The bVI chord is most often heard in edgy rock tunes. One function of the bVI is to lead to the V, before resolving to the I. You can hear this in J.J. Cale’s “Cocaine,” which slides between I and bVII during the verse, then ends (“She don’t lie…”) with the descending line I–bVII–bVI–V.

This sequence is easy to visualize with barre chords: from the I chord (say, an E barre chord at the seventh fret), slide down two frets to the bVII, down two more frets to the bVI, and finally down one more fret to the V.

Try it in Example 5, which moves down the neck in the key of D; the bVI is Bb. Here we’re playing all rock-style power chords, which have no thirds so are not explicitly major or minor.


Excerpted from Songwriting Basics for Guitarists: Blues/Rock Changes