Sweet child o'mine has this progression in the intro: Db (sus4)-Db-Db(sus4)-Db-Ebm11/Cb-Gb (add2)-Db (sus4)-Db-Db(sus4)-Db

And this progression in the verse: Db-Cb-Gb-Db

How would you explain this progression (I-VIIb-IV)? The intro and verse has this same progression but differ in one place. The intro has Ebm11/Cb. How would you explain this chord? Should this progression be explained with classical music theory or with more modern music theory? I remember a teacher saying that classical music is sometimes based on moving chords in thirds or sonething similar rather than being based on I-IV-V-I. Does this apply to this song/tune?

2 Answers 2


No, this is not classical. I see it as a mixture of the folky (minor / Dorian) ⅰ - Ⅶ alternation and several blues idioms. Either you interpret it as Ⅰ - _ - Ⅳ - Ⅰ with the folk-Ⅶ in the gap borrowed from the parallel minor key (borrowing from the parallel minor is always an option in bluesy music), or you start right with the blues progression Ⅴ - Ⅳ - Ⅰ and look at it from the dominant key (Mixolydian mode).

As for the ⅱ¹¹/6, I'd not interpret too much into that. It's just the result of playing the chord progression underneath that lead guitar ostinato, which technically speaking doesn't fit over the Ⅶ♭ chord, but hey, are we lawyers, doing maths, or just playing Rock'n'Roll?
(FWIW, that attitude is actually not foreign in classical music, where at least pedal points are sometimes kept even when the environment has modulated to a completely foreign key.)


You could explain it as 'cycle of 4ths'. Make your way home through a string of plagal cadences - a series of 'secondary subdominants' rather than the more usual secondary dominants.

It's not uncommon. Think of the riff in the Beatles tune 'Get Back'.

  • Other Beatles examples include With A Little Help From My Friends, the end of Hey Jude and You've Got To Hide You're Love Away. Jan 20, 2017 at 21:17

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