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I noticed in Clementi Op. 36 No. 5 and No. 6 there are these very similar and peculiar chord progressions (see image). Do those three chords often go together like that? Or is it more a Clementi style? Is there a name to refer to it? Anything special about it? Any comments welcome.

Clementi Op. 36 No. 5, mm. 16–17; No. 6, mm. 31 and 84–85

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As I understand your question, no, there isn't a specific name for the pattern you've identified.

However, it is quite common, particularly in the classical era, and there are names for components of it.

1. I - IV - V - I

This is a very standard chord progression. It can have a variety of names depending on context, but here, being in the middle of the phrase, it's just noteworthy in and of itself and doesn't have a particular name. If you say to someone, "note the I-IV-V-I progression here", you will be understood.

Consider the first Clementi excerpt, interpreting it in the key of D major. The overarching harmony of measure 17 is D major, the I harmony. The first half of measure 18 is G major, the IV harmony; and the latter half of the measure is the A major, the V harmony.

Not shown is measure 19, which returns to D major.

Note that the A major portion of measure 18 includes D as the lowest pitch. That brings us to the next point.

2. Pedal Tone

A pedal tone is a pitch — often the lowest, but not necessarily — that remains constant while the harmony changes.

In bottom-most D, A, and D, respectively, in the three musical segments can be interpreted as pedal tones.

3. Changing tones, or Double neighbor

As a preface: strictly speaking, the terms don't apply here. But the idea is worth knowing both how it comes up and why it doesn't apply.

Changing tones occur when a primary note is "surrounded" by its upper and lower neighbors. For example, in the third Clementi excerpt, we have the melodic figure F# G E F#. Taking F# as the "primary note", it is interrupted by its upper neighbor, then its lower neighbor, before returning to F# again.

The reason it doesn't (strictly) apply here is that changing tones are, by definition, non-chord tones. Since the chords themselves are changing, this particular progression of pitches doesn't fit the definition. Nevertheless, the effect is similar at the level of the individual voice.

Changing tones are also discussed in

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  • Thank, very interesting, esp. about the double neighbor. Sorry to ask a very ignorant question re "The first half of measure 18 is G major, the IV harmony; and the latter half of the measure is the A major, the V harmony." Why is the D G chord called "IV harmony" in G major? I thought IV chord should be built on the 4th key of G major, which would be C? Similarly, why is D E chord called 'the V harmony" in A major? The 5th key in A major is E, not D, though? (Hopefully this will help me start to learn some chord theory, which I found confusing.) Jan 22 at 7:10
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    @GrandAdagio earlier in the post I wrote, “Consider the first Clementi excerpt, interpreting it in the key of D major”. That means that I did the analysis as though that part of the piece was in D major rather than G major.
    – Aaron
    Jan 22 at 14:59
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    @GrandAdagio Also, the chord you refer to as “the d-e chord” is not a d-e chord. Remembering that one has to consider the melody in determining the chord, it’s an A major chord, and the D is not part of the chord – it’s a “pedal tone”, explained in section 2.
    – Aaron
    Jan 22 at 15:03
  • Thanks for the explanations. All what I can find about chord theory define the chords I, II,... as triads--e.g. in A major, the "IV" chord is D-F#-A. It confuses me when other variations could also be called the "IV" chord, sometimes it's a double note, or a slightly different triad containing some of the D, F#, A notes. Jan 22 at 17:14

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