music, the submediant is the sixth tonal degree of the diatonic scale. It is so called because it is a third below the tonic, in contrast to the mediantbeing a third above the tonic. It is the mediant of the subdominanttriad.
music theory, the submediant chord is symbolized by the Roman numeralVI if it is major or vi if it is minor.
For example, in the C
major scale(white keys on a piano, starting on C), the submediant is the note A; and the submediant chord is A-minor consisting of the notes A, C, and E. Therefore, Am is the vi chord in the C major scale. Further, in the A natural minor scale(same white keys, now starting on A), the submediant is the note F; and the submediant chord is F (or F-major) consisting of the notes F, A, and C. Therefore, F is the VI chord in the A (natural) minor scale.
The submediant function is easily explained in reference to
jazzmusic, where it is used in the "ice cream change" or "blues for alice" progression, which moves from the tonic through the submediant on the way to the ubiquitous II-V-IJazz sequence (part of the cycle of fifths). The progression's consistency is amplified by the submediant's fifth-relationship above the supertonic. This submediant role -- in which it essentially extends from the tonic as a way of "passing" to a subdominant (IV) or supertonic (II) harmony, is as common in popular and classical music as it is in jazz, or any other musical language related to Western European tonality.
"Submediant" also refers to a relationship of musical keys. For example, relative to the key of C major, the key of A major (or A minor) is the submediant. Modulation (change of key) to the submediant is relatively rare, compared with, say, modulation to the dominant, and gives a feeling of relaxation.
Susan McClarysays that modulation to the lowered submediant (in C: A♭) represents a dream-like state of escape.
In German theory derived from
Hugo Riemannthe submediant in major is considered the tonic parallel(US relative), Tp, and the minor the subdominant parallel, sP.
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.