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Several songs have this kind of progression: M, M7+, M7, M6 or m, m7+, m7, m6, for instance:

  • First verse of Sinatra's "My way":

And n[D]ow the end is n[D7M]ear and so I f[D7]ace the final c[B7]urtain

  • This verse of Beatle's "Michelle"

I will sa[Fm]y the [Fm7+]only w[Fm7]ords I kn[Fm6]ow that y[C#]ou'll underst[C]and

As those notes are not all diatonic, I'd like to know what it is, is there a name for this kind of progression, is there any theory behind it?

Thank you!

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  • 1
    And it sounds just wonderful, doesn't it? A few weeks ago, I came across this as well while playing along to "Telephone Line" from ELO. In the first line of each verse, there's a descending A Amaj7 A7 progression. At least it's noted down like that when I looked it up. And I immediately asked myself if it shouldn't be written as A Amaj7/G# A7/G instead.
    – Campfire
    Feb 15, 2022 at 0:04
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    @Campfire Right; although the Beatles don't, you could of course put the chromatic line in the bass for extra impact. Feb 15, 2022 at 14:14
  • @helil For the B7 on "curtain" in the Sinatra, should that be a Bm7?
    – Richard
    Feb 15, 2022 at 14:22
  • @Richard I've found this chords online and I guess not; it prepares to an Em7. It's not part of the sequence in question, though.
    – helil
    Feb 16, 2022 at 13:33

3 Answers 3

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I'm not sure if there's a name for it, but these reflect chromatic descending lines. E.g., for "My Way," as you move from chord to chord, you can find the individual notes D - C# - C natural - B, and for "Michelle," F - E - Eb - D.

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    Also "My Funny Valentine".
    – Aaron
    Feb 14, 2022 at 20:32
  • @Aaron Topical! I had reason to be humming that just a moment ago. Or, if we don't care that all the chromatic steps be equal in duration, Dido's Lament slithers all the way from ^1 down to ^5 (for an unrequited anti-Valentine's theme). Feb 14, 2022 at 20:42
  • Yeah, pretty sure Dido is not a big V-day fan.
    – Aaron
    Feb 14, 2022 at 20:53
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It's a line cliché. You see it a lot for a reason, it is very pretty.

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  • Welcome to Music.SE! Could you add any more to this answer, perhaps by defining "line cliché" and other examples of it?
    – Richard
    Feb 15, 2022 at 20:24
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That's a tough one to phrase a Google search, but here's what I found:

As @Campfire and @Andy Bonner mentioned, it is a "disguised" descending chromatic bass line and it "arrives" at the subsequent chord. It could be played as such, from the examples above:

And n[D]ow the end is n[D/D#]ear and so I f[D/C]ace the final c[B7]urtain

I will sa[Fm]y the [Fm/E]only w[Fm/D#]ords I kn[Fm/D]ow that y[Fm/C#]ou'll underst[C]and

This is a fine page with a lot of examples "from the past four centuries": https://musictheory.pugetsound.edu/mt21c/DescendingChromaticBassLines.html

So, I thought it would have a "explanation" from a theory point of view, but I guess it's just something you do, a common pattern.

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