Here is a progression in a song I am playing

Excerpt from "Feelin' My Way" by Lang and Kress

On the 3rd beat of the second measure there is a Dm6 or G9/D chord (or B half diminished first inversion): at least that's what Carl Kress is playing there. I usually hear the 3rd inversion V chord there (E7/D here) in this type of progression, at least in more classical style pieces, but I have often seen this substitution or other substitutions when the bass note reaches the 4th of the scale.

I guess other options would be D diminished or D major.

Here are my questions:

  1. Is this a common enough thing that there is a standard analysis of this chord?

  2. What is the best name for this chord?

  3. What would be other common substitutions when you have this basic baseline and pattern.

As I understand it, this progression is a substitution for simply play 4 bars of A, and the soloist in this song is certainly treating these bars that way.

I'm thinking that I could look at this as an E7 with upper extensions, so this chord being

E plus D-B-F-A

this could be a E11b9 or something as well.

Here is a version of the score with my playing my version: Bart on Musescore

  • Is the E7/D in parentheses on your sheet added by you? That chord has different notes and sound in this passage than a Dm6 and IMO makes the progression less interesting than the Dm6, just I V I V etc. with a moving bass line. Oct 17 at 15:48
  • I am using a transcription, there is no sheet music. It sounds like Kress was playing the Dm6, but as I mentioned, I think fundamentally the chord is just 4 Bars of A. I added the E7/B because George M Smith has a lot of exercises that go like that, so it helps me remember what is happening there. Oct 18 at 16:55

The observation that the entire passage is, in effect, a prolonged A chord, is accurate, and that would be the broad "classical" interpretation. The E chords and D (or B) are functioning as prolongational chords rather serving dominant or pre-dominant functions, respectively.

At that level, one could substitute any chord that can serve a "prolonging" function: A tritone sub for A (Eb); any chord rooted by B, D, or E; even a C# minor or F# minor chord could work, since they share two notes in common with the A chord; a bII chord (Bb) might be a possibility.

Appropriate substitutions — perhaps with extensions or alterations to accommodate the overall A major sound — would depend on context and, when improvising, sufficient understanding (explicit or implicit) between the ensemble members.

See also Tritone substitution to a major chord?


Although you already accepted an answer I have thoughts on this. I listened to the original recording. The E7/B chords are not that but actually Bm chords thus this is a progression and not all A. It is a partially diatonic walk up and back down from A to Dm6. In answer to your numbered questions:

  1. iv (or IVm6) is a common non-diatonic chord used in major keys and comes from borrowing the iv chord from Am, the parallel minor.

  2. It’s simply a Dm6.

  3. The E7/B you mentioned would work as a substitution for the Bm since there is no clash with the F# E’s in the melody there.

You’re right on as far as melodically it is a simple melody in A major. Since they don’t play an F# melody note against the Dm6 it works great.

It’s a fantastic recording, thanks for asking and sharing.

  • 1
    Thanks for this answer. Knowing Kress's playing style somewhat from "Master's of the Plectrum Guitar" and listening to him a lot, there is a good chance that the E7/B is E9/B voiced as B-G#-D-F#, which is very close to a Bminor chord. Kress also probably played something hipper than A/C#, but A-E7/B-A/C#/E/D was very common at the time, and you can hear Kress play something similar in Gb on "Pickin' My Way" at the "Trio" part. I wish I could accept both answer! Oct 19 at 15:13

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