I had a go at chording out GreenSleeves today:

(EDIT: Revised image, thanks ℵ₀)

enter image description here

This is very exciting, as it is completely off my map. Here be dragons!

The central section (m9-12) looks like a IV -> I in D Major. But that isn't harmonically close to Em.

Gosh! It sounds so right! But it is perpendicular to everything I have analysed before.

It must be modal, but which mode?

The second melody is really similar to the first, you can see that they line up perfectly for awhile in the middle of the image.

I feel this must be the tip of some iceberg of undiscovered musical flavour.

Will I ever be able to see this with the clarity I know have for standard classical music?

Can someone see through this?

  • 2
    Where did you get that melody from? What I mean is make sure the melody is one of the known versions before trying to find chords.
    – Matt L.
    Apr 23 '16 at 15:37
  • Honestly, the harmonization in that image is not what I'd use for this abbreviation of "Greensleeves". I'd use Em-D-C-B-G-D-C-B-Em instead if I keep all the chords in the same position.
    – Dekkadeci
    Dec 3 '20 at 13:01

Greensleeves is usually written as either a passamezzo antico or a romanesca (qqv). The chords in a passamezzo antico are basically i,VII,i,V,III,VII,i,V then ending on a i later. The romanesca is just the second half of the passamezzo repeated twice.

It's not really a tonal progression. Depending on which manuscript one reads, the tune is either in the dorian or Aeolian mode. There are several web pages devoted to Greensleeves history and variations.


Your musical example is "something vaguely similar to Greensleeves" but not the original tune, which was first written down more than 400 years ago. (Traditionally, it is claimed the composer was the English king Henry VIII, 1491-1547.)

The original version follows an often-used chord sequence called the "Romanesca", which is a variation of the "Passamezzo". Both of these chord sequences meander back and forth between major and relative minor keys.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanesca https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passamezzo_antico https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greensleeves

  • Wow. I had misremembered. Thanks! I have got the pickup and opening bar wrong. I think everything else checks out (I have deliberately omitted the repeats) so "vaguely similar" might be a little harsh :)
    – P i
    Apr 23 '16 at 16:33

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