What are other names for I, II, III, IV, V, VI, and VII chords in music?

Names for chords Ariane Cap

When I hear a great song I feel compelled to “decode” it

What makes it sound cool? What’s up with these chords and why are other names for chords interesting? What are the effects of these chords? How can I emulate this and make it my own? Are there other names for these chords and why would that be important or interesting?

For me, that is the most exciting reason to study music theory because theory codifies these questions into patterns, rules, and predictable, reproducible sounds. Not always, mind you, because context – as my Ear Training Students will tell you – can mess with any rule.

Yet, in lots of cases these rules and repetitive structures have quite predictable effects and hence entire chord progressions turn into tools in your tool kit; entire scales and modes, extensions and substitutions turn into colors in your palette! That’s why I want to know!

So when a Quoran asked:

What are other names for I, II, III, V, VI, IV, and VII chords in music?

I recognized it as a fair question as there certainly are other names for these chords. However, I prefer to focus on the emotional impact that these chord progressions offer the listener.

Just the names…. meh. That might get you to ace some basic music test. But there is so much more to it than that!

Most answers previous to mine in Quora focused on just the names or explained them in terms of the modes (a pet peeve of mine – do not mix up modal music with a functional harmony context!). Worse yet, there were quite a few just flat-out errors. I always feel so bad when I see that, because it shines the light in all the wrong places and leads people down the wrong paths.

So I attempted a concise answer to the question and to illuminate WHY knowing about other names for chords can in fact directly improve your musicianship. I included a cool tip to put all this theory to work in a song!

Check it out in Quora:

Read Ariane Cap’s answer to What are other names for I, II, III, V, VI, IV, and VII chords in music? on Quora

Related posts:

What key is this piece of music in?

Tonic Subdominant Dominant – Why you need to know

Functional Harmony versus Modal Harmony (scroll down to watch the short video)

We Got Forums!

UPDATE: Our Forums have moved. Info for Cohort Participants in your Cohort!

We now have a great way to connect –

Check out our new Ari’s Bass Blog Forums!

Or, maybe we should call it Ari’s fretBOARDS?  What do you think?

It all started with our new Cohort Course which we launched in January – Cohorts offer a way to go through the course with extra support, such as:

  • making public commitments
  • submitting homework (video recordings)
  • peer support

In a cohort, we make personal accountability a priority. Now, this only works if you are in control. Because you make commitments and the cohort serves as your witness and source of encouragement.

The current Cohort is full and not open to new participants. And, we have fine-tuned some of the existing features and added new ones, but one thing we have learned for sure is that Cohorts are shaping up to be THE way to go through the online course!

I could not be happier with what I am hearing from current participants:

  • There is something very powerful about making a public commitment and then following it up with a recording of that exercise… and the video you record is incredibly eye-opening! (Fred P)


  • “Recording myself has made me accountable to the commitment I’ve promised.  It has helped me overcome any fear I have about demonstrating progress I’ve made through my practicing of the material I’ve committed to record. The cohort has made me accountable so I work steadily towards the goal of completing the course.  It adds that extra layer of accountability which serves as motivation during those times when it’s easy to simply put things off for ‘another day’.” (Kevin G)


  • “I joined the cohort in January and have found recording myself to be invaluable.  It lets you spot areas of technique that you should be concentrating on. The Cohort is excellent and I can honestly say I have played for a minimum of 30 minutes each day since 20th Jan when it started. Everyone is so friendly and supportive. I feel like I have improved more in 4 weeks than I did in the last 4 months.” (Chris D)


  • “So far I’ve recorded myself twice and I’ll tell you this—- it’s been both humbling and a very worthwhile learning experience. For unit 1, I tee’d up a bit that I had worked on throughout the two week period, and when I was on video it like I was I sight reading and had never seen the piece before!  I guess if I want to play to an audience this is a good sense for what that is gonna be like. Practice, practice and then practice some more…” (Bob K)


  • “When you record yourself and play it back, it is the same as having your teacher sitting on your shoulder and pointing out where you need to refine and improve. For me, it points out that I frequently lose track of the metronome, my notes do not sound even between my index and middle fingers and I often start to “crawl into” my bass and do not keep myself relaxed. A very effective form of biofeedback!” (Jay R)


Brand New Forums!

