Can the Descending Fifths sequence also be correctly named as an Ascending Fourth's sequence ? in major : I - IV - vii dim - iii - vi - ii - V - I Is Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706) and his Canon in D the original source for this heavenly sequence ?

  • 1
    Beautiful. The circle progression.
    – user50691
    Mar 5, 2020 at 22:44
  • Your progression is : i - iv - i = g - c - g
    – Thomas
    Mar 6, 2020 at 5:22
  • I am so new here . I just realized ggcg is a name for a musician and not a musical progression. Just saying.
    – Thomas
    Mar 6, 2020 at 5:38

2 Answers 2


Descending fifths are equivalent to ascending fourths; these intervals are the inversion of each other. Note that in the sequence of roots: C-F-B-E-A-D-G, one can either go C up to F then down to B, up to E then down to A, etc.; or one can go C down to F then Up to B, etc. Either way leads to the same set of roots (but not necessarily notes in the same octave.)

The Pachelbel Canon sequence isn't a sequence of fourths. This sequence dates back at least a century before Pachelbel. His version goes C-G-a-e-F-C-F-G. There are quite a few other similar patterns going under the name "Romanesca." The sequence starts up a fifth, up a second, up a fifth (probably dropping the actual notes an octave) and the up a second, etc. This sequence actually has hits basis in the "rule of the octave" which was just a set of patterns of chords to be played over each note of an octave. The pattern (using a slash to indicate a base not if not the root of the chord symbol) goes like this: C-G/B-a-e/G-f-C/E-F-G. The bass line drops by step from C to E then back to G. In Roman Numerals it's: I-V6-vi-iii6-IV-I6-IV-V. Alternatives are I-V6-vi-I64-IV-I6-ii6-V and others. (The I64 is just another idiomatic use of a 6-4 chord.

Some chord sequences are based on roots; some are based on bass movement; some seem irregular.


It seems to me the common wordings are:

  • descending fifth
  • descending fourth
  • descending third
  • ascending second (or step)

...in other words descending intervals except for the ascending step.

Pachelbel is famous but all of these progressions and various harmonic sequences - like Falling Thirds used in his "canon" - are too old and universal to be ascribed to one person.

Also, @ttw makes a good point to distinguish root progressions (at the basic level a two chord movement, a musical bi-gram) and harmonic sequences which typically have a two chord progression reiterated and transposed. The Pachelbel example is a harmonic sequence.

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