enter image description here

I'm wondering how to best go about analyzing this chord progression from the Billy Joel classic, "Vienna".

The song is in Bb-Major.

The first chord is an augmented I chord (I+), which seems strange. Maybe the #5^ is meant to create more brightness, or maybe it's borrowed from the relative minor's leading tone.

The second chord appears to be a German augmented sixth chord of scale degree 6, though it doesn't resolve the way this chord would.

The third chord is a D# fully diminished seventh chord in second inversion, though I don't know where this chord comes from.

Next is the Eb-major chord in second inversion.

Finally, there appears to be a C half diminished seventh chord in second inversion, then the dominant F7 chord, and finally the tonic Bb chord.

I'm trying to figure out how to explain all the strange chords and determine ways they can be analyzed. Any insights would be much appreciated!

  • 1
    The "D# fully diminished seventh chord" probably shouldn't be spelled like that in a piece with E flats in its key signature. The best spelling will use E flat instead of D sharp.
    – Dekkadeci
    Apr 3, 2019 at 6:31
  • So a better spelling might be A C Eb Gb, and this is an A fully diminished seventh chord. The D# and F# were probably used to create a static looking chord change that might have been easier for others to read. Apr 3, 2019 at 7:01

3 Answers 3


The last 4 measures are o.k. and your analysis too. The first 4 bars are so weird that I thought of a typo or that B.J. was not able to write down what he meant to “say”. I know this sounds pretty arrogant especially as I don’t know his other compositions and whether he was educated in song writing. Sure he was a better singer than I. And if he wrote other songs with similar strange chords (strange respective to pop music) I would apologize and say he knew what he did.

Anyway also your analysis of this weird chords of the beginning is quite right.

I’ve tried to notate the chords like it would make more sense to me, knowing that I’m leaning myself far out of the window:

Mind that my analysis will not fit to the notes and chords of the arrangement that you’ve posted. enter image description here

(I’m not interested to edit the bars where it’s written “text”:)

In bar 2 it would be th 3. inversion of I7 with augmented 5th, in bar 6 the V7 and V13 and bar 7 the tonic.

Now I’ve looked up in google and found many arrangements (also settings for bands) with exactly identical chords as your example. So it is definitely no typo.



First two bars are built from Bb7b13 scale, fifth mode of harmonic minor. Next bar is an A diminished scale sound. Then a simple Eb/Bb chord. Next three bars are a minor ii-V-I progression, where the ii chord is a c half diminished with the b5 in bass (fairly common jazz voicing) and the F is an F13 chord.


Ignoring all the inversions and filigree, it is a standard progression: The first three measures are variants of D major chords, functioning as the V of the relative minor (G minor). In measure 4, it resolves in a standard deceptive cadence to an E-flat chord, which is VI of the relative minor, but is also IV in the original B-flat key. That IV becomes the first chord in a standard IV-II-V-I cadence, as you pointed out.

Some more details: The first measure initially appears to be I in the B-flat key, but is co-opted by the D and F# to make it a D major chord with a B-flat appoggiatura that resolves downward as it should except to a flatted version of the A, to make a D7 chord with a flatted fifth in the second measure. The third measure is a dominant minor ninth chord, again based on D (even though the D is absent).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.