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I generally feel that I have a good intuition for chord naming, but know very few formal rules that apply to chromatic progressions like this one I wrote:

Em - Bm - Cm - Cdim B Em - Bm - Cm - EbM7 B Em

It seems obvious that one should avoid spelling the same pitch two different ways consecutively if at all possible, but every spelling I try runs into that problem one way or another in measures 3—4 (currently confined to m4).

I could spell the Cm and Cdim chords as B#m and B#dim, which seems ill-advised on its face, but that would also suggest changing the Cm in the relatively stable second line, which looks even worse.

The progression sounds colorful, but not especially unorthodox or non-functional, so I have to assume I'm missing something. What's the most consistent and readable way to write this?

2 Answers 2

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In addition to @Dekkadeci's interpretation, another possibility would be to view the Cdim chord as a B major chord with the C being suspended from the previous Cmin. This is functionally consistent, reflects the sound — particularly the motion of C to B over an enharmonically static accompaniment — resolves the spelling conflict within the measure, and maintains the one-chord-per-measure harmonic rhythm.

Mm. 3–4 reinterpreted with suspension

The downside to this interpretation is that the suspended C is not (easily) reflected in the chord symbols.

One way to decide which interpretation is preferred is to play the chord progression over the corresponding root pitch. Thus, play the progression twice, once with C-then-B in measure 4, and once with B-then-B in measure 4. The one that best reflects how you hear things is the interpretation to choose.

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You can respell Bar 4 as D♯°7 - B (yes, with a missing 5th for the first chord). This is actually pretty much what's going on here harmonically, as this is vii°7 - V in E minor (which looks like it's the home key). Note that vii°7 commonly resolves to another dominant-function chord (admittedly more often to V7 or V6/5).

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