I came up with this progression while trying to make a song that involves guitar arpeggios and string sections: Em Cm Em/B C6 Em C B-B+ Cm6 (Em/B I mean with a chord inversion and B-B+ I mean half measure with the first and half with the second, just saying becuaise I'm not sure I can use the right notation)

Can I really consider this an Em progression with a resolution? I just came up with it without thinking too much, and found I have these substitutions on the VI, that becomes Cm on second and eighth measure.

  • B-B+ meaning half bar of Bm (minor) and half bar B+ (augmented)? – Michael Curtis Mar 13 '20 at 18:13
  • @MichaelCurtis From OP's explanation of the nomenclature, I think the hyphen is showing that the two chords should be played closer together than all the other chords, meaning B moving quickly to B augmented. – user45266 Mar 13 '20 at 18:15
  • @user45266, ah, I see now. So ...| Em | C | B B+ |... using pipes for bars – Michael Curtis Mar 13 '20 at 18:18
  • Yeah, using pipes would have made it more clear ^^ but yes that's it – Philip J. Mar 13 '20 at 19:11

I would say that E minor seems to be the clear prevailing tonality in this example. You have B chords going to Em chords, and that's quite common in minor (theorists call it harmonic minor when they raise the seventh note to the leading tone). Every note in the chords you wrote actually fits into E harmonic minor. Even the C minor chords have that E♭ = D♯ note (at least for a listener), but that's actually not the best explanation for the C minor chords:

The C minor chords do complicate things a bit, but the Cm (2nd chord) can be explained as a chromatic mediant - the root jumping up or down by a third to form a chord outside of the key for effect. That's not a particularly functional concept, but that doesn't mean that it's wrong either - just that it distances itself from the E minor key center a tad bit, which is perfectly fine. The Cm6 chord (last chord) could be explained as the same thing, but it's worth considering that the Cm6 chord can be interpreted as the V7♭9♭13 (or V+7♭9) chord, an altered dominant chord whose root is implied to be B, leading nicely back to the E minor chords at the start of the piece. This is especially likely due to the chord preceding it also being a B altered dominant chord (B+ means B augmented), making for a full final measure of the B dominant sound (even if I misinterperted the length of the measures, the explanation holds true).

"Can I really consider this an Em progression with a resolution?"

If you buy into the altered dominant idea, then your progression ends on the V and loops back to the i.

It doesn't get much more resolved than that, my friend.

  • The C6 and Cm6 could be subdominants ...which would only reinforce the harmony being in E minor. Nice answer. – Michael Curtis Mar 13 '20 at 18:24
  • Why, thank you! I kinda forgot that VI already has predominant function, whoops. The predominant idea seems to fall apart for the Cm6 for me personally, though, as that would be going from the dominant function to the predominant back to the tonic. Blues and Rock notwithstanding, that seems less likely to me. It's a good idea, one that I hadn't considered, but I don't think that it overshadows the potential dominant function explanation. I'd be glad to see the predominant function mentioned in an answer, though - in some contexts, that interpretation is clearly better than the one I put up. – user45266 Mar 13 '20 at 19:13
  • @MichaelCurtis Especially if C is emphasized heavily as the root, that's one case where the B7 explanation loses a bit of traction. Definitely E minor either way! – user45266 Mar 13 '20 at 19:15
  • I really love your answer! I meant B augmented too, because for half of the bar I play a G (5+) instead of F# (5th) on the B chord. I'm not sure, though, this is enough to say we had an augmented B for half measure – Philip J. Mar 13 '20 at 19:21
  • So, I'm agreeing with your analysis. But I should correct myself: it's just the C6 that could be a subdominant - iv6/5. Your point about B and B+ as dominant and altered dominant sum it up and put it in E minor. – Michael Curtis Mar 13 '20 at 19:22

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