I think I understand the basic concept of negative harmony, rotating around an axis.

I get basic functional chord negatives like these...

       inversion table

            Eb E
         D        F
      C              G
   B                    Ab
A                          Bb
normal chord | negative chord

    V7  GBDF | CAbFD iiø4/2
    ii6 FAD  | DBbF  bVII6/4
    IV  FAC  | DBbG  v6/4 (minor triad)
    I   CEG  | GEbC  i6/4

I think I'm generating the negative chord correct, but how do they get used?

Should I treat those negative chords as having some kind of negative functions or qualities similar to the normal chords?

  • does iiø4/2 "function" like a dominant to a tonic i6/4?
  • is the sense of chord stability inverted: in negative harmony are 6/4 chords stable?
  • should the negative chord be treated strictly as the specific inversion? Meaning is i6/4 the negative of I and i in root position is not the negative of I because it is the wrong inversion?

If there aren't any typical, practical applications, and it's a unique, personal approach for each composer, I get that.

I only want to know if there are typical approaches, because when I hear 'negative harmony' I think 'harmony as the art of chord progressions' - whether functional or non-functional - not just a method for inverting isolated chords.

  • 1
    Ernst Levy, A Theory of Harmony, is the source that introduces the term "negative harmony".
    – user70304
    Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 12:45

2 Answers 2


Flipping pitches about an axis, as you demonstrate, is normally called "inversion" and normally applied to a melody, such as a fugue subject or tone row. There it is effective in making a new melody with a complementary contour.

"Negative harmony" is the more controversial practice of applying the same operation to chords and chord progressions. It /can/ reveal kinships between chords in some cases. To take your first example, if V7 can substitute for V in V-i, negative harmony suggests putting iiø6/5 for iv in iv-I, and this indeed works. It does NOT suggest what bass notes to use.

This is a felicitous example, however. Most functional progressions (e.g. 7th chords by downward 5th) lose their functional character after negation, which is one reason why negative harmony has remained somewhat suspect among analysts and mainly unknown among composers.

  • 1
    How did you get iiø6/5 from V7? V7 inverted is iiø4/2. Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 20:03
  • As I said, negative harmony does not suggest bass notes. iiø4/2 - i6/4 is an absurd cadence. It's more sensible to say: if we add a 7th in the authentic cadence, then we add a 6th in the plagal one, keeping the bass notes.
    – Mirlan
    Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 0:24
  • So after the negation/inversion it just becomes an unordered set of pitches? Where does that idea come from? Is there a particular book or theorist? Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 0:28

Since the British composer and multi-instrumentalist Jacob Collier mentioned the phenomenon of "negative harmony" in an interview in 2017, a lively discussion about the theoretical understanding and practical application of this concept has developed in the jazz community's internet forums . Their basic idea is as old as it is simple: Every given (“positive”) harmonic structure can be mirrored on a horizontal axis and thus results in its “negative” counter-image; For example, the minor triad can be described as an inverted, “negative” major triad (which of course raises the question: which tone should then be defined as the “basic tone”?).

I will post a good link in my next question: what is negative harmony?

But now here first a teaching video that's fantastic not only by the presentation of the theory but also by the lovely Italian accent of the speaker. That's music in my ears.

In this video you will learn what Negative Harmony is, how it works, and how you can use it in your music.;)

A way of using negative harmony flavoured sounds is to only change special chords in the chart. For example in the first 8 bars of "All the Things" change only the Dominant-7 Chords and the II-V to their negatives:


  • well, this question seems to have already been posted and closed as a duplicate. ( I don't agree that it's a duplicate,btw!). So I'll add the other link here above: A way of way of using negative harmony. Commented Aug 9, 2020 at 17:18

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