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I am having some problems analyzing the chords in the 2nd and 4th bars in this example in A minor (harmonic). The song is from the soundtrack of Nier Automata (Grandma - Destruction).

Four bars of music for piano, with some chords/dyads in the right hand part.

For my understanding, the 2nd bar’s chord could be either a diminished chord ii or vii. What about the first chord in 4th bar (before the v chord), is it a ii or vii chord? Which diminished chords are used here in this simple chord progression?

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  • @ToddWilcox - I would hazard a guess that it's treble clef on top and bass clef underneath based on the existing chord analysis, but there are definitely still inconsistencies in the less disputed chord labels in that case (especially the 2nd chord of Bar 4, claimed to be V).
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Feb 16, 2022 at 13:14
  • What song is this from? It looks like it has a deceptively fast harmonic rhythm right now - i.e. I'd hazard a guess that Bar 4 might even change chords every 8th note for more than half of it.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Feb 16, 2022 at 15:34
  • An answer might be more helpful to you if you added what you feel is the harmonic reduction of the passage. Bar 2 has B D G# on all strong downbeats which is reasonable for a viio6. The only B or D in the bass in bar 4 is the B on up beat of beat 3 which does not make a strong case for a iio chord. Commented Feb 16, 2022 at 17:22
  • @MichaelCurtis - A previous edit had Bars 2 and 4 split into 2 chords each, one per every 2 beats. Note my earlier comments doubting that this interpretation was correct.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Feb 16, 2022 at 19:11
  • @Dekkadeci, OK, but I just want to see how the OP reduces whatever version they are working with. Essentially, their reduction is their analysis. How they perceive that is really the heart of the matter. Commented Feb 16, 2022 at 21:20

4 Answers 4

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This isn't really an answer, the other answers give the basic analysis of the chords in your example. But I think you need to look into harmonic analysis and harmonic reduction. You may be trying to identify chords on too small a time scale - like every beat of even every eight note - but that is not always appropriate. Some related terms to read up on are harmonic rhythm, figuration, diminution, non-chord tones.

A harmonic analysis could look like the following where a simplified version of the music is given below the original score...

Harmonic analysis of music across a grand stave, a simplified harmonic reduction is below, and Roman numeral analysis below this.

That is from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voice_leading

The arrows in that reduction may seem confusing, but they are trying to show something called a voice exchange. You can ignore them if it isn't clear.

Also, you can think of levels of harmonic action which distinguishes between top level, melodic particulars versus deeper, more abstracted harmonic design, like in this example from the textbook Kostka, Tonal Harmony...

Harmonic analysis of piece for the string section of an orchestra, 1/2. Harmonic analysis of piece for the string section of an orchestra, 2/2

It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of the I–V–I progression at all levels of musical structure, from the phrase on up. However, not all dominant chords have the same significance, and the same could be said of tonic chords. Often, the domain of a chord will be expanded through the use of one or more subsidiary chords, a process known as prolongation. In Example 7-7 (preceding), the first four measures (mm. 27–30) contain a large I–V progression. The opening tonic is prolonged through the first three measures with the help of the relatively weak V65 that occurs in the second measure. The second four measures (mm. 31–34) also begin with a prolongation of the tonic, this time by means of the V65, V43, and i6 chords. The important dominant chord here is the root position V at the end of m. 33. We could diagram the deeper harmonic structure of the example as the following:

Roman numeral analysis of the above piece.


From comments...

f a chord in A minor has tones B-D-F-G#, then can it be both iio7 (G# as 7th) and viio chord?

No. You want to read chords in thirds, identify chord roots, then identify inversions.

B-D-F-G# if you read that in thirds it will be G# B D F, so G# is the root and the chord is in first inversion from the B in bass. In Roman numeral analysis (RNA) that is Am: viio6/5.

For the diminished chord iio in minor, the basic triad is B D F. It is often in first inversion D F B, D in bass, RNA iio6.

When you get to that chord as a seventh chord things get a little tricky. The ii chord in major and the iio chord in minor are both subdominant function chords, they are not dominant chords. That has bearing on the seventh chord in minor.

The seventh chord spelling in A minor is B D F A. Notice the seventh above root B is an A. It's a base diminished triad plus a minor seventh. That chord is called a half diminished chord. The RNA symbol uses a slashed circle: iiø7. This is the seventh chord on root ii in minor. It often is in first inversion D F A B, iiø6/5.

You can lower the top tone of B D F A by a half step to B D F G#, but notice that in the key of A minor that change from A to G# is a move from tonic to leading tone scale degrees. That leading tone is what creates the dominant function viio6/5.

One half step may seem like a tiny change, but it's an important change. It's the difference between a subdominant function iiø7 chord and a dominant function viio7 chord!

If all this stuff about roots, inversions, function, etc. is not familiar, you probably need to get a good harmony textbook to learn the fundamentals of harmony.

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  • You wrote earlier: "Bar 2 has B D G# on all strong downbeats which is reasonable for a viio6. The only B or D in the bass in bar 4 is the B on up beat of beat 3 which does not make a strong case for a iio chord." This makes sense although I'm still a bit confused with diminished chords in harmonic minor. If a chord in A minor has tones B-D-F-G#, then can it be both iio7 (G# as 7th) and viio chord? I guess there are no hard and fast rules and it all depends on context.
    – Janta
    Commented Feb 17, 2022 at 9:18
  • @Janta, I think I see where you may be having trouble. I added some more to my answer, because it's a long explanation. Commented Feb 17, 2022 at 16:21
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    Michael, thanks once again for your help. Your explanation provided the answer to my question!
    – Janta
    Commented Feb 17, 2022 at 17:09
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I would analyze the entire second measure as a V7 chord. Since the first and third measures are both I chords, analyzing m. 2 as V7 gives a clear accounting of the harmonic motion. The first two beats of that measure comprise a vii dim chord in second inversion, but calling it such doesn't significantly change the overall analysis of Tonic – Dominant – Tonic.

I would call m. 4 V7 for the same reason — the micro-details don't change the overall analysis.


For the purpose of attempting to label each chord, then the downbeat of m. 2 is vii dim in first inversion, and the downbeat of m. 4 is ii halfdim7 in third inversion and with the chordal fifth omitted, which is standard.

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  • Thank you for your answer. So if the harmonic progression is clear like I - V7 here, then you don't have to label each possible chord within a measure?
    – Janta
    Commented Feb 16, 2022 at 20:37
  • @Janta That's right.
    – Aaron
    Commented Feb 16, 2022 at 20:52
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The bars are basically i (bar1) V (bar2) i (bar3) and V (bar4). There's nothing particular that changes the basic harmony in each of the four bars. Beats 1 and 3 (the strongest) all allude to those chords, except 3 in bar 4, which waits till beat 4.

A minor is a key; A harmonic minor is a scale.

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  • Thanks, this makes sense. Now if I only knew when not to over-analyze every possible chord within a bar!
    – Janta
    Commented Feb 16, 2022 at 20:43
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Bar 1 is basically an Am chord. So is bar 3. Bar 2 includes a G♯ and all the on-the-beat notes are included in an E7 chord. Accept the simple analysis! Bar 4 is a little more complex, but it's still basically E7.

If the environment is A minor, and you find yourself playing E, G♯ and D notes, it's 99% sure there's no point in calling the chord anything but E7. If the E is specifically omitted, it MIGHT be useful to call it G♯dim. But, functionally, it's just another flavour of E7, the dominant of Am.

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  • Thank you Laurence, I'm slowly but surely begin to believe the dominance of V chord!
    – Janta
    Commented Feb 17, 2022 at 17:05

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