I know what a Neapolitan chord is and know how to use it in some usual ways. But I want to talk about the B♭ chord in C major. I think B♭ here is very "Subordinate". And we can see it always appears like (in C major):




My question is: Is B♭ chord related to the Neapolitan chord in A minor (the related minor of C major)?

The reason why I come out with this question is that, in modern popular music, the mode always changes between related major and minor (for example: C major and A minor)). In classical music, Neapolitan in A minor appears like: B♭/D-E7-Am (N6-d-t). So I guess that in modern popular music, people use Neapolitan chord in A minor to connect G and C (in C major) to blur the mode. But, I didn't find any evidence about this, that means B♭ in C major is nothing related to Neapolitan chord in A minor?

1 Answer 1


Technically, B♭ is the Neapolitan chord in A minor, but when it comes to classical music we are generally doing functional analysis, or labeling chords in a way that indicates their harmonic purpose.

Functional analysis can also be applied to many rock and pop songs, but the example at hand is an exception. Notice that in your song, the B♭ chord doesn't move to an Am/E or E(7) as we would expect in a classically functional context. Instead, this song is using what some loosely call the minor pentatonic–based pop/rock tonality. There is a great summary here, but the essence is that you build major triads (pr power chords) on each degree of the minor pentatonic scale. In C, these chords would be C, E♭, F, G, and B♭. Thus, using this analytical paradigm, the chord B♭ is the ♭VII chord in C major.

You will here this sound used widely in classic rock, e.g. Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze":

|: E7#9 | G A :|

which I would analyze as

|: I7♯9 | ♭III IV :|

in E major. As an exercise, you may wish to try analyzing the chords in your song in a similar fashion.

  • In fact I know how to use Roman number to analyze the chords, like Bb in C major is bVII. I want to know, dose the phenomenon that Bb chord in C major in popular music (appearing as Bb-G-C over) only mean that Bb replaces the F or Dm (F or Dm-G-C ---changed to---> Bb-G-C, that is, Bb is off the C major )? Or the appearance of Bb have some "historic reasons" or "musical theory reasons"? For example, some one should have used Bb as the Neapolitan in A minor, but he didn't. He let Bb-G-C, and this usage remains to now.
    – Houa
    May 9, 2020 at 4:06
  • (2/2) Because you know, Bb as the N6 in A minor always appears like N6-dominant (E7)-t (Am). If one break this rule and let "dominant (E7)" become "dominant (G)" in the related major (C major), then he change the mode and get a new voice. because E7 and G, Am and C are dominant and main chord, except that ones are in A minor but others in C major.
    – Houa
    May 9, 2020 at 4:17
  • The "reason" (beyond that it sounds good and works) is that Bb is one of the tones in the C minor pentatonic scale, and that lends this chord a sense of stability. When Bb precedes Am, we could analyze it as Neapolitan. When it preceded F, we could analyze it as IV/IV. In some cases, there are multiple possible analyses available and no definite answer to which one is "correct."
    – Max
    May 9, 2020 at 4:19
  • 1
    You write of historical reasons vs theoretical reasons, but in fact theory itself has changed throughout history, so analyzing a given song requires choosing a historically appropriate set of theoretical tools. Neapolitan doesn't figure into the thinking of the typical rock musician, so it's less useful in explaining "why" they made a choice unless you can cite a specific classical piece that inspired them. OTOH the minor pentatonic chords are a self-contained theoretical paradigm that "work" on these examples. In some cases, e.g. a V to I motion, you can apply both paradigms, but not always.
    – Max
    May 9, 2020 at 4:22
  • Ok I understand what you mean. Thanks for your answer.
    – Houa
    May 9, 2020 at 4:27

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.