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I'm substituting for a guitarist and need to learn a whole bunch of songs pretty fast. I'm currently working through them, and everything is very straightforward. But there is this one song with a chord progression in the chorus that I can't get a grip on.

It's this song:

With the chord progression in every second round of the chorus. For example at 1:32 - 1:36

The key is E aeolian. I am currently playing Gm/E -> Bm for the above mentioned part, but it doesn't feel quite right yet. Could this progression be a chromatic mediant?

I am not a trained nor a professional musician, so any help is much appreciated.

  • If it really is E aeolian, Gm/E isn't diatonic. One of the two, either your analysis of the key or of the chord, is likely incorrrect. – user45266 Mar 1 at 16:07
  • The whole point is that the progression is not diatonic ;). An analysis is far from wrong when it is not diatonic. You could see this either as borrowed chord, passing chords, temporal key-shift etc. – Tom van Heusden Mar 1 at 16:11
  • @user45266 - it's more likely Em - harmonic, with the Bsus4 coming down to B7, but why should the key not have a non-diatonic chord played in the song? I can hear notes Bb and D, but that narrows it down only a bit. That apart, it won't be accepted as a question on this site. – Tim Mar 1 at 16:36
  • Ah, I see where my jargon is off. I thought Aeolian=minor, but appearently one is referring to the modal aspect when calling a minor song aeolean. I meant 'the key is E minor'. Sorry for the misunderstanding. – Tom van Heusden Mar 1 at 17:41
  • Aeolian is much more specific than minor, and I tend to avoid using that word if it's not strictly minor mode. – user45266 Mar 1 at 17:45
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It's an Em7(b5) chord (E-G-Bb-D) resolving to Bm. You can hear the fifth of the preceding E minor chord descending to the Bb (enharmonically A#), which functions as the leading tone to B. So you were right, because Em7(b5) is just Gm/E.

A common shape on the guitar is (from low to high)

X 7 8 7 8 X

An Em7(b5) chord can be (enharmonically) interpreted as the upper structure of an altered F#7 chord (which is the secondary dominant of Bm):

[F#] A# C## E G = F#7(#5,b9)

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If the music isn't diatonic, it cannot be E aeolian because by definition a mode is diatonic. I don't know why you don't call it E minor. If the music consistently resolved to an Em chord, it is E minor. E minor can have a non-diatonic Gm chord. You never mention an E chord. The fifth of the E is B. But you mention Bb with Gm. You cannot really resolve to a diminished triad. So how can E be the tonic/home?

Btw, Gm has a Bb and Bm has a B. So this clashes. Those chords are not in the same key.

  • There was no comment button. Also, don't see how your comment should be a comment. If my 'answer' doesn't attempt to comment, then what does your 'comment' do? – Alcathous Mar 2 at 0:55

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