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I am trying to analyze the following progression:enter image description here

The underlying melody can be read from the top notes: (E, F, E, D, E). The chords are accentuating the melody.

The first chord is a Cmaj7 in root ascending position at the bass with the E removed; the E appears in a root ascending Emin triad at the treble with an E to top off the treble octave. (Mini-question: is there specific terminology for when we 'double' up the root note in a chord an octave above/below? For example, in a Cmaj 2nd inversion, if I add a G5 to the triad G4,C5,E5, what would I call it?)

The second chord is an Fmin, with the triad appearing at the treble and the octave F being part of the melody line; Fmin 2nd inversion is at the bass.

How do these two chords fit in? The progression certainly isn't from any diatonic: a maj7 only appears on the root or 4th degree; a fourth from the former is the 4th degree, which harmonizes to a major (seventh) chord, and a fourth from the latter is not in scale (landing between the 6th and 7th degree). In the harmonic major scale, only the 4th degree has a maj7, and again, a fourth from it is not in scale. I believe the difficulty boils down to consolidating chromatic minor thirds (G-B from Cmaj7 and G#-C from Fmin). However, the progression is reminiscent of many classical pieces and sounds pretty standard, so I see no reason to look at more exotic scales. What is at play here? Surely the G# in the second chord is not just an unanalyzable accidental?

  • While this is dependent on the rest of the score, I am tempted to analyze the Middle C as a pedal point here, especially since it is (at least nominally) dissonant with the B 's in the 1st and 3rd measures and it's the only C in those measures. – Dekkadeci Mar 24 at 13:46
  • I think it would be helpful for everyone else to know the titel of this piece of music or at least the context ... – Albrecht Hügli Mar 25 at 22:16
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(Mini-question: is there specific terminology for when we 'double' up the root note in a chord an octave above/below? For example, in a Cmaj 2nd inversion, if I add a G5 to the triad G4,C5,E5, what would I call it?)

There is no special expression than octave- or fifth-doubling. (Doubling the root tone is a rule for the strict 4 voices setting, as well the 5th, but not the 3rd and the 7th of the dominant as they are lead tones.)

But in piano pieces and pop music those rules are not reigning and each chord tone can be doubled, also the 9th - as in the last chord of your example.

Your chord analysis is quite correct:

C-maj7 - Fm-maj7 => I7 - iv7

However, the progression is reminiscent of many classical pieces and sounds pretty standard,

the iv7 means it is the minor subdominant of the parallel of C: key c-minor.

Surely the G# in the second chord is not just an unanalyzable accidental?

There is no G# at all in the second chord. There's an Ab which is the minor 3rd of Fm.

The only chord that could make some problem is the last with the eye (fermata), as we don't know the context ... is this the final chord or is it modulating or is it sustained to resolve in to the tonic C major?

This is an F9 chord without a 3rd ...

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    Thank you for your reply. The F9 leads into another section which I do not have any trouble analyzing. The minor parallel is very interesting; I'll search up more on the context in which borrowing a parallel chord works. I'm curious though: couldn't we also interpret the iv7 as being borrowed from the key of C-locrian or C-phrygian then? (The only other C keys to which an Fm can belong to.) – SystematicDisintegration Mar 24 at 11:12
  • @SystematicDisintegration, I think this is an astute question, and I think the answer is acquired by figuring out what other notes would sound good in this context with this chord. There is a melodic figure immediately following the Fmin chord which is played before returning to the CMaj7 chord. In that melodic figure, we would be surprised to hear a Gb, and we would expect to hear a G. This is partly because G is shared in CMaj7. Another reason for our expectation is that other pieces using this progression will feature G (not Gb) in the melody over the iv chord. But we are assuming some. – jdjazz Mar 25 at 21:58
  • So, the presence of the G rules out locrian. We could similarly determine whether D or Db would sound more natural over the Fmin chord, and I think we'd land on D. I believe this is the process by which we would rule out other candidate parallel keys. But, in the absence of actually seeing those notes somewhere in the piece concurrently with the Fmin chord, I think one could argue for other parallel key. – jdjazz Mar 25 at 22:03
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How do these chords fit in? They don't, as far as diatonic harmony's concerned. But they also don't have to. We say they're borrowed from the parallel key. That is - it's in C major, and the F minor chord has been borrowed from C minor.

That's why the F minor chord has Ab in it - certainly not G# - which isn't in the dots and won't be the 'm3' of Fm.

And, whilst the notes from the Em triad happen to be in the first chord, it isn't an Em triad. It's part of the C E G B set of notes making C major seventh. There's no special name for doubling any note from a chord, there may be 3/4 notes, or 13/14. It's just doubling certain notes.

You're correct that inversions are named from the lowest note, but what happens above doesn't affect the inversion name. Look up 'drop 2 chords' for some extra information.

  • Hello Tim, this is actually a piano piece, and my chord 'break-up' is based on the notes corresponding to each hand. The hope was to learn something more nuanced about voicing technique by noting the actual arrangement of notes inside the chord and figure out why the composer is successful at creating a particular mood. – SystematicDisintegration Mar 27 at 14:43
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Who told you a chord progression has to all fit into one scale? And don't try to analyse the chords in two halves. (There ARE such things as polychords, but these aren't them!)

Cmaj7, Fm/C, F(add9, omit3). We're not talking functional harmony here.

  • I don't see SystematicDisintegration suggesting that the chords all have to fit in one scale. The question already acknowledges that "The progression certainly isn't ... diatonic." But I might be misunderstanding what you mean--are you saying we can only analyze harmony if it's diatonic? And thus, there's no useful analysis to perform in this case? Thanks in advance for clarifying! – jdjazz Mar 25 at 21:50

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