I have been trying to analyze a score (the first one that I have attempted) and I'm a bit confused about how to analyze these chords. Here's the part (and here's the full piece for context):

First two bars in which I'm stuck

Take the very first chord: I have analyzed it as a D7sus4 but I'm not completely sure about how does that fit into the chord progression. The same with the second (A7sus4) and some others (F6/9, C6...).

Disclaimer: I have never taken formal lessons and I have little time to practice, so apologies if the question is too basic or plainly wrong. If that is the case, I would highly appreciate informative online resources. Thanks!

  • 4
    I don't want to discourage you, but if this is your first time try to do Roman numeral analysis, this piece seems like a bad choice. Start with short works, like keyboard dances from the Baroque or Classical, or chorales. Mar 13, 2020 at 19:06
  • Are you trying to learn Roman numeral analysis, or do you just want this music analyzed? Mar 13, 2020 at 20:29
  • @MichaelCurtis I mainly want to analyze this piece. As far as I understood, for this purpose, you usually start by analyzing the chord progression (is there any "higher" analysis of the piece?) to understand the piece's structure. However, given my limited background on the field, I could be totally wrong. Speaking about this makes me realize I'm not completely sure on the "steps" that have to be taken to analyze a piece. Could you provide some insight/link for this? Mar 13, 2020 at 21:15
  • @MichaelCurtis and you don't discourage at all! On the contrary, thanks for taking an interest. I'm curious, however, on why do you think this is not a good choice for this purpose. Mar 13, 2020 at 21:19
  • @GuillermoJ. - This sort of 20th-21st-century piece is likely to contain nonfunctional and other surprising chord progressions - V-i cadences are rarer in pieces like this. When I took harmony lessons, pretty much none of the excerpts I needed to determine chords for were from the mid-20th century or later as a result.
    – Dekkadeci
    Mar 14, 2020 at 9:37

1 Answer 1


To start with, that quadruplet notation is ugly. I'm pretty sure it would be much better to write this rhythm by taking the three quarter notes and dividing them into four dotted eighth notes (tied and beamed appropriately). Tuplets could make sense, but only if the intended effect is to take the listener on a departure from the prevailing meter, which doesn't appear to be the case here (I haven't listened to the piece performed, though). Unless I'm sorely mistaken about the nature of the piece, the transcription wrote a tuplet for what should be a subdivision of the beat. It's a small distinction, but musicians will thank you for getting it right (well, no, they wont, but they will be ticked off if you mess this up, so same thing).

Another good reasonto stay away from the quadruplet in this case: the tuplet notation in the sheet music OP provided obscures the midpoint of the measure, which is generally bad practice (where the heck is beat 3?). With properly beamed/tied notes at the 16th-note level, it would be easy to see exactly where beats 1, 2, 3, and 4 all lie in the rhythm - the quadruplet makes it impossible to see these landmarks in the measure. This is just a way to make sight-reading easier, and it's the same principle as beaming conventions - show the divisions of the beat when you can!

On to the actual harmonies:

Without context, your D7sus analysis is correct, but in the context of the greater work (D minor, right?) it doesn't make sense to me to call this a D7 chord, because that would imply the major third. Yes, it's suspended, so the third is absent anyway, but from an analysis standpoint, this suspended fourth (G) is clearly a suspension of the minor third F, not F♯. I personally would call this chord Dm7sus, but this is also a pretty small distinction, since it isn't even reflected aurally until later context is given.

The second chord has G, D, G, A, and E in it, which you've labeled A7sus. This is not empirically wrong either, but it's not what I would label this chord as. I saw the G and D figure in the bass and took that to mean G was the root note, making this a Gm6/9 chord with no third. That, to me, is the best interpertation because the piece is so clearly in minor that this G chord must be a minor chord rather than a major one. This is a i iv i progression dressed up in fancy clothes, which is common enough in minor. And it's important to note the perfect fifths in the bass that create a sort of 'power chord' like sound - these are often just a way of putting a lot of emphasis on the root note, like when a pianist plays an octave in the bass but with a perfect fifth instead, or when a guitarist plays a heavy power chord on the root. This seems to be a much better explanation than an suspended dominant seventh chord in third inversion to me.

All in all, a valiant effort at analysis (as a first effort, especially), and nothing you did was strictly incorrect - it could well be that some people hear that music the way you analyzed it. That said, it will probably take practice to clue in to all the little nuances of deciding subjective matters like these above. Music theory is just that: Theory, and that's why computers can't do it for us. It's all about human perception, and that can mean tiny differences get wildly different interpretations. Keep up the good work!

  • Thanks a lot! This is a lot of good info to get me started, and right on point of what I was not understanding. I would like to ask, however, if the roles of these chords in the progression (i, v...) are affected (besides the "feel" of the piece) by the suspended/added chords. E.g. if the v is minor in a minor scale such as in this example, does the sus change its analysis? Mar 13, 2020 at 21:07
  • I've actually been told by multiple sources to prefer tuplets over dotted-note notation (i.e. they recommended the opposite of what the video in your answer does).
    – Dekkadeci
    Mar 14, 2020 at 9:40
  • @GuillermoJ. Suspensions, extensions, and added notes generally just decorate a chord progression. They do not convey any functional distinctions; V7sus is still a dominant-functioning chord, just like V7 - no change to the analysis. That doesn't mean that they're useless, of course.
    – user45266
    Mar 14, 2020 at 20:38
  • @Dekkadeci In this case, the tuplet notation obscures the midpoint of the measure, which is generally bad practice (where the heck is beat 3?). With properly beamed/tied notes at the 16th-note level, it would be easy to see exactly where beats 1, 2, 3, and 4 all lie in the rhythm - the quadruplet makes it impossible to see these landmarks in the measure.
    – user45266
    Mar 14, 2020 at 20:42
  • @user45266 - The sources that recommended tuplets over dotted notes explained to me that it was for readability/grokkability purposes - that counting out the dotted notes was more painful than intuiting the tuplets, even at slow speeds. This even seemed to apply regardless of obscuring the middle of the measure. Given how often I've seen sheet music published in books that beams through the middle of the measure and even across barlines...I think they have a point.
    – Dekkadeci
    Mar 15, 2020 at 6:52

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