I've been listening to "I'm the candy man" from The Fall of the House of Usher this morning and am hitting a little roadblock trying to think of the theory behind the chord progression.

It goes a bit like this:

Dm A C Bm7(b5) Eb Gm Ab A7 (i believe)

What i have gleamed so far is that it could be considered staring in D minor, shifting into G minor before briefly A flat then with the A7 being the V of Dm to bring it back home. Am I on target here? Thank you!

I'm the candy man

3 Answers 3


In the key of Gm, Ab can be seen as a Neapolitan chord. Or bII borrowed from G phrygian.

But then it leads to A7, and I'm not aware of a good functional explanation of that. It's a chromatic connection.


Once again, I offer one of my favourite quotes: 'Notes outside the scale do not necessarily affect the tonality'. Walter Piston, Harmony.

A♭ is a chromatic neighbour to A. No need to infer a new tonal centre.

  • Ab is not a tritone substitution for E. That would be Bb7. Oct 22 at 16:28
  • Indeed. Answer edited. In my eagerness to find a functional excuse for Ab, I talked rubbish. A functional excuse is unnecessary, and there isn't one.
    – Laurence
    Oct 22 at 23:28
  • Ab is a chromatic neighbor to G. If it was a chromatic neighbor to A, it would be spelled G#.
    – mathlander
    Oct 23 at 4:35
  • So spell it as G#.
    – Laurence
    Oct 23 at 21:53

Firstly, I would write the harmony like this:

Dm A/C# Am7/C Gadd9/B Eb/Bb Gm(add9) Ab A7

You could write the chords without the bass inversion, but this way it looks more natural to me. Notice that in the third chord you can definitely hear an A, and initially there's no G, that's why wrote it as Am7/C and not a C chord, and the fourth chord is a pure G/B until the very end when the A comes in, and there is no F, so it sounds more like a G chord than a B chord.

Anyway, to me, the chords that feel like tonal centers (i.e. resting points, when there is a sense of conclusion) are Dm, Gadd9/B, and Gm(add9). So at the start, Dm A/C# definitely feels like i V in D minor. As we approach G major and rest on it, Am7/C Gadd9/B feels like a Plagal cadence ii I in G major. As Eb/Bb brings notes from a different tonality and appears to resolve to Gm(add9), that sounds like a VI i in G minor. Ab feels like just a chromatic approach to A7, the V of D minor.

Even though you could think the tonality is constantly shifting between these 3 (D minor, G major, G minor), the whole thing starts and ends at the same place (D minor), and the changes in tonality are very brief, so I think they would be best described by the concepts of "borrowed chords", or "tonicizations".

Thinking of the whole progression in D minor, we could interpret Gadd9/B as being borrowed from the parallel major, Eb/Bb as being a Neapolitan chord, and Ab as a chromatic transition between Gm an A.

Another thing to pay attention to is the chomatic movement of the bass, that moves down (or up at the end) one semitone at a time. This helps explain the appearance of B natural and Ab, that are outside the scale of D minor, but fit this chromatic movement very well.

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