enter image description here

The chord circled in red is what I am asking about. I know that in the measure before, there is a diminished seventh chord. I'm certain that this is a dominant function chord(or at least, locally to the measure, it has dominant function(tritone is the biggest giveaway here)). This, along with 4 notes in the chord, narrows things down to:

  • Dominant 7th(secondary or primary)
  • Half Diminished 7th(secondary or primary)
  • Diminished 7th(secondary or primary)
  • Augmented Sixth
  • Tritone substitution

Granted, the tritone substitution is pretty much nonexistent in Chopin's era(closest you get in notation is an unusually resolved augmented sixth chord), so that is out.

What are the notes in the chord? They are these notes:

Db, G, Bb, Ab

Or at least, that is what makes the most sense to me. But if I try to form a chord from these notes that Chopin would have used, I get nothing. Closest I get is a sixth chord(in the sense that there is an added sixth). Chopin wouldn't have used a sixth chord, at least, not a major or minor sixth chord. Could this be an augmented sixth? Well, these are the sixth intervals that are possible, including the possibility of F being a chord tone:

Db-Bb - Major Sixth

Bb-G - Minor Sixth

No augmented sixths in sight. Could this be a dominant seventh chord? No. Only 1 chord seems to fit, G halfdim7. This resolves to Ab major as expected. And this becomes part of a sequence, both melodically and harmonically.

So, the chord in question would be viiø7/IV, right, with the preceding chord being vii°7/IV?

  • 2
    I'd treat the possibility of the F being a chord tone more seriously than you currently do. In fact, I think a reasonable argument can be made that the first 2 beats of the right hand of each bar of your excerpt after the first bar are effectively suspensions from the 3rd beat of the previous bar and should be ignored for chord analysis. The most obvious support for that analysis is the third bar, where we'd otherwise have to reconcile its C flat in the right hand with its B flat in the left hand.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 6:40
  • 1
    As Dekkadeci suggests, each of the four bars starting with your red-circled one, begins with a suspension in the right hand. It's the left hand chords that give the basic harmony: Fm, Eb (2nd inversion), Bb, Eb. (That last Eb, lacks a G until the right hand supplies it.) Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 9:25

4 Answers 4


As Old Brixtonian hints at in comments, this is simply a chain of suspensions. The primary chords in each bar are V7/IV - ii - cadential 6/4 - V7 - I in E-flat. In the last four bars, the final resolution of the suspensions in the right hand doesn't occur until the third beat in each measure.

The first two bars effectively contain a deceptive resolution of the secondary dominant V7/IV. Rather than going to IV, the chord resolves to ii. In the secondary key of A♭, that would be a V-vi progression. On the third beat of bar 2, the bass note shifts to A♭, to create a ii6 as would be expected moving into a cadence before the dominant.

So, what is happening on the downbeat of bar 2? Well, you have three notes suspended (held over) from the previous bar. The top B♭ resolves down to A♭. The G resolves up to A♭. The D♭ resolves down to C. All of these notes resolve precisely as expected in a deceptive resolution of a dominant seventh chord. The A♭ and F in the left hand are the actual "chord tones" at this point. The collection of notes on the downbeat of bar 2 would not have been viewed as a separate "chord," but rather a set of mostly non-harmonic tones (suspensions, in this case) that resolve on beat 3 of bar 2. A similar pattern repeats in each subsequent bar of the except.

As to the debate over whether the E♮ in the first bar is a chord tone, it really boils down to semantics. The E♮ is undoubtedly a chromatic passing tone. It can also be seen to imply a viio7/ii, which strengthens the motion to F minor. Note that this is a very typical addition to deceptive cadence resolutions, where scale degree 5 ascends upward through ♯5 to 6 in the local key. If we analyze this harmonic motion locally within the secondary key of A♭, this is a standard V7-vi motion with an interpolated passing tone. Whether you want to label the E-natural as a separate "chord" is more a matter of your analytical priorities. Chopin would undoubtedly have just thought of it as a standard chromatic passing tone ornament to a local "deceptive cadence-like" motion. That's the way such progressions were taught in keyboard treatises of the time.


The part you circled in red isn't really the chord. It's a non-chord tone device called a suspension.

The two chords involved at that moment are E diminished seven (circled in green) and F minor (circled in blue.)

enter image description here

Notice how those two chords overlap in time. When the bass goes from E to F the top voices don't change and hold the tones of the E diminished seven chord. Those top voices are suspended for a moment when the bass moves. When those top voices move down to the tones of the F minor chord is called the resolution.

In written harmony analysis, the bass is usually the point where a chord is identified and then non-chord tone symbols can be added on other voices. So you could put some F minor chord symbol under the F at the beginning of the bar, but on top of the treble voices you could add a mark "sus" to indicate there is a suspension.

enter image description here


Chopin's harmony is more like Bach's than his immediate predecessors. In other words, it's often more counterpoint than harmony.

This is just an F minor chord with a triple appoggiatura (the Db G and Bb). That is a straight forward progression after the Eb7 in the previous bar.

FWIW the E natural in the previous bar isn't a chord tone either. There is no diminished seventh chord there. It's just a passing note.

You have to use your ears to understand music. Ticking off the notes in the score one at a time to make "chords" out of them leads nowhere useful.

  • 1
    I think you have to let the E♮ bass note in bar 1 have harmonic function. It's strongly the leading note of the F that follows. Whether you want to call it a rootless C7b9 or Eb dim7 (same thing, anyway) is up to you.
    – Laurence
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 13:58
  • @ Laurence: You mean e-dim7 not Eb, yes? Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 14:19
  • @ Guest: of course E is a chord tone: the root of e-dim7, secondary vii dim7 to F minor. But the idea of an appoggiatura may be better than a pedal tone... Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 14:23
  • So for example, if Beethoven(one of Chopin's immediate predecessors) were to use this harmony, he would likely use it as a secondary diminished seventh resolving to IV or perhaps resolve it unexpectedly to say the VII, or, even use it as part of a diminished seventh chain(I see diminished seventh chains a lot in Beethoven(for example, in Rondo a Capriccio I saw this sequence: vii°7/V, vii°7, V7), whereas Chopin would treat this harmony more like Bach or Mozart would have treated it, as suspensions, is that what you are saying?
    – Caters
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 18:31
  • @AlbrechtHügli Um, why would an appogiatura be better than a pedal tone? All those notes that he says are appogiaturas(the Bb, Db, and G) are in the preceding diminished seventh chord in the same exact inversion. And a pedal tone is when the notes stay in place and become a non-chord tone as a result. Usually this occurs in the bass, but there is no reason you can't have a pedal tone in the melody. An appogiatura is when you leap into the non-chord tone. I see no leaps there other than in the bass.
    – Caters
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 18:49

Just having a look without taking notice of the chords I hear the progression: Eb C7b9 Fm Bb7b9 Eb.

Analyzing the chords I agree with you that we have e-dim7 but leading to Fm and not leading to Ab: vii°7/ii. So I think your interpretation is quite close to mine. It is Fm chord in the left hand and above it the half notes of the right hand are suspended notes of the previous chord.

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