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In relation to a question I asked earlier—What is a Neapolitan 6th chord—I have a follow up question.

A Neapolitan chord is pretty much a Major chord built on the lowered second scale degree; however, there are two modes that naturally have a minor 2nd (Phrygian and Locrian) and the naturally occurring chord built from the second scale degree is major and technically is identical to a Neapolitan chord built in other modes, but the second is not lowered.

Are the naturally occurring II chords in these modes considered Neapolitan chords and if not, can a Neapolitan chord be built in those modes?

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2 Answers 2

The main reason you will not find this analysis/interpretation is that the N6 chord is a part of Functional Harmony, ie Major or Minor keys with Functional Dominant -> Tonic relationships. The N6 chord is part of the Classical world. You are trying to place a Functional Harmonic device in a Modal setting. While you may be able to make this work in a Modal setting in one way or another, it would still not be analyzed as an N6 because a Modal setting does not conform to the same rules. Furthermore, as the N6 chord is a part of the Classical world, when similar things are found in other places, say Jazz (with Functional Hamony), they do not call it the same thing. In Jazz they may relate the bII triad to a Tri-Tone Substitution and describe its motion to the V7 to be an extension of the Dominant. On top of that, as Roland mentions in his answer, using the N6 with its Classical rules (going to V7) will detract from the feeling that you are in a Modal setting and will likely imply that you are in a Minor Tonality. In Phrygian, the bII often acts as dominant, wanting to resolve to the tonic, so not only would the use of the V7 detract from the Modal feel, but the bII will not receive its normal treatment, potentially adding a feeling of 'stressing' the dominant. At best, utilizing the N6 in this way will create the effect of a piece being Modal at some times and Tonal at others.

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Thanks! You put it way better than I did, and you provided a couple of interesting pointers to how it could be analyzed in a jazz harmony context. Thanks! Indeed, either it won't sound as a typical Neapolitan,or it won't sound as Locrian or Phrygian. –  Roland Bouman Mar 23 at 20:20

Interesting question. I'd say no.

My argument is not very strong though because its not about the N2 chord itself but about the way it appears on stock progressions.

Typically a Neapolitan (rather, Neapolitan sixth) chord is heard as a subdominant that progresses to the dominant or dominant 7 chord. If you'd be in locrian or phrygian, and you would make that progression, you'd have to make a couple of alterations to make the dominant 7 chord. I think at that point it won't sound as locrian or phrygian anymore, but as melodic or harmonic minor.

To be clear, obviously your observation that locrian and phrygian have a major chord on the 2nd degree, and the 2nd degree is a semi-tone up from the tonic is completely correct. I'm just saying I doubt that would ever show up in formal analysis as a Neapolitan. At least, it won't unless it would be followed by a dominant major or dominant 7th chord, in which case I think it would be considered a change of mode.

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