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I've been trying to analyze the progression: Dm, G, C, F, Bb, E, Am, A.

The best I could come up with is ii, V, I, IV, bVII, V/vi, vi, V/ii in C major.

I considered the Bb to be the VII from the parallel minor, but I'm not quite sure this is the correct function of the chord and that's bVII is the appropriate symbol.

Bonus question: What type of 7th chord would you use for each chord in the progression (dom/maj/min)?

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    In general, just looking at a chord progression alone provides limited evidence for doing an analysis - identifying the overall key, and also identifying temporary tonicizations, depends on the rhythm with which the chords are played, the voice leading, etc. – topo morto May 18 at 7:39
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    can you tell us in what key you are? I assume Am ... and I would use the V7 chords, but this progression is also very common as Dm7 G7 C7 ... or Dm9 G9 etc – Albrecht Hügli May 18 at 8:01
  • Where do you have this definition of "correct function" for a chord? Link please. – piiperi May 18 at 8:42
  • I was playing this progression at 2 chords per measure (same duration for all chords). I was not trying to play a specific piece of music, even if this is not an uncommon progression. Played that way, I came up with that analysis. By "correct" analysis, I simply mean "not incorrect" because there may be many correct analyses but I want to make sure that mine is not "incorrect", i.e not an invalid one from a music theory perspective (e.g saying that Amin is IV in C). – Anthony May 19 at 9:02
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    @Anthony: In that case you can leave out the word "correct". You just want to find a plausible way of looking at it in some context. Try putting it in different contexts by establishing a key first. E.g. if you play a cadence Dm - Gm - A7 - Dm, then the first Dm will sound like a tonic and the G will sound like IV, giving a D dorian feeling. Can you use the chords to accompany some melodic lines and voice movement so that at the end it still feels like the key is D minor? Even if you cannot, it isn't necessarily the chord progression's fault. ;) Btw I think Am feels like a natural explanation. – piiperi May 19 at 11:30
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This could be a section B) or refrain of a song in A-minor (C-major) beginning with the subdom. iv ending on Am (A7 will be the secondary domînant for the loop of the refrain)

iv-VI-III ... in A minor or ii-V-I in C major (Bb could be set as a Neapolitan 6th - but it isn't here in your progression)

I'd use maj7, 9 and 13 chords

as example:

Dm9-G13-Cmaj7-Fmaj7-Bbmaj7-Esus7-Am (= tonic) (A7 = V7/Dm)

as you say:

The best I could come up with is ii, V, I, IV, bVII, V/vi, vi, V/ii in C major.

So I agree with you - but you can all interprete in a-minor too - depending what key is in section A.

and bVII would be correct for Bb

something like this: HELLO - LIONEL RICHIE

https://musescore.com/user/18269991/scores/3657321

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In key F, it would be vi, V/V, V, I, IV, V/iii, iii, V/vi. But it sounds more to be in key Dm. So, i, V/VII, VII, III, VII, V/v, V. Both v and V (Am and A in Dm) are 'diatonic'.

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What jumps out at me is the sequence B♭ E. The root rises by an augmented 4th (or falls by a diminished 5th) and there are few tonal contexts in which this fits nicely. Those chords are ♭II V in A (major or minor). Fortunately, A minor follows.

I agree with your analysis of the first four chords in C major. I suggest:

C major: ii, V, I, IV. A minor: VI, ♭II, V, i, I

I think of F major as pivot chord for modulation to A minor, so I've listed it in both keys.

  • I do tend to hear the first half as C major and the second half as its relative minor. I usually tend to go for the relative major as a reference for numbering in this kind of situation. It's cool to see that someone is hearing it the same way :) – Anthony May 19 at 8:47
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To answer your Bonus Question, what 7th chord? ‘Dm, G, C, F, Bb, E, Am, A’ The idea to creating a melody is to use the notes of the key of the chord. The same is true for choosing a minor or major 7th. This will change the notes used specifically in the Bb chord and the E Chord & A Chord because you are thinking in the CMinor mode key of bVII and the FiveOf satellite key AMajor & DMajor. “The best I could come up with is ii, V, I, IV, bVII, V/vi, vi, V/ii in C major”

D,F,A,C = DmMin7 = ii = C Major Key
G,B,D,F = GMin7 = V = C Major Key
C,E,G,B = CMaj7 = I = C Major Key
F,A,C,E = FMaj7 = IV = C Major Key 
Bb,D,F,Ab = BbMin7 = bVII = C Minor Key 
E,G#,B,D = Emin7 = V/vi = A Major Key
A,C,E,G = AmMin7 = vi = C Major Key
A,C#,E,G# = AMaj7 = V/ii = D Major Key

Now these choices of 7ths is based on your interpretation. For instance if you were to think of the Bb as a IV/IV(the fourth of FmajorKey) the notes would become BbDFA=BbMaj7=IV/IV=FMajorKey. Does this make sense?

  • I agree with your point that the 7th should depend on the interpretation of the chord in the context of the key. The Bb chord sounds nicer to me when played as a Maj7 chord, which suggests that I don't hear it as a bVII in C Major, but possibly a IV/IV. However my aural skills are not a level where I can confirm this, I can recognize some secondary dominants, but not all borrowed chords. PS: the second paragraph is a bit badly formatted, I'll suggest an edit. – Anthony Jun 6 at 10:40
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Dm, G, C, F, Bb, E, Am, A

Assuming the progression repeats...

||: Dm, G, C, F, Bb, E, Am, A :||

...where I put the last A before the inital barline and we get...

A ||: Dm G C F Bb E Am A :||

...that give us these pairs...

[A Dm] [G C] [F Bb] [E Am]

...you have descending triads...

Dm C Bb Am

...where each is preceded by it's dominant. Those four chords will fit into a key signature of one flat. Either D minor or F could be the actual key.

You can put the sevenths on the dominants...

A7 ||: Dm G7 C F7 Bb E7 Am A7 :||

This is a type of sequential harmony progression. Some will call it a circle of fifths progression.

As some others have pointed out context is important. A list of chords really isn't enough to analyze. I made an assumption about repeats. In that context A has clearer function.

If my assumption is wrong, can you edit your question with some more detail. Things like barlines, repeats, voice leading, rhythm, etc. can impact analysis.

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Which chord feels like 'home'? We can't really tell from a list of chords. And what does the melody do? (IS there a melody, or are you just playing around with chord progressions?)

It COULD end up with A as tonic. Yes, the Bb, E, Am fragment is a typical move. Remember we have '♭5 substitutions' in our toolbox as well as simple diatonicism.

Beware of hanging functions like 'V of iii' onto a chord unless the sequence DOES progress in that direction. If that A chord DOESN'T progress to Dm, 'V of iii' is merely an excuse, not a useful description. Tonal centres can shift, even within quite a short progression. Don't hang on to an old tonic past its sell-by date!

And don't try to analyse a modern pop/rock progression as if it's a Bach Chorale. Heck, it's easy enough to get into trouble analysing a Bach Chorale as if it's a Bach Chorale sometimes!

  • Finally ... a simple and reasonable answer. Why do you people have such a hard time with his simple question? Is it not utterly obvious that "correct function" means he's asking what the best fitting key is? And no votes for this guy? I say no. – Randy Zeitman Jun 7 at 3:49

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