the unexpected modulation created through the substitution of the highly similar IMA9 for IImi7 (in C: EGBD and CEGBD) at the end of the II-V turnaround to III ( II/III=IV, V/III=bVII, III ), thus arriving at home (the tonic) through unexpected means, the back door instead of the front door ( IIIm7, EGBD, being entirely contained within Imaj9, CEGBD, and the seventh still resolving downward ). If the II-V-I turnaround is an applied dominant, then the backdoor progression may be termed an applied subdominant The backdoor II-V is considered a'bluesy cadence and IV-bVII-I is used repeatedly as a chord substitution, along with tritone substitution, in Lazy Bird, John Coltrane's arrangement of Tadd Dameron's Lady Bird.


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The backdoor progression can be found in popular jazz standards in such places as measures 7 and 8 of the A section of Cherokee, measures 9 and 11 of My Romance or measures 10 and 28 of There Will Never Be Another You, as well as Beatles songs like In My Life and If I Fell.

The backdoor II-V is considered a'bluesy cadence and IV-bVII-I is used repeatedly as a chord substitution, along with tritone substitution, in Lazy Bird, John Coltrane's arrangement of Tadd Dameron's Lady Bird.

The backdoor progression can be found in popular jazz standards in such places as measures 7 and 8 of the A section of Cherokee, measures 9 and 11 of My Romance or measures 10 and 28 of There Will Never Be Another You, as well as Beatles songs like In My Life and If I Fell.

Songs
  • Lady Bird
  • In My Life
  • If I Fell
  • There'll Never Be Another You

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Just browsing over both books, they look fantastic! I'm a guitarist and uke player for over 25 years and was thinking about writing a ukulele book but you've already written what I think are the best, most comprehensive and thorough books I've ever seen for the instrument. I just might end up buying every book you've written and I'll be giving my highest recommendation for your books to my friends and students. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such great books! — Peter Rhee

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