Does this minor chord progression (i-III-VI) have a name?
July 11, 2016 11:14 AM   Subscribe

Over the past few years, I've developed a sort of obsession with this tense-sounding chord progression and have noticed it in 1980s-present popular/alternative music. I've wasted too much time trying to find its name - or do songwriters just like the way it sounds? Think "Centuries", "Handclap", and "Sunday Bloody Sunday"...(examples inside)

It sometimes appears as i-III-VI-IV.

Verse of "Handclap" by Fitz and the Tantrums (Fiat commercial song)

"Centuries" by Fall Out Boy

"Sunday Bloody Sunday" by U2

"A Forest" by The Cure

In the chorus of Guster's "Satellite"

Note: it is not the more common "Sensitive Female Chord Progression" (i-VI-III-♭VII), as it lacks the VII.
posted by Seeking Direction to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
^ I meant i-VI-III-♭VII as to what it is not. Forgive me if I completely butcher terms I learned in the few music theory classes I took in college!
posted by Seeking Direction at 11:20 AM on July 11, 2016

[Edited that for you.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:33 AM on July 11, 2016

I've never heard of a particular name for this, though as you discovered it's pretty common. It's an easy sequence to discover; III is the relative major of i, and then you treat it as the dominant of VI. I only listened to the first three of your clips but they actually all have pretty different functions. "Handclap" moves to V at the end (sometimes the bass goes to ♭VII) while "Centuries" moves to iv as you noted, and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" hangs out on the VI instead of moving to a fourth chord.
posted by dfan at 1:13 PM on July 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Maybe related to cadence?
posted by TrinsicWS at 5:34 PM on July 11, 2016

I didn't even know that progressions had names, so thanks for this question.
posted by clawsoon at 8:15 AM on July 12, 2016

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