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Please help me understand this chord progression

Posted by Sagebrush Gardener 
Please help me understand this chord progression
February 27, 2018 12:21AM
Hi all,

I am trying to understand the chord progression in this song (Manoa, Before Sunrise), from about 2:30 to 2:50:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnI-2LVqBkA

I think the chords are
Dm, Am, G, Dm
But I am not sure of the best way to understand this progression.

Would it be
i-v-IV-i
in D minor?

Or would it be
ii-vi-V-ii
in C major (with the I chord missing)?

Or something else?

I'm a beginner—please keep it simple.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/27/2018 12:23AM by Sagebrush Gardener. (view changes)
Re: Please help me understand this chord progression
March 01, 2018 08:41AM
What you need is to work out which note is the tonic; what's the goal of the piece, what sounds like home?
Once you've got that as the reference point, the chords can be worked out in relation to that, and hopefully will make sense.

Check out this textbook on Four Part Harmony.
Re: Please help me understand this chord progression
March 03, 2018 08:45AM
JJF, your link to Four Part Harmony no longer functions, the Classroom Resources site no longer being available.
Re: Please help me understand this chord progression
March 03, 2018 10:05PM
Thanks, I see. So the chord numbers depend on their function in the piece as a whole and you can't necessarily determine that from an isolated fragment.
Re: Please help me understand this chord progression
March 04, 2018 11:09AM
Sagebrush Gardener Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Thanks, I see. So the chord numbers depend on
> their function in the piece as a whole and you
> can't necessarily determine that from an isolated
> fragment.

In a lot of cases, yes (although it depends on the length of the fragment).
Sometimes however the key is obvious even from a few chords; a classic ii-V-I being probably the best example.

Tonal harmony is based around fifths. V-I (or, more typically V7-I) establishes the tonic, and this is why it can usually be found near the start of a piece, after a key change, and at the end.

If for example, your section was immediately preceded or followed by V7-I in D minor, then the key is unambiguous and the whole thing is in D minor.
If it was preceded or followed by V7-I in C major though, then C major would be the (likely) key.

Often it's not quite as simple as that, sometimes there can be a lot of tonal ambiguity where the key is uncertain - this can be done deliberately for effect.
And the tonic can be established in other ways. With modal music for example, it is often established melodically rather than harmonically. (Even in tonal music, there may be melodic clues that imply a certain harmony; the leading note rising to the tonic for example can be thought of as an implied V-I even if those chords are not actually present).

Check out this textbook on Four Part Harmony.
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