[Smt-talk] Chord Inversions

Ninov, Dimitar N dn16 at txstate.edu
Wed Apr 24 13:10:09 PDT 2013

Dear Ildar,

Nicely said. I would also like to add that the process of de-alteration is very much explored in popular music as well. For example the harmonic cliche I - IIm7 - #IIdim. 7 - I6 is often played backwards as I6 - #II dim.7 - IIm7 - I, where the altered supertonic goes back into its natural state. Of course, the parallel fifths between I and IIm7 are practiced, unless IIm7 is replaced by V4/3, which creates another popular cliche similar to the one above.

The process of de-alteration also shows the diatonic basis of the altered chords. For example, in the introduction of Stella by Starlight in B-flat, there is this progression: Bb/D - Gb7/Db - Cm7 - F7, which is nothing more than I6 - II7 alt. (Ger. in root position, correctly spelled as C# - E - Gb - Bb) - IIm7 - V7.

This Ger. in root position which does not contain an augmented sixth but a diminished third, goes back in its natural state in major which is IIm7. I explain the Ger in major as a half-diminished Sii with a raised root and third. The process is ii half.dim.7#3#1, but this is a clumsy label and I only use it to show the procedure. And Stella by Starlight has the right example for it.

The thing is that many musicians will not realize this transformation, thinking (as they have been conventionally taught) that the chords containing a diminished third/augmented sixth fall from the sky and are rootless and non-functional. But, as we discussed once, the words "linear" and "chromatic" are not immediate synonyms of "non-functional". For example, viio7 is a linear dominant with its own flavor, but this does not mean it is non-functional.

Best regards,


Dr. Dimitar Ninov, Lecturer
School of Music
Texas State University
601 University Drive
San Marcos, Texas 78666

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