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Currently working on this keyboard piece, came across something that I think looks like a harmonic sequence.

We are newly in D minor, and the bars in question are labelled 1 and 2 (squint and you'll see them).

I have loosely marked the harmony as V7-I-V-?-landing back on minor i. There is a b flat repeated on each chord (which is never a chord tone- perhaps some sort of pedal point?), and there is a descending chromatic line also circled starting on a G natural (which oddly has a natural sign next to it even though there are no previous g sharps in the piece, or g sharps in the key signature). It ends neatly back on i.

Wondering if anyone can shed any light on this harmonic device? So I can understand it and look out for it in the future!

Thanks enter image description here

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  • Is this from a theory textbook or a collection of piano pieces you're playing?
    – Richard
    Sep 2 '20 at 11:14
  • grade 8 theory workbook ABRSM
    – EdB123
    Sep 2 '20 at 14:54
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What you mean that it were the relative minor (i=dm) is correct in the 3rd bar in the upper lines.

The measures in question:

G,C#,Bb,E -> this is VIIdim (2nd inversion)/i in d-minor - respectively VII/vi in F major, albeit Dm is substituted by Bb-chord: F,Bb,D= Bb (VI46 in d-minor respectively IV in F major.

In the next bar the harmony goes back to the VIIdim (which has dominant function to Dm - like you note correctly (V).

VII can be interpreted as a rootless V7 or Vb9.

So the first 3 chords could be heard as A7 Bb A (what we often have as progression in a false cadence V7-VI in dm.

The last to chords are A,C,Eb-> Bb (1st inversion). This can be analogous VIIdim/IV in F major - or V7/IV = rootless dominant F7 of Bb (subdominant) The tonic F or its substitution A,C,Eb becomes the dominant 7 of the subdominant Bb.

Is this a harmonic sequence?

I wouldn't call this an ascending sequence, which would be A7->Dm (if the 2nd chord were Dm and not Bb) and F7->Bb (but without the dominant chord (3rd chord in question) between vi and V7/IV.

Context:

Here is the entire music - just for listening:

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  • thanks for this brilliant answer! You've been MOST enlightening. Just a couple of things: Most of your analysis is with regards to D minor (which makes sense, for as far as I can tell, the piece moved to D minor in bar 3, after the A7). But, when talking about the last two bars of the passage, you start to talk with regards to F major. As we seem to be in D minor, would it make more sense to say that the last two chords are VII/VI- VI in D minor, as opposed to the VII/IV-IV in F major? or do you see a shift to the relative major? thanks VERY much! Ed
    – EdB123
    Sep 2 '20 at 15:34
  • Read my comment to Aarons answer: I wouldn't say "we are in Dm", of course your analysis isn't wrong, of course I agree that we can say: C#dim is VII of Dm, it isn't important to say Dm = i of d-minor or vi of F- major. My answer is always keeping both interpretations in mind. (in respect to yours sight "we are in Dm". But this is not a modulation (note that neither you nor Aaron use this term). " would it make more sense to say that the last two chords are VII/VI- VI in D minor, as opposed to the VII/IV-IV in F major?" Both ways of thinking are possible! Sep 2 '20 at 15:54
  • Look at the music of Bach and Händel (e.g. Inventions or Concerti Grossi): Their pieces in minor mostly turn after some bars to the relative key: You can say this is vi of the tonality or i of the relative key. Just keep flexible in thinking and don't try to find one is right and the other is wrong. This point has been asked and discussed more than one time in this SE. Maybe we have to look: major vi or minor i? or: what key is this music in? e.g. this here:music.stackexchange.com/questions/24583/… Sep 2 '20 at 15:56
  • Hi! thanks for all this! Yes I totally take your point about the fluidity of tonality- but for the sake of working towards a grade 8 exam (and only for this sake) I like to know exactly where I am key-wise. Would you consider the movement from A7 to D minor in bar 3 a move to D minor? (it might help to know that there is another C sharp with an E on top of it just out of shot, suggesting V or V7, just before the beginning of the 'sequence'). I finished analysing the rest of the piece earlier today, and it seems as though the piece goes back into F major just after the 'sequence'. Thank you!
    – EdB123
    Sep 2 '20 at 19:57
  • Yes, in the A7 leads to dm (V2 ) - vi Sep 2 '20 at 21:24
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This passage is (locally) in Bb major (IV, relative to F) and does not involve a sequence, just step-wise bass motion. For ease of notation, I give the analysis in Bb.

X:1
T:Reinecke analysis
M:C
L:1/2
K:Dmin
[V:V1 treble] y E y | y y | f
[V:V2 bass m=D]"_Bb Major:"y "_c.t.o7/I"[G_B^c] "_I"[F_Bd] | "_c.t.o7"[E_B^c] "_viio"[_EA=c] | "_I"[D_B]

"c.t.o7" stands for "common-tone diminished seventh", which is a special use of the diminished chord to prolong another chord: in this case, Bb major. For more information about the common-tone seventh chord, see this related answer.

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  • This passage is in Bb major: I agree that we are here in the subdominant region, but we are still in F and I wouldn't call Bb as tonic (I). Wouldn't we need more context to say this is a modulation? Well, here is the piece for listening: youtube.com/watch?v=5mVlVCZh644 There's even an extension to a G chord (secondary domiant) and a half cadence in the next bar. Sep 2 '20 at 9:46
  • Thanks, @AlbrechtHügli. I've added a clarification regarding my use of Bb.
    – Aaron
    Sep 2 '20 at 18:20
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The first phrase is clearly not a harmonic sequence. It elaborates a tonic pedal, a totally different kind of pattern. (I would mark beats 3-4 of bar 2 as an appoggiatura on I.)

It's hard to be specific about the second phrase, the treble is missing! (This looks like an assignment to complete the treble.) But the accompaniment part hints at D minor where the C# leading tone first goes up to D then it's repeated but chromatically goes to C natural. The way that leading tone is repeated categorically makes this not a harmonic sequence. If it were sequential, it wouldn't be repeated but transposed to some other degree.

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