I am writing a piece from little licks I have from years, and I found what seems to me a really moody intro consisting of 3 "exotic" chords.

for context, I have no education in music theory, but I am really enthusiastic about it. If I speak nonsense below, please pardon me.

I love these chords and I would like to analyse them or find any progression with the same vibe because I would like to revisit this chord progression later in the piece

For the intro part, they resolve in a Gm (in a dorian scale) which I'll consider the I chord

The piece is modulated later (in Eb dorian/Db major) so I need transposable relations of these chords with this resolving Gm

here is the score (ignore the chords names in purple) :

strange chords intro

this is what I found so far :

  • the first chord : A D G C (F B) is just a stack of fourths in A minor.
    it could be some kind of Am11
    or using a slash, a... D7sus/A ?? is there any way to notate a stack of fourths ? if i was obliged to find the position of the chord, I would say II since the bass is A
    but it could be V with the D as tonic.

  • the second chord : Ab Eb G Bb (Db G)
    is either a very complex Ab
    or a simple Eb major triad over Ab bass (Eb/Ab), but in this case, how am I supposed to analyse it ? is it a bII or a VI ? I would go for a VI so far

  • the last chord : G C Eb A (G Eb) has the same problem,
    either a complex G chord
    or a Adim/G or more close a Cm6/G so this sounds like it's either announcement to the I chord with decoration or a II chord (Adim) or a IV chord (Cm)

After many tries and simplification I could sustitute these chords with this progression, with these transpositions (notice that the I becomes major in transpositions, sound better in the ear). I think I could play with that.

D7   Eb     Cm6    ->  Gm   (intro)
V    bVI     IVm    ->  I    (relations)
Bb7  Cb(B♮)  Abm6  ->  Eb   (transposed)
G7   Ab      Fm    ->  C    (transposed in C) 

I find this sweet.

Am I doing this right ? did I miss something obvious ?

  • I'm curious... how would you call this G dorian if it has an Eb which is the minor 6th? Dorian has a major 6th. You might be modulating at some point without realizing? – mkorman Sep 29 '20 at 13:36
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    sure, these 3 chords are out of it, when I talked about G dorian I meant the following (from the Gm chord an after, not seen here, is an insisting E natural) – gui3 Sep 29 '20 at 13:49

The last chord can certainly be heard as a type of chord IV leading to Gm: as you say, Cm6/G

The first two chords are not functional in the Roman numeral sense but there’s plenty to say about them as regards voice leading if you want to write similar sequences.

Firstly the bass descends by semitone a-ab-g. There are also tritone pairs that descend in major thirds f-b db-g a-eb.

The slide into chord 3 is seamless because of two things. Firstly they share eb-g. Second is the parallelism (planing) ab-bb to g-a. I would argue that in addition there is a db-c with the c octave-displaced.

All composers really do is do stuff with music - if you do some more stuff like this you’ll easily find some more sequences that fit/contrast as you like.

It’s always worth looking and thinking about what you’ve written.

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  • Thanks a lot ! your comment inspired me ! Regarding the movement between notes instead of functional harmony I found that making the 3rd chord in the progression a major chord instead of minor gives this ascending vibe (G Ab F Cm in the C version) – gui3 Sep 29 '20 at 15:43
  • ... and this progression respects more the dorian feel of the piece, since the flat 6th is only a passing tone – gui3 Sep 29 '20 at 15:45

There is very little point in trying to analyse this sort of thing as functional harmony. Or even in trying to pin labels onto the individual chords. Just let it be what it is, described by the notation. We're not in 'chord sequence' territory here. The brief, accurate way to describe these chords is the notation.

  • Yes I may be over-analysing, but I love this progression so much I'd like to remind it in later parts, that's why i'd like to make a chord sequence out of it, simplified but echoing the intro – gui3 Sep 29 '20 at 11:40
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    @gui3 keep in mind Laurence's point is about "analyse... as functional harmony." Basically that means you aren't going to analyze as Roman numerals like ii6 V7 I, etc. but that still leaves plenty more to analyze. Consonance/dissonance, rhythm, mode, etc. are starting places. – Michael Curtis Sep 29 '20 at 15:13

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