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Section 9.7 The Best-Seller Progression

Figure 9.7.1. The \(\left.\text{I}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{V}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{vi}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{IV}\right.\) “Best-Seller” Progression

The \(\left.\text{I}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{V}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{vi}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{IV}\right.\) progression occurs in many popular songs, has a Wikipedia page, and has been mentioned in a New Yorker article about bestselling novels (see the third paragraph from the end of the article). The music group Axis of Awesome made a compilation of several songs with the \(\left.\text{I}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{V}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{vi}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{IV}\right.\) progression that makes for an entertaining summary (warning: there is some language after the 5-minute mark).

Here is a written-out example that includes the \(\left.\text{I}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{V}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{vi}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{IV}\right.\) progression.

Figure 9.7.2. Adkins and Wilson, “Someone Like You”

The \(\left.\text{I}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{V}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{vi}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{IV}\right.\) progression can be rotated to become \(\left.\text{vi}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{IV}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{I}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{V}\right.\) and \(\left.\text{IV}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{I}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{V}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{vi}\right.\).

Figure 9.7.3. Example of \(\left.\text{I}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{V}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{vi}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{IV}\right.\) rotation to \(\left.\text{vi}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{IV}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{I}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{V}\right.\)

Here is an example with the \(\left.\text{vi}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{IV}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{I}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{V}\right.\) progression.

Figure 9.7.4. Adkins and Kursten, “Hello”

The \(\left.\text{vi}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{IV}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{I}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{V}\right.\) progression can also be thought of as being in minor: \(\left.\text{i}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{VI}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{III}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{VII}\right.\)

Figure 9.7.5. “Best-Seller” Progression with Roman Numerals in Major and Relative Minor

Whether you hear this progression in major or minor depends on whether you hear the first chord as the tonic or if you hear the third and fourth chord as tonic and dominant.

Here is an example with the \(\left.\text{IV}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{I}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{V}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{vi}\right.\) progression.

Figure 9.7.6. Stewart, Nash, Harrell, Carter, “Umbrella”