(musTh 212) Chromatic Sequences

A summary of chromatic sequences taken from RF.

Descending Circle-of-Fifths (The Fonte)

  • If successive chords are all secondary dominants, then sequence is chromatic.
  • Remember that the chordal seventh is a vertical dissonance, and must resolve down by step. The leading tone (third of the chord) is consonant. The LT gets lowered by chromatic half-step to become the chordal seventh of the next Dom7.
  • Two lines will descend chromatically
  • If one of the chromatic lines is in the bass, the harmonies will alternate 6/5 – 4/2.

Ascending 5-6 (or 6-5) (The Monte)

  • An alternation of secondary dominants and their resolutions
  • Bass line in root position moves up a 4th, then down a 3rd
  • One ascending chromatic line
  • If chromatic line is in bass, the secondary dominant chords will be in 6/5 position (root – 6/5)

Descending 5-6

  • descending chromatic bass with alternating secondary V6/5 (or V6) chords and root position triads
  • root position triads are not resolutions of secondary dominants (root is half-step below leading tone of 6/5)
  • Example in RF is Eagles’ Hotel CaliforniaA classic concert video from the original time period is below. The music for the RF example on p. 805 starts around 3:29, but the progression repeats for all the verses. Notice the use of the lamento bass, descending chromatically from B down to F# over the first six measure of the progression. “Ah Despair, my sweet friend….” (ok, you can also notice the classic hair, beards, bandana, and double-neck guitar.)


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