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When I'm warming up to play piano, I often play a little right-hand improv with the left hand sounding out the following chord sequence, over and over, then ending in a final Am:

Am F G C F X E E7

Chord X is composed of the notes D E A and B.

So, the key is Am (I think). In that context, what would I name chord X?

  • Is D in the bass? – Richard Jan 16 '18 at 14:39
  • @Richard On the left hand, I play the notes in that order, yes. On the right hand, I usually begin my phrases on the B. – João Mendes Jan 16 '18 at 14:46
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    The name of the chord depends on the function. You want to accept Tim’s answer, but does your chord function like a dominant? How are you hearing it in relation to the rest of the series? – jjmusicnotes Jan 16 '18 at 14:53
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I agree with Tim's D6sus2 suggestion, but I thought I'd add to the entire progression:

Am F G C F X E E7
  • We begin in A minor; that's clear enough.

  • But after this, there's a brief move towards the relative major; the F G C is really just a IV-V-I in C major.

  • Then we end up moving back to A minor (if we ever left). The F chord is VI, and the E and E7 are just V moving to V7.

As such, it's best to understand the X as something that connects VI to V. Ideally, this would be a predominant of some kind, and one of the most common predominants is IV. Sure enough, the reading of D6sus2 is in fact a IV chord.

I like this better than reading it as an inversion of E7, and for two (and a half) reasons. First, it's relatively uncommon for a seventh chord to lose its chordal seventh, and then adding it back again is even more strange. Furthermore, with D in the bass of this X chord, our ears will tend to view that as the root.

The half a reason is a bit speculative: by reading it as a type of D chord, you have a IV-V at the end, which mirrors the IV-V-I you had in C towards the start of the progression. (You may think that's finding patterns where there really aren't any, and I wouldn't really disagree.)

  • How many songs have sequences similar - with, say, Dm instead of the first F chord? And maybe B half-dim in place of X? I Will Survive, several Garry Moore... – Tim Jan 16 '18 at 15:21
  • With a Bhd7, it's a straight circle-of-fifths progression from G to E; very common! – Richard Jan 16 '18 at 15:30
  • From Am, surely? Am Dm G C F Bo E Am. I'd call that circle of 4ths ascending, can't understand 5ths !! – Tim Jan 16 '18 at 15:35
  • Same difference; ascending fourths or descending fifths! – Richard Jan 16 '18 at 15:36
  • This is nice. Most enlightening. – João Mendes Jan 16 '18 at 19:03
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D6sus2 will work. Or E7sus4. The latter is better in key Am. There is always an equivalent 'sus2' for 'sus4' on a different root.

  • So E7sus4 will resolve to the normal E major, and then the added 7 sets up the resolution in A minor. Cool, that works for me. I'll wait a bit before accepting, to see if anyone else expands on this, but for now, +1. – João Mendes Jan 16 '18 at 14:47
  • I personally vote for the D6sus2, especially with D as the bass. +1! – Richard Jan 16 '18 at 14:48
  • @Richard - that would work, as the D6 is pretty close to Bm7, thus making the ubiquitous ii>V>I, with I=Am. – Tim Jan 16 '18 at 15:06

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