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So, I've been this arpeggio sequence of G major to F major to Eb major to D major and can't really seem to figure out the theory behind it.

All of the root notes fit into G Mixolydian flat 6 & G feels like the tonal center to me, but the flat 6th chord is major in this case rather than augmented and I believe the D major works as a borrowed chord from G major as a perfect cadence resolution.

Let me know if you need more information. Thanks!

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5 Answers 5

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This is pretty close to the 'Andalusian' or Spanish sequence, except that usually starts with, as would be here, Gm. There's some borrowing going on, but the direction of the harmonies takes us from I (i) down progressively to V.

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It's a descending scale line in the bass (if the chords are in root position). This is a very common pattern since at least the 1500s. Were the G chord minor, this is sometimes known as the "Andalusian Cadence" which is common in flamenco.

It's also (along with variations) known as the "Lament Bass" (also with chromatic alterations.)

Scalewise movement in bass and melodic lines is common and not necessarily described by common chord movements. Note that if fifths (or fourths depending on the direction) are inserted between each chord one gets, G-C-F-Bb-Eb-Ab-D which is a (modified) cycle of fifths; this makes the original progression an elided movement by fifths.

https://musictheory.pugetsound.edu/mt21c/DescendingChromaticBassLines.html

https://www.angelfire.com/fl4/moneychords/DBL.html

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    Back in the day, though, there would be various different inversions over the bass, so Gm Dm/F Cm/E♭ D would be more likely.
    – phoog
    Commented Apr 3, 2022 at 21:36
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The G-F-E♭-D chord progression can be explained as just I-♮VII-♭VI-V in G major.

Both the F major chord (as ♮VII) and the E flat major chord (as ♭VI) are borrowed from G minor (the tonic minor of G major).

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    "♮VII"?! Where this notation comes from? Commented Apr 3, 2022 at 17:07
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    @user1079505 - That's how my Royal Conservatory of Music Harmony textbooks spelled bVII if that chord flattened/naturalized a sharp note instead of a no-accidentals note. Since we're flattening F# here...
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Apr 3, 2022 at 17:09
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    Alright, adding this to my list of mutually incompatible RNA notations.... Commented Apr 3, 2022 at 17:13
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    Seems to be if the VII is flattened in major it should be bVII which is consistent with your bVI. The M7th degree of a major scale is not sharpened, it is natural. Commented Apr 3, 2022 at 17:43
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    The whole point of using numbers to indicate scale degrees and the chords built on them is to describe relative harmony independently of the particular key. Altering the notation depending on what key is actually in use defeats the purpose entirely. If you want to indicate that the note is natural because the diatonic not would be sharp then you should just write G-F-E♭-D!
    – phoog
    Commented Apr 3, 2022 at 21:32
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It's not classical harmony. Think of it like power chords-- although they are chords, you can primarily think of them as complex single note bass lines-- it's all about the motion.

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The other answers are better from the theoretical standpoint, so just as a minority report:

From the modern listeners' perspective - this sequence of chords is a "bait-and-switch scheme" of a single chord: G minor is expected, but instead we get G major chord. You can look at the sequence as a simple G minor cadence with the usual - and expected - F# instead of F. But in the final chord - instead of G minor, it surprises us with G major, giving it "heroic" feel (which may also be "flamenco feel", or "tragic" feel, depending on the context).

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