mm. 11–12

The image above shows, from Bach 371 Chorales, No. 2 "Ich dank dir lieber Herre" in A major, measures 11 and 12.

I'm very confused by this part.

1. first red square, Is that chord I or vi56?

If that is I, non chord tone 'F' is becomes a 7th note(G) in the next chord, and the 7th note goes up in the another next chord.

There is a theory that it is possible to ascend by steps when a resolution sound comes out of the bass of a chord with 7 notes, but I don't know if this applies to the Bach choral as well.

if that is vi56

7th note 'E' goes to 'D' but maybe D is a non chord tone in that chord, but I don't know if the 7th will go to a non-chord tone and can be resolved.

2. second red square, that is I46 or maybe vi7 with out the root?

this just can't figure it out anything.. first time i saw this i think maybe this chord is 'iii' but if that iii, can't explain how non chord tone 'A' is resolved. because that's not a suspension or anticipation.

if that is I46, I don't know can come out like that.

and maybe vi7 with out root? i think that's not. but that's all i try.. so i appreciate to if you can help this.

2 Answers 2


First red box

The first chord is vi[6-5]. The chord on the half beat is viio[6-4], even those the B is missing, with the A service as a non-harmonic pedal tone. Thus, the progression is vi-vii-I.

Second red box

The chord here is a cadential 6-4 chord (I[6-4] or V[6-4] depending on who you're talking to), leading to the V chord on the following beat (not shown in the image).

A note on analyzing Bach in particular and music in general

It is tempting to try to label every single chord, but this is misleading. Bach was not composing this way — he was writing independent melodies, and later on, theorists came along and looked to give analytical explanations to his compositions.

Thus, many of Bach's "chords" are better seen as passing chords, expanding — but somewhat incidental to — a larger harmonic texture. In this light, it can be more productive to look at the first box as an expansion of the preceding V chord, with the A serving as an anticipation of the I chord.

  • thank you so much! pedal tone is make sense! (i thought pedal too but i was not sure about viio)
    – guss2222
    May 17, 2022 at 5:21
  • and you right. V came out next IV7 BUT but can use cadential 6-4 like that?
    – guss2222
    May 17, 2022 at 5:24
  • i mean can 'IV' came out next cadential I46? not the V?
    – guss2222
    May 17, 2022 at 6:00
  • You seem to have stumbled on the wrong BWV number. BWV 254 is Ach Gott, erhör mein Seufzen.
    – phoog
    May 17, 2022 at 8:44
  • 1
    @guss2222 Although the notes look like IV7, the C# is a melodic, not a harmonic, element. Thus, it's a IV chord with a suspension. This is the difference between just naming chords versus analysis. The other answer, for example, focuses on naming chords, but does not provide a functional analysis of how the music operates. Bach did not write in terms of vertical structures; his priority was independent lines of music. Quartal harmony is an idea that came along much later, and has more to do with chord voicings in, say, jazz, than as a functional form of analysis.
    – Aaron
    May 20, 2022 at 2:25

First of all the notation I use: y=first invertion; x=second invertion; Q=quartal.

( Vy - V5 ) ( viy - IQ ) ( I - IM7sus2 ) ( vi7no5 - ii7x ) ( iii6y - IVM7 )

Quartal harmony is his own topic, vi to I and I to I are fairly simple, so nothing fancy in here. The last chord is C#m6 intead of A because C# is doubled, which makes us think about it as the tonic, but it still works as V/IV.

  • you sure? i'm not doubt you, just First time hearing this Quartal harmony. and if that is 'ii7x -> iii6y'. how can explain 'A' is resolved? 7th in ii7x is moving to non chord tone and that non chord tone in iii6y is not a suspension or anticipation. it's messed up
    – guss2222
    May 19, 2022 at 7:41
  • man. i research that Quartal harmony (Quartal chord). i think that was not use to bach age.
    – guss2222
    May 19, 2022 at 7:55
  • Quartal chords is when you build chords by stacking fourths instead of traditional triads. But that A it´s a pedal tone in that whole measure it doesn´t needs to be resolved, there´s not such such thing as a "messed up" when moving to a neighbour chord. May 19, 2022 at 10:44
  • Quartal harmony is a really overlooked topic and there´s no real works about it. It is something we use to call things like C7sus4. Also in Mozart´s age augmented chords weren´t a thing and in one of his works he uses the four existent augmented triads. May 19, 2022 at 10:49
  • 1
    Look, the Alto part in the second measure remains on A, that's why is a pedal point. We don't know if Bach purpously did add a quartal chord, that's only my interpretation as AM7sus4 because if taken D as the root it makes no sense neither G#. Again, at the end of the day even if Quartal or not for me it's like a suspended I chord. It is ii7x because it spells F# D A B which is Bm7 starting on the fifth. C#m6 is the same as A, and A works as the dominant to IV. Keep your Focus on voice leading. May 20, 2022 at 14:15

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