So, when we saw the initial forums in the cohort take off the way they did, we knew we were on to something special— and something we had to share with our broader family… you!  Our new forum is now polished and ready to go,  and this is your invitation to join us!
 Yes, there is a cohort-only section, but you can still “join the conversation” in the other areas of the forum where we talk basses and bass gear, our bass heroes, our bass journey and experiences, favorite grooves, and of course we talk about practicing and share helpful tips with each other. “All things Bass” with the focus on supporting each other!

You’ll get to interact with course participants, see and hear them play (if they choose to make their COHORT COURSE submissions public) or just shoot the breeze about the bass.

Join the conversation!
To sign up for the forum:

  1. Go to https://forum.arisbassblog.com/index.php?action=register
  2. Accept the registration agreement
  3. Complete the registration form (I recommend using your email address as your username)
  4. Create a new password

PS: As for future cohorts: We are planning on opening up small cohorts later in the year. If you have a few friends who want to do this together, email us! We’d love to have you!




What is the “triangle” in Jazz?

triangle in jazz

Well, there is this triangle…

triangle in jazz ariane cap

There is a running gag between me and the singer/bandleader of a favorite project I am in, Generation Esmeralda. Let’s just say that triangle is super groovy but also so incredibly loud on stage, Jimmy sends me to the other end of the stage with it because I can’t hear nothing but it next to my ear. We always get a good laugh!

Here is Jimmy playing cowbell. Nothing beats that little triangle in terms of decibels, though.

Generation Esmeralda triangle Ariane Cap Jimmy GOings

Tony Baker, Micky Valentino, Roberto Quintana, Jimmy Goings, T Moran, Ariane Cap, Steffen Kuehn, Louis Fasman, Tom Poole, Mike Rinta


Back to Triangles – The Triangle in Jazz

I doubt that is the “triangle in jazz” the Quora poster was talking about when they asked me for clarification on its meaning. meant when asking me about that triangle. Rather, the Quoran meant this one:

as in:


Though it should be an easy answer (it’s an abbreviation for a major seventh chord), I was compelled to chime in because most of the other answers were either flat out wrong or incomplete. Remember, “major” could refer to the third in this chord (C major triad), or to the seventh.

I have an Ari Shortcut rule for this:

  • The third – unless otherwise specified – is always major!
  • The seventh – unless otherwise specified – is always minor!

So when you see C major 7th, that is short for C (major) major seventh, a major triad with a major seventh on top.

The major belongs to the seventh. It is that first major that is redundant because the triad is major, which is the default value for the triad!

Let’s test this

How about C minor 7? The minor now belongs to the triad, because the seventh is minor by default. So, C min7 is short for C minor (minor) 7th. It is that second minor that is redundant because the seventh is minor! The minor belongs to the triad!

How about C7? Major triad (default, I don’t need to specify!) and a minor 7th (again, it’s understood). C (major) (minor) 7th. C7 for short, the dominant seventh chord, a major triad with a minor seventh on top!

And what if I want the triad to be minor and the seventh to be major? Then I have to spell it all out: C min maj7. That is a beautiful chord. It does not occur in our major/minor system, but it sure does in the harmonic and melodic minor systems and it is gorgeous. Since it is not the most frequent, it evolved to be the one that needs to be completely spelled out.

Read my Quora answer below which got me thinking about four-note chords in general. It’s all about stacking thirds and there are only so many ways you can stack major and minor thirds. Grab your bass and play through all of these. This is useful not just for Jazz, as many styles have major seventh chords in them!


Read Ariane Cap’s answer to What does the triangle mean in jazz chord notation? on Quora.

My take on Right Hand Technique [video]

Floating thumb? Three-finger Gary-Willis style? Raking? Pumping eighths?

The right-hand does not only pose several opportunities for sound variations, but it is also crucial in relieving the left hand from overgripping and plays a vital role in the overall set up to reduce tension and allow the music to flow.

So, this is an important video because you will:

  • Learn about the three points of contact and control
  • Realize how to take a load off the left hand
  • Understand when it is okay to bend your wrist
  • Optimize your speed and acuity by using the best angle and finger positioning

This video is the best preparation for my upcoming Talking Technique (#64) called “The Alternator” – a twister of a drill if there ever was one. Can you play the entire drill while keeping your fingers alternating throughout? It’s a blues of sorts and it will get your right hand sorted!

And here is “the Alternator” exercise – Grab the PDF here