Douglass Green defines "chord succession" as a movement of chords that starts in a certain area and reaches the same area (I believe "area" means the classification as tonic, mediant, submediant, etc ... and the inversions don't matter). A movement from one area to another is defined as a "chord progression". The book proceeds analyzing what can happen harmonically inside a phrase (Chap. 2.5): the whole phrase can be just a cadence; the cadence at the end can be preceded by a single chord, the cadence can be preceded by a chord succession, by a chord progression, etc.

This is an example of a phrase with the cadence preceded by a chord succession:

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This is an example of a phrase with the cadence preceded by a chord progression:

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My question is: In this kind of analysis, what is the last chord to be considered? He considers the chord before the pre-dominant of the cadence when classifying the sequence as a chord succession (the sequence goes from I to I), but the last chord is elsewhere the pre-dominant of the cadence. If I were consistent shouldn't I say that the first sequence goes from I to ii6 being a progression and not a succession? Also, sometimes he pays attention to the bass instead of the roots of the chords, would this be the fundamental difference between both cases in his classification? Am I missing something?

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    I accept Green can analyze this any way he likes, but to me the 5 beats bracketed together in the Scarlatti are simply tonic harmony with double appoggiaturas on each beat except the first. Often, trying to analyse and name every "combination of notes" as "a chord" is a beginner's mistake! The whole phrase is just a I ii7 V cadence IMHO.
    – user19146
    May 28, 2018 at 9:31
  • @alephzero Agreed. I think some of his Roman numerals are questionable, too; I'd prefer an incomplete V65 over a root-position VII diminished.
    – Richard
    May 28, 2018 at 14:37

1 Answer 1


I don't think you're missing anything! But you might be assuming that "chord succession" and "chord progression" are mutually exclusive, which they aren't. These musical phrases can include both; it's not always just one or the other.

The first example has both a chord succession and a chord progression into its own predominant of ii6. So you're correct: the first sequence, which goes from I to ii6, is also a progression. But it occurs after a succession of I.

And for what it's worth, these days, his "chord succession" is often called a "prolongation" or "expansion." Notice how, in the first example, the tonic chord (I) keeps coming back. The bracketed portion is just a tonic prolongation. There is no such tonic prolongation in the second example; it immediately proceeds through VI into the predominant ii65.

I unfortunately can't speak to how he pays attention to the bass instead of the root; I would need an example to speak to that. But I don't think any confusion here relates to the chord succession vs. progression question.

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    Excellent answer. It seems to me that one could argue that even the move from I to vi is essentially prolongational as well. The true pre-dominant part of the phrase doesn’t come until the ii. Ultimately six of one, half a dozen the other, I suppose. May 28, 2018 at 14:38
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    @PatMuchmore Agreed. I thought about mentioning that, but I didn't want to go too far afield. The submediant does often serve a tonic prolongational role, no doubt about it!
    – Richard
    May 28, 2018 at 14:39
  • Nice, I think that solves my issue. But there's already a section called "Cadence preceded by combination of of succession and progression". Do you think the example should have been introduced there? Jun 1, 2018 at 7:43

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