4 for IV, Part I: Secondary Plagal Progressions

Before beginning my analysis for this project, I didn’t really know much about The Go-Go’s. I knew they were an all female band from the 80’s that had some cheesy hits, but that was about the extent of it.   Knowledge and perspective can be funny things. I’m not ready to anoint them as successors to The Beatles or anything, but knowing what I do now, I certainly have a much greater respect for their musicianship.   As the introduction to this series discussed, the IV chord has a crucial role in rock/pop music harmonic progressions, particularly in relation to how the harmony is used in concert music. Songwriters have grown to love the chord so much that they have pioneered ways of using it that have given its function fresh vitality and have helped to further distinguish this genre from others.   Understanding Secondary Plagal Function   Perhaps the most common of these unique applications of the IV chord (and, specifically, its plagal function) is the use of secondary plagal progressions. A plagal progression results from a chord built on the fourth degree of the scale resolving directly to the tonic chord, with the root of the former being more »


4 for IV: Introduction

Rock musicians just can’t resist a plagal progression, and I think I know why.   Perhaps it’s part of their nonconformist nature. Classical/concert and rock/pop music share more in common than most people from either side would be willing to admit, and whether it is done consciously or subconsciously, rock music contains several of concert music’s established traditions regarding melody, rhythm, and other musical elements. There are obvious differences, particularly regarding timbre and orchestration, but one of the more subtle points of departure between the genres is their approach to the chord built on the fourth scale degree of the given key (consisting of scale degrees 4, 6, and 1), which will be referred to hence forth as a IV chord (traditionally, diatonic triads are referred to by Roman Numerals, using upper case for major chords and lower case for minor).   In classical music, the IV chord is, outside of the tonic (I) chord, the most versatile diatonic harmony, but it is most frequently used as a predominant chord. A predominant chord, as its name would imply, introduces dominant (built on scale degree 5; a V chord) harmony. However, the IV chord is used less commonly as a predominant more »