Harmonic Analysis - Common Harmonic Sequences

Harmonic sequences that show up a lot.

Published: 06 Apr 2012 Updated: 13 Mar 2023Visits: 30Code: MLRMAe-13

Topic: Theory Instruments: ANY Ukulele Guitar Bass Banjo Mandolin Harmonica Drums Piano Lapsteel Subjects: Theory • Intermediate • Advanced • Progressions

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Common harmonic sequences and their analysis with scale choices.

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This series, is the book Harmonic Analysis for Chord Substitution and Scale Selection by Curt sheller broken out into individual lessons with additional examples and content. Always, the latest version of the book.

Common Harmonic Sequences

Here are some common harmonic sequences and their analysis with scale choices. (Scale selection is the topic of the next chapter).

Im ImL7* Im7 Im6

Examples of songs with this harmonic sequence or variations and often called a line cliche are: More, Michelle, Embraceable You, Stairway to Heaven. Can also be used as a substitute for a Im lasting for two measures.

This harmonic sequence is often called a line cliche .

Scale Choices:

  • Aeolian (Natural Minor) on the Im
  • Harmonic Minor on the ImL7 *
  • Aeolian (Natural Minor) on the Im7
  • Dorian on the Im6

* min/maj7. L indicates a Large, major seventh present in the chord. A notational shorthand.

Harmonic Analysis - Common Harmonic Sequences…

Im ImL+5 Im6

Examples of songs with this harmonic sequence are: Witchcraft, Secret Agent Man Theme.

This harmonic sequence is often called a line cliche.

Scale Choices:

  • Aeolian (Natural Minor) on the Im7
  • Harmonic Minor on the Im7+5
  • Dorian on the Im6

Picardy Third

A Picardy Third is when a minor II V resolves to a Major I chord, not the expected Minor I chord. Rarely does the reverse happen where a major II V resolves to a Minor I . ( see Internal Modulation chapter )

Scale Choices:

  • For the II V use Harmonic Minor of the I chord for a traditional sound
  • Locrian of the II for a Contemporary, Modern Sound
  • Ionian (Major) or Lydian of the I

Chromatic Sevenths

Examples of songs with this harmonic sequence are: Fever, Hit the Road Jack, Stray Cat Strut, Walk Don't Run (I, ♭VII, ♭VI, V), Tequila (I7 ♭VII7), Killer Joe (I7 ♭VII7).

Scale Choices:

  • Ionian (Major) on the I
  • Mixolydian +4 on the ♭VII7 and ♭VI7 chords
  • Mixolydian on the V

Confirmation Sequence

The Confirmation Sequence gets its name from the great jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker’s song Confirmation. This sequence typically begins on the I chord of the key and works it way to the IV chord of the key using a series of II V 's. The IV chord would be a major chord type (major or seventh).

Here is an example from the song Bluesette By Toots Thielemans

Confirmation Sequence

This song could be initially labeled as:


*Secondary Dominant chords resolving to their I chords.

This sequence is better labeled as a series of II V Secondary Dominants resolving to their I chords, which serve as double function chords, both a I of the V and a II of the next cycle:

G: I
Em: II V of I
Dm: II V of I
C: II V of I

Scale Choices:

Refer to the Scale Selections lesson for scale choices/solutions.

Download the PDF file for the latest, complete, and most up-to-date version. As well as additional information not presented on-line.

End of Lesson - Thanks, Hope You Enjoyed It!

Related Lessons, Videos, Lesson Series, Songs, Books & Reference Charts, Resources & Assets, Workshops are below.

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Related Lessons for Harmonic Analysis - Common Harmonic Sequences.


Key Signatures and the Circle of Fifths and Fourths

Updated: 14 Jul 2022

There is a load of information in traditional "Key Signatures." Unlocking the principles in this circle leads to a better understanding of music and how things work. A key signature is a series of sharp or flat symbols placed on the staff, designating the notes that are to be consistently played higher or lower than the equivalent natural notes.


Harmonic Analysis Lesson Series

Updated: 06 Jan 2020

Harmonic Analysis ( HA ) is the process used to determine the harmonic function of chords within a chord progression. A chord progression is defined as a sequence of chords, each chord has a root and has a particular chord type. The relationship of a chord's root to a scale determines its function within that scale's tonality. Once a chord's function is identified, scale selections along with chord and scale substitutions can be made. This process is called Root Movement Analysis ( RMA ). This series of lessons are extracted from my book for use with individual private and on-line students. Each lesson directly corresponds the chapters in my book Harmonic Analysis for Scale Selection and Chord Substitution by Curt Sheller (me).


Harmonic Analysis - Major and Minor Harmonized Chord Charts

Updated: 06 Apr 2012

Major and Minor Harmonized Chord Charts are used for while doing a Harmonic Analysis (HA). Shows triads and 4-part chords for ALL 15 major and minor keys. "Yes, Virginia there are 15 keys."

Related Songs

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Tweaking the Daily Ukulele a.k.a, the Yellow Book

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Jim Beloff has put together a great book, The Daily Ukulele, 365 Songs for Better Living. This book know as the "Yellow Book" is great for ukulele jam sessions. Here are some of the changes that I've made to the Daily Uke book affectionately know as the Yellow Book. This book is one of the go to books for ukulele jams. However, there a few tweaks and changes that I point out at our jams. I'll use this song / lesson to document them for your own jams and ukulele groups.

Related Books & Charts

Related Books for Harmonic Analysis - Common Harmonic Sequences.


Harmonic Analysis for Scale Selection and Chord Substitution

Updated: 10 Jun 2021

Harmonic Analysis is the understanding of the functional sequence of chords. It is the process used to analyze the harmonic structure of a progression, song or composition. This analysis is then used to make scale selections for improvisation and chord substitution.

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