Backdoor progression

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Berg's "Backdoor progression" to iii, with I in place of iii: ivø7-VII7(9)-Imaj9 About this sound Play .
Backdoor compared with the dominant (front door) in the chromatic circle: they share two tones and are transpositionally equivalent

In jazz and jazz harmony, the chord progression from iv7 to VII7 to I has been nicknamed the backdoor progression[1][2] or the backdoor ii-V, as described by jazz theorist and author Jerry Coker. This name derives from an assumption that the normal progression to the tonic, the ii-V-I turnaround (ii-V7 to I, see also authentic cadence) is, by inference, the front door.

The backdoor progression can be found in popular jazz standards in such places as measures 7 and 8 of the A section of "Cherokee," measures 9 and 11 of "My Romance" or measures 10 and 28 of "There Will Never Be Another You," as well as Beatles songs like "In My Life" and "If I Fell."[citation needed]

The VII7 chord, a pivot chord borrowed from the parallel minor of the current key, is a dominant seventh. Therefore, it can resolve to I; it is commonly preceded by IV going to iv, then VII7, then I. In C major the dominant would be G7: GBDF, sharing two common tones with B7: BDFA. A and F serve as upper leading-tones back to G and E, respectively, rather than B and F serving as the lower and upper leading-tones to C and E.

Alternative usage[edit]

The term "Backdoor" has been used by author Shelton Berg to refer to another entirely unrelated progression. The unexpected modulation created through the substitution of the highly similar Imaj9 for iii7 (in C: CEGBD and EGBD) at the end of the iiø7-V7 turnaround to iii (iiø7/iii=ivø7, V7/iii=VII7, iii), arrives at 'home' (the tonic) through unexpected means, the 'back' instead of the 'front door'(iii7, EGBD, being entirely contained within Imaj9, CEGBD, and the seventh still resolving downward).[3] The resolution of a dominant seventh chord up a step (in this case a half-step) is called a deceptive cadence.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Coker, Jerry (1997). Elements of the Jazz Language for the Developing Improvisor, p.82. ISBN 1-57623-875-X. "Back Door Progression As A Substitute For V7[:] The I chord, in a given progression, is often preceded by IV-7 to VII7, instead of the usual V7 chord.".
  2. ^ Juusela, Kari (2015). The Berklee Contemporary Dictionary of Music, unpaginated. Hal Leonard. ISBN 9781495028540. "back-door cadence: A IVmi7 VII7 I harmonic cadence."
  3. ^ Berg, Shelton (2005). Essentials Of Jazz Theory, p.105. Alfred Music. ISBN 0-7390-3089-2.