I am trying to follow Aldwell and Schachter’s analysis of Chopin’s Impromptu, Op. 29. I wanted to learn about chromatic voice leading techniques, but I ended up getting stuck simply with their analysis of the diatonic framework in Chopin’s piece. They identify the progression in Example 31-1 (please see attached image) as I-II6-V7; I am having trouble seeing these chords the same way, however. Either I am misunderstanding a concept, misreading notation (lots of accidentals), or I’ve misinterpreted the chords within the larger harmonic framework at play. Can you please look at my notes and clue me in on what the progression really is here? The reduction I came up with, while not the I-II-V7 I was expecting (but rather various extended chords?) is actually really pretty, and I would like to know if this [I-?-?] is a progression that I should be familiar with.

Thank you!


enter image description here

  • A hint: to read and play easier the chromatic Passage just play the r.h. as 6th chords ( 1st inversion) reading Ab-E-Eb-D, Db-D-Db-C, B-C-B-Bb, Eb ... Commented Apr 19, 2020 at 9:23
  • unluckily you don't poste us the continuation of p. 563 and the copy you've posted is bad readable! (But the book of Aldwells und Schachter looks very interesting. I'll try to get this too. Commented Apr 20, 2020 at 8:44

3 Answers 3


For the ii6 chord in the third bar of ex. 31-1, the bass is Db3. The flat on it is a courtesy accidental it is not double flatting the Db of the key signature. The next chord the V with the 6/4 5/3 figures (or maybe it says 8/3, it's hard to read) uses an Ab - with a flat - not an A natural.

I think you're misreading the accidentals.

Beyond that, the point of the text book is to say the main, functional chords are I on beat 1 of the first bar, ii6 on beat 1 of bar 4, and V on beats 3 and 4 of bar four, while all the chromatic movement on the 11 beats between I and ii6 is just chromatic elaboration.

That's actually a pretty common concept. I think you can generalize the concept into something like I ... <some kind of cadence> where the ellipse means proceed from the tonic (or maybe the dominant) with a whole lot of latitude about what the harmony is and it can be rendered tonally sensible if ended with a formulaic cadence.

I'm overstating the case on purpose. You can't get away with musical gibberish in the middle of a phrase and there are conventions for the structure of cadences. But, between some tonally clear start and ending there is a lot of harmonic flexibility. This textbook lesson is showing chromatic descending movement as a possibility and you don't need to put Roman numeral analysis on anything but the main, functional chords.

One other thing: I notice in your notes your wrote...

enter image description here

...placing Bb in the bass, but the score has Eb in the bass and the textbook analysis is...

enter image description here

The progression is a cadential 6/4 movement, or using older figure bass terminology, a double cadence.

The modern view is one of chord inversions where 6/4 means second inversion, but old figured bass is about intervals above a bass.

Modern analysis is I6/4 V I where Eb Ab C is viewed as second inversion of an Ab major chord.

Figured bass (notation not analysis) is a notated Eb with a 6/4 figure above it meaning play a sixth and fourth above the Eb bass.

If you get picky and philosophical about the identity of chords, the two views are very different. One is a tonic chord the other is a dominant chord. It's like saying up is down and down is up! How can we not tell the difference between a tonic and dominant chord?!?

The textbook labels Eb Ab C as V6/4 ...a dominant chord in the vein of old figured bass. Your label is I6/4 a second inversion tonic chord.

This isn't a matter of right or wrong and personally I switch mentally between the two all the time. In a progression like I V6/4 I6 I definitely think of V6/4 as a second inversion dominant, but in I6/4 V I I think of I6/4 in the old figured bass way and consider the chord to be a suspension over a dominant.

I thought it might help you to point out the difference in how that chord can be labeled in different music theory systems.


You are correct: ii = Bb,Db,F and ii6 = Db,F,Bb (like the chord in the last measure (posted).

But you are wrong: I46 = Eb,Ab,C (I think a mistake), and the flattened note in the middle line of bass clef is Db not C.

The last error is V46 in the last bar of your poste. You think 46 means the inversion of the dominant. But it is a dominant Eb with a suspended 4th (Ab) and suspended 6th (C). This suspension Eb, Ab, C which is usually functional interpreted as 2nd inversion of the tonic (Ab,C,Eb) => Eb,Ab,C and notated also as I46. This has has always lead to great discussions and may be confusing as V4 means sus4 and I6 means inversion. And V46 means suspension while I46 means inversion.


another error I haven't noticed yet:

The b7 of Eb is Db - and not Gb.

enter image description here

This Gb is wrong!

Now my error:

I have overseen the title of your question:

Chromatic parallel six-three chords

and didn't understand that the sentence

"I am having trouble seeing these chords the same way."

is referring to these chromatic passage. Well, in this case I wouldn't imagine the enharmonic chords. (What I use to do is to transpose a piece in another key with less accidentals e.g. C or even her A major. But this won't help a lot as you will have anyway a lot of accidentals because it goes chromatic half step down.)

The chromatic passage is surely not a ii-V7 progression but if we consider this chromatic passage like e.g. E7-Eb7-D7-Db7-C as a chain of secondary dominants fifth fall sequence) with tritone substitutions Eb7~A7, Db7~G7 you can explain the chromatic downward progression as V7/V7/V7 .... (secondary dominants).


I have now found a proper download of your unreadable copy:

It says: Filling in the space between the I and the II6 is a series of descending parallel 6 3 ’s. The passage is similar to those discussed in Unit 19 in all respects except a most important one—it is chromatic instead of diatonic. The reduction following the excerpt (Example 32-1b) shows its diatonic basis (half notes) and its chromatic elaboration (black noteheads). We can readily see that the chromaticism of this passage involves procedures already familiar to us: specifically, the use of mixture and of chromatic passing tones. The 5-6 motion that introduces the descending 6 3 ’s is altered by mixture so that the first 6 3 is expressed as an F∫-major chord instead of an F-minor one. And the other chromatics can be understood as passing tones. One other aspect of this excerpt deserves attention, for it is characteristic of all sorts of chromatic passages—not just those based on parallel 6 3 ’s. Note that all the 6 3 chords are major except for the goal II6. Obviously, if a succession of chords is parallel and chromatic, all the chords will have the same quality. The major triad represents a preferred sonority, so composers have tended to favor it in such passages.

This means A.&S. interpret the non diatonic chord as passing tones (black dots).

They don’t see that

Fb=E => substitution of Bb = V7/Eb

D => substitution of Ab


and we have a sequence of secondary dominants. The 3 concepts of V/V, circle of 5ths and the tritonus substitution (chords with enharmonic exchanged common tones in the interval of a dim. 5th to the secondary dominant) make this progression more plausible than the explanation of passing tones which looks to me rather like an excuse or false argument for not understanding what happens.

(I don’t mean it is really false but there are better arguments.)

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