An Alternative Approach to Teaching the viio/V in Major and Minor Keys

Paula J. Telesco

This resource was originally published in 2014 under the title "Worksheet: IV vs viio of V, and iv vs viio of V - includes answer key"

This handout is appropriate for high school AP students, liberal arts college non-music-majors, music minors, or music majors, and can be especially helpful for students with weak backgrounds.

Students often find secondary leading tone triads difficult, particularly in minor keys. Understanding their diatonic basis is crucial. The most common approach is to view the chord as diatonic in the temporarily tonicized key, but this can initially be difficult for students, as they juggle several keys in their head simultaneously.

Another way to teach these chords is as altered diatonic chords in the original key, thereby eliminating the confound of thinking in two different keys. Raising the root of IV by a chromatic semitone, from ^4 to ^#4, turns a major triad into a diminished one, creating the viio/V. In minor, one must raise both the root and third of iv.

This method makes explicit the connection between predominant chords IV and viio/V, and demonstrates how the viio/V (^#4 moving to ^5) has the stronger tendency to progress to V than does the IV chord (^4 moving to ^5).

The exercises are laid out systematically in two ways: ascending by half or whole step through the octave, or through the circle of fifths.