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VI7 function in a minor blues

Posted by rvn 
VI7 function in a minor blues
July 05, 2017 04:07AM
Hi All,

Wondering if anyone can explain why the VI7 works so well in a minor blues...for example, something like:

Am7 Dm7 Am7 Am7
Dm7 Dm7 Am7 Am7
F7 E7 Am7 Am7

As an exercise, I've pulled the the Am7, F7, E7 notes apart, stacked vertically and rearranged in attempt to make a connection - if i'm right it's as follows:


E Eb E
A A G#

The E, Eb, E stand out, as does the common tones C & A in in the Am7 / F7

Is this relevant? What are the other ways of thinking about this (if any)?

Thanks for the help as always!

Re: VI7 function in a minor blues
July 05, 2017 05:50AM
It works similar to an augmented (German) 6th chord. German 6ths occur mostly on the bVI and are used to progress down one semitone to the V - like in the example you gave.

The notes are F A C D#. You can hear when you play the progression that Eb is really D# as it has a leading tone quality rising back to the E,. An aug 6th is a voice leading function and there's no chord label - it's still F7 in chord naming.
Re: VI7 function in a minor blues
July 05, 2017 04:02PM
Thanks Fretsource - so I wasn't way off then, in the fact that it's the voice leading making this sound so nice. thanks for your help & confirmation.
Re: VI7 function in a minor blues
July 05, 2017 07:18PM
Alternatively, I would interpret the F7 chord as a tritone substitute of B7.

Instead of Am7 / F7 / E7, play Am7 / B7 / E7. You could even tritone sub the E7 to Bb7 for a chromatic expression, which might add a nice variation to the progression depending on the melody.

The Eb (flat seventh) and A (third) notes of the F7 chord are pulling the weight.The Eb note is perfectly in context for an A minor blues, so it works deliciously.
Re: VI7 function in a minor blues
July 05, 2017 07:30PM
Wow, thanks for that.

Trying to keep up with you :) From that perspective, is the B7 in context as a secondary dominant (V/V) - or is that some kind of common replacement for the ii ?

I was chatting to someone who pointed out the Eb from the F7 being the flat-five of the key - hence it working so well in this bluesy context - very cool.
Re: VI7 function in a minor blues
July 06, 2017 12:50PM
Yes! B7 acts as a secondary dominant.

Ordinarily, one might expect a minor 2-5-1, which often looks like Bm7b5 - E7(b9) - Am7. Being that the song has a minor-blues sound, converting the Bm7b5 to a B7 works very well because it accesses the A-minor's flatted fifth - a principal blue note. However, the B7 uses F# as it's fifth. F# pulls the A-minor blues sound more toward a major blues. This is because F# is the major sixth of A. By using a tritone substitute from B7 to F7, you negate this. You could alternatively use a B7(b5) to do the same thing.

Blues has lots of subtleties, so it depends on what flavor of sprinkles you like on your ice cream. C=
Re: VI7 function in a minor blues
July 06, 2017 04:11PM
Thanks again for the help!

Yes, I tried the B7 and whilst it worked, I definitely preferred the F7 - so this clarity is really helpful.

I'll definitely try it with the b5.

Many thanks :)
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