The IIx, IIIx & VIx chords – Step 5

Chord Progression Guitar Lesson - S5
In this step, we discover the wonderful world of the X chords. These are a consequence of when the minor chords have become major!

The X Chords

The final piece of my understanding of chord progressions came from reading a book by John Meheegan. He described the Roman Numerals as upper case only and introduced the m and x concepts.

What this does is maintain the sound of the Roman Numeral, no matter what chord is the home chord. When something has changed in the natural sound, he described it as m and x. To me, this made complete sense!

In the last step, we discussed the m chords, they all brought unexpected sadness. In this step, we look at the surprised happy feeling we get from the x chord.

Again, you must experience this feeling through playing real songs!

The IIx chord

A very common variation is to change chord II into major. Old school classical teachers would call this the dominant’s dominant as it is often followed by chord V.

However, many times it is not! And, the sound of the II chord, which is sad is a surprise when it’s major, so let’s give it its own name. The best example I can think of is American Pie by Don McLean.

Learn to play this song, notice the IIx and you will be able to spot it in other songs as well.

The IIIx chord

The most common X chord is the IIIx, it even comes with its own mode, Phrygian Dominant. Classical music teachers named this chord the mediant major. IIIx is much cooler!

Your classical teacher would also say how it’s always followed by chord VI, or even worse Im! They might also start rambling on about Harmonic Minor and all other exotic modes from this scale family. I used to listen to them before I made real songs my teachers.

Doing so, I found plenty of tunes that tell me otherwise. Creep by Radiohead, for example, uses it before chord IV, which then becomes a IVm as it goes I – IIIx – IV – IV, or GB7CCm.

But there are many, many more. One More Cup Of Coffee uses it before chord VI, but also as it goes between IIIx and IV in the chorus.

The VIx chord

The least common of all X chords is the VIx, so what we have here is a VI chord that has become major.

Most commonly you find this in jazz blues songs that have taken the I – VI – II – V progression and changed the VI to VIx in order to create some tension.

Your average jazz teacher will see this as a great opportunity to start talking about Melodic Minor, another mode from which you can learn 7 exotic modes that nobody wants to hear!

Baby Won’t You Please Come Home, originally sung by Bessie Smith is just one jazz standard that has it, there are plenty more.

Interestingly enough, this is not a variation that has carried over into the pop, folk, and rock music world as much as the previous two examples.

You must play songs

Looking at these changes in harmony, we can stray off into the dark forest of exotic modes and music theory academia. Most likely we’ll get lost in there and give up, or even worse, we do the work and believe it makes sense.

Armed with your 14 exotic modes you will come out of it a few years later, applying your newfound knowledge to every chord you find.

Doing this you will inevitably disregard the actual song you’re playing and therefore sound unmusical.

So don’t do that, don’t practice scales, and try to apply them theoretically to every chord progression you come across.

Instead, learn a song, look at what the song does, and develop that. It is almost always much, much simpler than you expect.

Trust me, nobody wants to hear you play complicated scales over their favourite tune!

Chord Progressions | Related Pages

Chord progression | Step-by-step guitar course

Chord Progression Course

In these guitar lessons, I talk about how to best describe chords when they are put after each other and form chord progressions.

The main thing to discover here is how popular music is a combination of the harmonized major scale and the Blues.

American Pie | Chords + Lyrics

American Pie chords T

You can learn how to play American Pie by Don McLean using chords, lyrics, chord analysis, TAB, and Spytunes video guitar lessons.

| G D/F# Em | Am C | Em D Dsus4 | 2/4 Dsus2 D |
A long long time ago, I can still remember how that music used to make me smile…

Baby Won’t You Please Come Home | Chords + Lyrics

Baby Won't You Please Come Home chords

Learn how to play Baby Won’t You Please Come Home by Bessie Smith using chords, lyrics, and a Spytunes video guitar lesson.

D7 | B7 | Em7 | A7 |
Baby won’t you please come home, ’cause your mama’s all alone…

Creep | Chords + Lyrics

Creep chords t

You can learn how to play Creep by Radiohead using chords, lyrics, chord analysis, TAB, and the original recording.

G5 | G | B5 | B |
When you were here before, couldn’t look you in the eye…

One More Cup Of Coffee | Chords + Lyrics

One More Cup Of Coffee Chords

You can learn how to play One More Cup Of Coffee by Bob Dylan using chords, lyrics, TAB, chord analysis, and Spytunes video guitar lessons.

Am | G |
Your breath is sweet, your eyes are like two jewels in the sky…

Phrygian Dominant | Minor Scales

Minor Scales Guitar Lesson S7, Phrygian Dominant.

The missing piece, the Spanish minor, the one that comes with chord III, let’s dissect Phrygian & her evil cousin, Phrygian Dominant.

Plenty of video lessons to follow. Once you can do it in Am, don’t forget, you must practice this in all 12 keys to master it.



Spytunes chords, scale, and arpeggio software, Chordacus is a refined version of the so-called CAGED system.

Now available as both a chromatic (original version) and “within a key”, developed with the help of a Spytunes student.

About me

Dan Lundholm wrote this guitar lesson on chord progressions.

This guitar lesson on chord progressions was written by Dan Lundholm. Discover more about him and how learning guitar with Spytunes has evolved.

Most importantly, find out why you should learn guitar through playing tunes, not practising scales, and studying theory in isolation.

Follow Spytunes