Ok, To be Specific I'm looking for

  • Key
  • Chord Types With Degree

In C Major

In B Major

I've included both keyless and how I understand it.

My Interpretation so far

To me it's obvious that this Key is B, which would make the second chord an augmentation, but the problem is that the major 3rd putting the progression outside a minor key, and the minor 6th AND 7th is putting it outside the Mixolydian mode.

Perhaps it is mixolydian, and the minor 6th sounds fine because it's the same onte as the Augmented 5th from earlier?

Here's the sound of the progression: https://soundcloud.com/redsheep-1/chord-example/s-Lp99G

The sound is very simple to my ears, so what am I missing here?

  • 1
    It's funny you should mention that, I did notice the Phrygian dominant scale creeping in there and I am familiar with it as a sound. I'll take that, can you put it in answer form and I'll send an upvote across ;) Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 21:42
  • 2
    There needs to be more context here to determine key. At most you can determine what kind of cadence or harmonic progression is occurring, which would either be V-i in Eminor or I-iv in B minor with modal mixture. Without more context you won't be able to determine the key in this context with any certainty. Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 2:25
  • @jjmusicnotes - the D#s put this bit into B maj. rather than B min.You're right - there's not enough to be accurate.
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 5:21
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    You put ##, but then you used a natural- in the same bar, for effectively the same note.When the melody moves to Em, which it does, the B'ness' gets left behind. Now we're looking at Emin., and the ramifications of that chord.It's not B any more, it's Emin.So the changes are to Emin. not B maj. Any additional notes here will refer directly to Emin.Thus if the chord moves to a min.6, the appropriate note gets added, regardless of what key we're in.Obviously, the notes will or should reflect that.I don't see a problem, and going into modes, as I stated earlier, is barking up the wrong tree.
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 20:24
  • 1
    @AlexanderTroup - I mention the double sharp because in this instance it is non-functional and therefore unnecessary. It would be appropriate if you were illustrating some sort of tonicization, which doesn't appear to be the case in the provided example. Commented Aug 16, 2013 at 1:52

5 Answers 5


There is not quite enough music to really know the key. 3 bars is not enough context. If I were to guess I would say that if this piece is tonal (not modal) that this excerpt is in E minor with the D# from harmonic or melodic minor to create a leading tone. Whether or not a c or c# is used for melodic content it would still be E minor, either melodic or harmonic.

The chords would be as such:

| B | E/B | B |

| V | i64 (hard to write that properly via typing) | V |

If the piece is in B it the E minor would be borrowed from the parallel minor.

| I | iv | I |

It could also be based on the 5th mode of melodic or harmonic minor, yielding the same roman numerals.

It seems like the reason that you didn't understand is that you were trying to place it all in one scale but Minor needs a chromatic alteration for its leading tone, which gives another scale. The other problem is the lack of context. A lot of analysis questions can be answered by seeing where things are coming from or where they are going.

  • Great answer. The A then becomes an upper neighbor tone to the 6/4 chord. Pretty common, as it also gives a bit of V7 flavor to the whole passage. The passage then reduces to a larger-scale expansion of V. Is the passage followed by an e-minor chord later or earlier? Commented Sep 23, 2013 at 16:19

If the whole thing eventually resolves to Em, well then it's just plain (harmonic) Em with B being the dominant.
If B really is the tonic, and if you are planning to use the note C rather than C# for melodic content, than you are dealing with 'mixolydian b2 b6', also called 'Freygish' or 'Phrygian dominant', which is common in for instance Kletzmer music. If you instead want to use C# for melodic content, than you are dealing with 'mixolydian b6'.


Sequence is B maj. to Emin. to Emsus4 via emin. back to B. Don't think there's a mode in sight. That F## is probably actually a G natural, which then makes the chord Emin. Why did you think it would be F##? (It prints better than Fx !) And you've made the F## a G natural in later in the same bar. That's a red herring !

  • The problem there is that in B major, you have G# and A# on the 6th and 7th degrees, and they're both naturals in this progression. Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 21:30
  • Are you saying this is a Modulation? It would make sense as E is a perfect 4th above B Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 21:31
  • Tunes rarely modulate for one bar only.
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 5:29
  • 1
    Or never... A modulation has to have more than one chord in the new key. Otherwise we could just say that we've modulated to a new key when we can't explain the function of a chord Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 5:47
  • I think it's the opposite of a red herring as the term is typically used. A stinky fish to be sure. But the term is usually applied when the stinky fish is a distraction from the real issue. Here, you appear to intend it mean a real indicator of a problem. ... $0.02. :) Commented Sep 22, 2013 at 7:50

enter image description here

Key of B major, subdominant borrowed from B minor. The A note in the second bar is a non-harmonic tone (broderie - neighboring tone)


The others have adequately addressed the theory. It could be interpreted as centered around B major (with the 6th flat) or the B may be a dominant of E minor. It really depends on context and most analysis in Western Classical Music is comparison with conventions anyway.

More importantly: You may want to listen to Purcell's Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary, whose main phrase begins in a manner VERY similar to your example.

  • The Purcell differs by starting on a minor chord, making it rather easier to explain.
    – Laurence
    Commented Nov 18, 2019 at 0:33

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