The Neapolitan 6th Chord: What In The World Is It?

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The N-6 Chord: What In The World Is It?

Here is a podcast on the subject:

Here is the transcript of the podcast if you want to follow along:

Hi. This is Duane again with another tip on “Good Stuff, You Really Ought to Know About Music.” These tips add up over the course of time by the way. You may not think that it’s really a big deal to know what a Neapolitan 6th Chord is and it and it is sometimes that you can live without it. Thousands, millions of people do, but by knowing just the various nuances of music, the little tiny nuances, several things happen. One, it gives you some confidence that you know what you’re doing over the course of time when you know hundreds of little items about things.

It just gives you confidence. It’s analogous to … I have a brother-in-law who’s a carpenter. He just knows hundreds or thousands of little things that I don’t know. I’m not a carpenter, so I don’t know these things. I know the broad strokes I guess, but I sure don’t know the little nuances. When you know those little nuances, it gives you confidence in what you’re doing. Two, it’s way more interesting. If you know how music works, know what theory and harmony is and the fine points of it, and then of course in your application of playing, it gives you a broader scope of things to do, doesn’t it? Because you know what’s available to you.

Let’s take a look at this good stuff card that’s in front of you. This is about the N6 chord. N6 is short for Neapolitan six. It’s a colorful chord and it was used by a group of composers who were centered around the City of Naples in Italy, the Neapolitan School of Composing. They used this a lot. There’s certain things that came into being like the Alberti Bass. It came into being because a guy named Alberti, a composer, he used it too much, having used it a lot and overused it probably. These composers kind of became famous for using this particular chord.
Neapolitan 6th chord
It’s not real complex, it’s simply a major try and it’s a major chord, but it’s built on the lowered second scale degree. What in the world does that mean? Say you’re in the key of C, [Duane playing piano] and you’re playing along in the key of C. [Duane playing piano] You know the primary chord C, [Duane playing piano] F, [Duane playing piano] G, [Duane playing piano] C. The Neapolitan six is D flat. [Duane playing piano] It’s just a half step above the tonic chord. You’ve heard this kind of thing. [Duane playing piano]

That’s just the Neapolitan six. You just move it up a half step. Now, one nice thing about the Neapolitan six is that you can put a seventh in the chord like … the chord is D flat if you’re in the key of C. [Duane playing piano] The chord is D flat. D flat, [Duane playing piano] F, [Duane playing piano] and A flat. You can put a seventh in it. What would be a seventh of the D flat chord? [Duane playing piano] That’s right, C flat. Looks like B, but it’s really C flat. [Duane playing piano]

Now that C flat is in harmonic with B, isn’t it? B is part of the G chord or the G seventh chord. [Duane playing piano] G seventh is the chord that leads where? It leads up the fourth to C. [Duane playing piano] What I’m saying is you can go from C, to D flat [Duane playing piano] seventh, to G seventh, [Duane playing piano] to C, [Duane playing piano] and you have a nice wonderful progression. Listen. [Duane playing piano] Can you do it in minor? Sure. [Duane playing piano]

You can create all kinds of things just out that Neapolitan six. That’s all there really is to it, but it’s one of those little fine points of music that “You Really Ought to Know, Good Stuff.”

Thanks for being with me. See you again sometime. Bye bye for now.


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