The fourth scale degree of a diatonic scale

In music theory, the term "subdominant" designates the fourth degree of a diatonic scale, commonly represented by the Roman numeral "IV" when scrutinizing harmonic progressions. Positioned just below the dominant (the fifth degree), the subdominant note plays a pivotal role in shaping the harmonic structure and introducing tension within a musical composition. For instance:

  • In the key of C major, the subdominant note is F.
  • In the key of G major, the subdominant note is C.

The subdominant note is frequently associated with a sense of stability and tension resolution in music. It serves as a fundamental element in numerous chord progressions and harmonic sequences. Harmonically, the subdominant chord, typically denoted as "IV" (major) or "iv" (minor), is constructed upon the subdominant note.

  • In C major, the IV chord is F major (F, A, C).
  • In G major, the IV chord is C major (C, E, G).

The subdominant chord is commonly employed to generate tension, subsequently finding resolution by transitioning to the dominant chord or another chord. This interplay of tension and release is intrinsic to both Western classical and popular music. The movement from the subdominant to the dominant chord, recognized as the "IV-V" progression, stands as one of the most prevalent and potent harmonic maneuvers in music.

From a melodic standpoint, the subdominant note is indispensable for shaping engaging and expressive melodies. It can function as a point of departure, generating a sense of anticipation as it leads to other notes within the scale. Melodies frequently utilize the subdominant note to introduce variety and direction into their phrases.

Example of Subdominant

Lesson 21: Scale Degrees. What are they?