Passing chords

As with half-step approach chords, passing chords are subsidiary to the main progression. Unlike half-step approach chords, however, passing chords pass by step between two chords. Consider the following:


Here, the F sharp dominant seventh chord is a half-step approach chord while the F sharp diminished seventh chord is a passing chord, as it passes between the dominant (G) and subdominant (F) chords.

An entire harmonised scale may be decorated with passing chords

Diatonic prog

Any progression, therefore, which includes diatonic chords in succession,

1Diatonic embell


can be decorated with passing chords


Passing chords can also substitute for other chords in a progression. For example, in a I – ii – V – I progression, with each chord sounding for a whole bar, a passing chord may be used for part of the initial tonic bar

Sub I

In a I – VI – ii – V progression, a passing chord often substitutes for the VI chord.


Here, the F sharp diminished seventh can be heard as both a passing chord – passing between F and G minor – and as a substitution for the submediant (VI).


Leave a Reply