TonalityGUIDE - basic tonal music theory and analysis for undergraduates
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Short Progressions

introduction diatonic chromatic

introduction | secondary dominant | diminished 7th | augmented 6th | Neapolitan | half-diminished 7th | augmented 5th

short progs.
longer progs.

The Neapolitan sixth is a diatonic chord that is chromatic because of its context: a major triad formed on the note a semitone below the supertonic - i.e flat II. Because bII is a long way from the tonic on the circle of fifths, it introduces an unexpected tension that, like many chromatic chords, resolves onto the dominant.

The 'sixth' refers to the the figured bass for a first inversion - the most usual position for this chord. It is unclear from where the Neapolitan part of the name derives. The effect an intensification of the resolution of the perfect cadence.

The most common forms are shown below. Neapolitan chords lead onto the dominant (a) or a cadential six-four (b). The flattened notes (the first and fifth scale degrees) usually resolve downwards. A root position chord creates a more dramatic effect than the more usual first inversion configuration used in the examples.

Neapolitan sixth

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