MUS 211 

o7 Chord Brain Def*rter
... in six easy steps

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  1. First, just relax and try try to put things into perspective.  Really now, how much smarter than you can these composer-types be??  After all, Lully hit himself in the foot with his conducting staff and subsequently died.  And Schumann threw himself into the Rhine River and ended up in an asylum.  So don't let these cats get to you.  They probably had porridge hanging from their beards at their conservatory cafés.  Face it, some of them were probably 19th-century nerds.

  1. Okay, now that you're no longer intimidated by the persons behind the notes, the first step is to figure out the key of their music.  Some of these asylum-types like to switch keys on you, so be careful.  Take a look at the key signature, of course, but that's not the only thing to look for--maybe you're examining a section that has modulated from home base.  Look at the beginning chords, and especially the ending chords.  Primarily, look for cadences.  Yeah, that's what you should do.  Find the cadences and work backwards.  Those V-I cadences are a real giveaway.

  1. Now that you know what key(s) you're dealing with, ye olde Roman numeral analysis should end up being pretty well on target.  You may find it helpful to first do a popular-chord analysis above the staff if you find that a mental analysis is unfruitful--that way it will be easier to see V-I relationships.

  1. Before tackling our friend, the o7 chord, don't forget about all the cousins:  plain ol' Mm7ths, mm7ths, viio7ths, etc.  Some of these may simply be diatonic 7th chords.  Of course, if you find a Mm7th chords that's not a "V7" chord, you're looking at a secondary dominant chord, i.e., a V7/ of something else.  Check the chord of resolution to see if your proposed analysis makes sense.  And don't forget that a V7/? can easily resolve to a ?-six-four.

  1. Finally, on to the o7 chords:  First, see if the current spelling works in terms of the chord of resolution, i.e., does o7/X resolve to X?  If not, determine if the chord (in major keys) could be either a #iio7 - I6 or a #vio7 - V6 or V six-five.  If not, you will need to check the enharmonic spelling of all four chord factors to see which spelling will yield the correct harmonic function.  (Also, check for enharmonic spellings of the #iio7 and #vio7.)  The fastest way is to determine which of the four o7 chord factors, enharmonically, would be a half-step below the chord of resolution (o7 /X.).  That factor, then, would be the root of the o7 chord, and you would have your analysis symbol.

  1. Remember to indicate 7th-chord inversions, whether diatonic or secondary embellishing.

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