Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/Writing Chord Progressions


Hi Prof. DowDell.  Thank you in advance for taking the time.  I am learning how to analyze chord progressions and trying to transcribe them for a particular song.  I would like help identifying how the chords relate to the key.

The key of the song is F.
For some chords, like Fmaj9 or C, I am identifying them as I9 and V, respectively.  I think these are correct.

However, there are some confusing chords at times that don't "fit" the key perfectly.

They are Gadd9, Db/Eb, Eb/Db, and BÝ7/C.

The key asks for Gm not a variant of G major.  Can I just capitalize ii to II and call it IIadd9?

I am not sure if that is correct or how to approach the other chords, either.  If you could give me some advice as to how to identify all those chords properly with respect to the key of F major I would greatly appreciate it.

Thanks again for your help.


Hello Jieff and thank you for contacting me through

Chord formulas are specific to tone centers, and not always pertinent to the Key the tune is written in.

Example the tune Satin Doll written in the Key of C:

||: Dm7 /  G7 / | Dm7 / G7 / | Em7 /  A7 / | Em7 / A7 / |
Am7 / D7 / |  Abm7 / Db7 / | CMaj7 / / / |Dm7 / G7 / :||

The first 2 chords (Dm7 and G7) are the ii and V of C (the opening Tone Center and the  Key of the tune) but the next two chords (Em7 and A7) are ii and V of D (the next Tone Center.) Then the Am7 and D7 are the ii and V of G (the next Tone Center) then Abm7 and Db7 are the ii and V of Gb (the next Tone Center) and finally the I chord, the Tone Center of C, then a turn-around of Dm7 and G7 the ii and V sending you back around again.

Moving from one Tone Center to the next Tone Center enables forward movement and facilitates harmonic sophistication. Each Tone Center has its own chord progression, sometimes only a couple of chords and most often not reaching the Tonic (the I chord) until the end of the section (often times 8 bars.)

Also, sometime other chords are used to do the same job as a ii or a V even though they are not actually from that scale (example: a Tri-tone Substitution.) And sometimes the progression is false or misleading, but still performing the same task as an authentic cadence (progression) so the chords may be minor when the would be major, or visa-verse.

When identifying intervals, upper-case numerals are used. When identifying chords, lower-case numerals are used for minor chords and upper-case numerals are used for major chords.

Here are a couple helpful links:

Thanks for the interest,

D C DowDell
Professor of Music
A Passion for Jazz!
studio: (619) 855-2069

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D C DowDell


D C DowDell will answer questions about Jazz improvisation, composition, chord voicing, scales and modes, practice techniques and ear training. Professor DowDell also enjoys discussions on Jazz musicology and the evolution of style.

D C DowDell is a professional Jazz pianist/composer who currently teaches online Jazz studies at A Passion for Jazz!. Professor DowDell has been teaching music for over 30 years at 2 major universities, several community colleges as well as accepting students for private study.


American Federation of Musicians
National Music Teachers Association
International Association of Jazz Educators

Bachelors of Music Education from UCLA
Masters of Music Composition from UNT

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