V. Chromaticism

# Neapolitan 6th (♭II6)

Brian Jarvis

Key Takeaways

- Chromatic predominant chord
- A major triad built on
*ra*[latex](\downarrow\hat{2})[/latex] - Typically found in first inversion
*Ra*[latex](\downarrow\hat{2})[/latex] resolves down to*ti*[latex](\hat7)[/latex]

The Neapolitan sixth [latex](\flat\mathrm{II}^{6})[/latex] is a chromatic predominant chord. It is a major triad built on *ra* [latex](\downarrow\hat{2})[/latex] and is typically found in first inversion.

# Context

The Neapolitan sixth is essentially a chromatic version of a [latex]\mathrm{ii^{o6}}[/latex] chord. It functions the same and can be used in the same context but it has a more dramatic effect because of its chromatic root, *ra* [latex](\downarrow\hat{2})[/latex]. Like [latex]\mathrm{ii^{o6}}[/latex], it is typically used in a cadential context. [latex]\mathrm{\flat II^6}[/latex] can be found in major and minor keys but is more common in minor keys. Listen to the example below to compare a simple cadential progression with [latex]\mathrm{ii^{o6}}[/latex] and then with [latex]\mathrm{\flat II^6}[/latex].

While the name “Neapolitan” is a reference to the Italian city of Naples (Napoli), the historical connection is quite shallow as the chord was used in many other European cities in the 18^{th} and 19^{th} centuries.

# Voice Leading

There is a standard voice leading associated with [latex]\mathrm{\flat II^6}[/latex]. In general, the chromatic tones follow standard altered-tone practice, the altered notes continue to move in the direction in which they were altered. In this case, [latex]\hat{2}[/latex] (*re*) has been lowered to *ra* [latex](\downarrow\hat{2})[/latex] so its tendency is to continue downward. Because [latex]\mathrm{\flat II^6}[/latex] resolves to a [latex]\mathrm{V}[/latex] chord, ultimately *ra* [latex](\downarrow\hat{2})[/latex] will resolve down to the closest member of the dominant triad, which is *ti* [(latex]\uparrow\hat{7})[/latex]. Of course, the true dominant chord is often delayed by a [latex]\mathrm{cad.^6_4}[/latex] chord, and so that voice will typically have *do* [latex](\hat{1})[/latex] between the two: *ra–do–ti* [latex](\downarrow\hat{2}-\hat{1}-\uparrow\hat{7})[/latex]. Notice also, that the *le* [latex](\downarrow\hat{6})[/latex] tends to resolve down to *sol* [latex](\hat{5})[/latex]. The example below illustrates the standard voice leading (see the red and blue notes in particular).

# Associated Progressions

## Common progressions

- [latex]\mathrm{\flat II^6-V}[/latex]
- [latex]\mathrm{\flat II^6-vii^{o7}/V - V}[/latex]

While [latex]\mathrm{\flat II^6}[/latex] often goes directly to [latex]\mathrm{V}[/latex] (with or without a [latex]\mathrm{cad.^6_4}[/latex]), the applied chord [latex]\mathrm{vii^{o7}/V}[/latex] commonly occurs between [latex]\mathrm{\flat II^6}[/latex] and [latex]\mathrm{V}[/latex], creating the progression [latex]\mathrm{\flat II^6-vii^{o7}/V-V}[/latex]. The added diminished chord intensifies the push toward the expected dominant.

Due to [latex]\mathrm{\flat II^6}[/latex]’s similarity with [latex]\mathrm{ii^{o6}}[/latex], it is approached harmonically in the same way.

# Less Common Uses

## Progressions

As mentioend above, the Neapolitan mostly appears in a small number of stock harmonic progressions. Less often, however, the Neapolitan can be found in root position [latex](\flat\mathrm{II})[/latex] and it may lead to an inverted dominant instead of the root-position version [latex](\mathrm{V^4_2}[/latex] in particular).

## Key area

While the Neapolitan is most often used as a single chord within a cadential progression, it—like any other chord—can be prolonged through an extended toncization or even used as a key area.

# Musical Example

shows a relatively straight-forward example of a [latex]\mathrm{\flat II^6}[/latex] chord occuring in the context of a cadential progression. Note that the harmoic rhythm is a half-note long, so think of beats 3 and 4 in measure 6 as part of a single harmony.

- Neapolitan 6
^{ths}(.pdf, .docx). Asks students to spell [latex]\textrm{\flat II^6}[/latex], realize figured bass, write 4-part voice-leading with Roman numerals, and analyze a musical excerpt.

### Media Attributions

- chopin-nocturne-f-minor-op-55-no-1