I’m playing some chorales and I can’t figure out how to analyse these highlighted chords. I think these chords share the characteristics of having adjacent notes and I’m having trouble with that. The first one could be a sustained fourth I think? Can someone explain it to me please? Thanks a lotenter image description here

  • You might want to read into the concepts of suspensions and the sixte ajoutée.
    – Lazy
    Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 11:03
  • Thanks! I haven’t learnt these concepts. I will search for them.
    – Evelyn1986
    Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 11:16
  • What you're calling a "sustained fourth" is also called a suspension.
    – Aaron
    Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 16:12
  • People sometimes think the "sus" in chord chord symbols such as Asus4 means "sustained," but it doesn't. It means "suspended."
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 30, 2023 at 7:55
  • @Lazy sixte ajoutée seems to point primarily to sources in German, secondarily French. These sources imply that the term originated with Rameau, but I don't see that he used it (albeit only after a quick scan of his treatise). He does discuss these chords at some length, but very much in terms of inverting seventh chords rather than adding sixths to triads. Of course the two concepts are related, but the main point here is that sixte ajoutée is probably not the best search term for English, and "added sixth" is probably not best for materials on classical theory.
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 30, 2023 at 8:16

3 Answers 3


The analytical principal here — and a good tool in general when unsure of a chord — is to look at what the following, and sometimes preceding, chords are.

  • Chord 1: The chord is A7, but on beat one — the highlighted area — there is a suspension. The A7 is realized in beat 2. The major hint is that it's preceded by the IV chord (G) and leads to a cadence in D major.

  • Chord 2: Here we have an E-7 chord. It's the ii chord relative to D major, and starts off a ii-V-I cadence in that key.

  • Chord 3: Similarly to Chord 2, this is a ii chord leading a ii-V-I cadence in A major. That is, it's a B-7 chord in first inversion.

  • Chord 4: This is the same as Chord 3, but in root position, and serves the same function.

  • Chord 5: Same chord and function as Chord 2.


Just to add a little to Aaron's answer which lays out the harmonic details, here are a couple general concepts at work:

  • Chords decorated or embellished by non-chord tones. This is what happens in the first example using a suspended fourth and auxiliary tone (E D E) in the tenor. Decoration of A7 in D.
  • Chords arpeggiated or broken. This happens in the second example, the Em7 in D, first it's played like ii6/5 but then is arpeggiated to root position ii7, which you could just called a "broken chord" type of figuration of ii7.
  • chords ii(7) and IV blended into a broader subdominant function. In the second and fifth example you could possibly describe the immediate chord on the beat as G B D as IV with and added sixth E, first inversion Em7, or a G chord as IV with the E as a passing, non-chord tone. But both ii and IV` have subdominant function in functional harmony, so you could use the broader description of "subdominant harmony". This kind of chord ambiguity in the subdominant function happens a lot in tonal harmony.
  • Modulation or temporary tonicization. This happens in the third and fourth examples. Notice the sharps that occur in those places. In this style, and those particular occurrences, the sharps are not mere chromaticism, but signal a change of tonal center. Think of it like adding another sharp to the key signature, for three sharps, temporarily A major. The tones involved are various voicings of B D F# A. In the key D that would be a vi7 chord, but in A it is ii7. This means the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th examples are all various treatments of the ii(7) chord, but the tonal center changes.

I'm not good at staff reading, but...

A, E, D, A: Oops, I misread one of the tones. Could be D9 but I'm less sure of it now.

G, B, D, E: Either G6 or Emi7, I can never tell a difference. I guess I'd lean to Emi7.

D, B, F#, A: Bmi7 or maybe D6.

B, D, D, A: Bmi7 again? Even if F# is not included? (It does appear right after.)

G, B, D, E: Emi7 (or G6) again.

If chords with "adjacent notes", as you've called it, confuse you, it seems you aren't familiar with chords consisting of more than the major or minor triad. Look into seventh chords (these are very common!), also ninth, eleventh, even thirteenth, or into sixth chords and other "added tone" chords that aren't even built as a stack of thirds. And while you're at it, you may even meet suspended chords, which take out the third and replace it with the fourth or second.

  • It's very clear from the Help Centre that questions exactly like this are disallowed. By providing an answer, it will only encourage such questions.
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 10:56
  • 1
    @Tim Well, the point isn't identifying the specific chords, but introducing the asker to the concept of chords consisting of more than three tones. Trouble is I'm having trouble phrasing a few coherent sentences about it.
    – Divizna
    Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 11:02
  • Hi Tim. Can you please shed some light on why my question is disallowed? I’m learning harmony and I really can’t work out what these five chords are…
    – Evelyn1986
    Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 11:12
  • Thank you Divizna. I only know about diminished 7th, dominant 7th and recently just learnt Neapolitan 6th.
    – Evelyn1986
    Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 11:22
  • 1
    @Aaron your different interpretation of "identifying chords" also points to a need to revisit the help center, if only to reduce the ambiguity, but more likely to establish a better consensus around what kinds of questions the site should contain.
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 30, 2023 at 8:21

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