The chord progressions for the song Nomadic Revery by Bonnie Prince Billy are:

Verse: (C Fm Bb Fm Bb C)x2 Cmaj7

Chorus: (Bb C Fm Bb C)x2

Bridge: (Cm Eb)x3 Gm (Cm Eb)x3 Bb Cm (Cm Eb)x3 Fm Gm

The Bridge seems to clearly be in Cm, but I can't understand what key the verse and chorus are in. Are they in Cm, but change temporarily to F/Dm back and forth during the verse? Or is it possible to use the major version of the minor tonic chord for effect? Thanks.

  • Where does the 'F/Dm' part feature?
    – Tim
    Mar 29 '16 at 7:44
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    @jjmusicnotes, it might also be a very Dorian F left hanging on the half cadence. That's consistent with the constant D♮, and all the chords fit very well (allowing for the usual ficta for Dorian). The bulk of the chords then act as i, IV and V, and the C7 then becomes unresolved, but not nonfunctional. I'd want to hear how the melody lays out over top.
    – user16935
    Mar 29 '16 at 11:25
  • As Bb is the IV of the key of F, and C is the V, it seems most likely that the key of the song overall is F minor, with a modulation to C minor for the bridge. Fairly classic and not that unusual, IMHO. Mar 29 '16 at 12:07
  • @Patrx2 Sure, F Dorian works as well, and I see your point about the half-cadence. However, I'm not convinced that it stands up harmonically. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Bb Mixolydian stands up harmonically either (with the C chord, perhaps modal mixture with lydian?), I was just assigning a key based on notes presented. We can postulate any number of assignments and argue their validity, but, I think you'll agree, it comes down to what we hear. I also must admit that I misread the post originally, I though all the chords in Verse/Chorus were C minor chords for some reason. Mar 29 '16 at 23:58
  • @Patrx2 Now taking a second look (and realizing the chords are C instead of Cm) I'm going to agree that F Dorian with usual ficta seems to work here. If we agree on F Dorian for Verse / Chorus, then I think a move to C natural minor for the Bridge is indeed reasonable. Mar 30 '16 at 0:04

You will not find a scale that contains all those chords. But you don't have to. There is a term "chromatic". It describes notes and chords that don't use the notes of the "scale of the key". You don't need to "borrow" chords from anywhere, it's perfectly alright to be firmly in C major but use a Fm chord. Think the end of that very simple tune "When The Saints Come Marching In". In C, we have these chords C, C7, F, Fm, C, G7, C. That's not a string of modulations, merely a sprinkling of chromatic chords in C major.

And yes, it's very common to swap minor and major versions of the tonic chord.

Listening to "Nomadic Revery" on YouTube, it seems clear that both verse and chorus come "home" to C major. The bridge goes on a bit of a wander, but I wouldn't change the key signature.

(What a truly terrible song, and equally terrible performance! But each to his own...)

  • Yep. There's little point in arguing about what key this piece is "really" in, because how we name keys is a more or less arbitrary convention. Where a song seems to come "home" (if it does) is the key if anything is. Apr 2 '16 at 18:40

Apart from the common use of the major and minor chords that occur in songs - I,IV,V,ii,iii,vi - another set of chords is sometimes used, from the PARALLEL key. Thus, say in C, the chord pool is C,Dm,Em,F,G,Am, but also Cm,Eb,Fm,Gm,Ab,Bb. I've left out the more rarely used dims.

  • Tim, I'm not convinced this answers the question. Mar 29 '16 at 7:36
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    @jjmusicnotes - it's rather general, but addresses the last part. I'm not sure what key sig. I'd put on it, though.
    – Tim
    Mar 29 '16 at 7:48
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    I suppose I'm being a bit of a stickler, I guess I just wish the correlation between the answer and the question were drawn more clearly. Mar 29 '16 at 23:50

As far as I know, there are no key signatures that contains such combination of chords. It may be an accidental piece. It is there to add flavor to the song. You can revise a song and add some diminished chords.


Disclaimer: I haven't heard the song.

Considering the use of the Cmaj7, among other reasons, I'd probably call this a C major. It has some borrowed chords from its parallel minor, C minor. Additionally, in jazz, Fm7-B♭7-C would be the (very common) backdoor progression, with C major as the tonic.

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