Etude ten by Fernando Sor is a study in two parts. The first part is a study in octaves and the second is a chorale-like harmonization of the famous tune “God Save the Queen” or known to most in the USA as “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”. The first part poses an interesting problem in harmonic analysis; how do we come up with a harmonic analysis when there are no chords to analyze? What we need to do here is determine what harmonies are implied by the notes present in the single melodic line. This was an excellent test of the knowledge gained so far in analyzing Sor’s harmony. I tried to show which harmonies I believed Sor would have used if he did indeed harmonize these lines. There were times when I thought the line implied one thing and then would later decide it was something completely different. This is the interesting and fun part of harmonizing a melody; there are many solutions possible, most with equally good effect. Sor demonstrates this beautifully in the last section of this study in which he harmonizes “God Save the Queen” in a unique, very progressive and almost jazzy way!

Since the harmony of the first section in octaves is speculation on my part I thought I would point out a few interesting features in Sor’s harmonization of “God Save the Queen”. In measures forty-six through forty-nine Sor harmonizes the melodic sequence sung to the words “Land where my fathers died, Land of the pilgrims’ pride” beginning on the note G with a slight variation of a very common jazz harmonic sequence: |Em7b5 |A7 |Dm7b5 |G7| which is known as a “turnaround” progression (iii-vi-ii-V) in jazz; the slight variation being the use of the minor iv chord (Gm) in D minor rather than the Em7b5 (ii) as they are equivalent if an E were added to the Gm triad. The driving force of this sequence is the descending chromatic line that is present in the inner (tenor) voice: Bb-A-Ab-G. As is the case in most jazz turnarounds the vi chord (Am) is altered to become a dominant of the ii chord (Dm). The two minor seven flat five chords (Em7b5 and Dm7b5) are borrowed from D minor and C minor respectively. A similar sequence also occurs in measures eighteen through twenty-one in the first section which lends itself well to the same type of harmonization.

When that phrase is repeated beginning in measure fifty-four Sor uses a completely different harmony for the same melody: |Gm7b5 |C7 |F |Dm7b5 – G7|. Rather than moving into Dm (ii) with a ii-V-i progression (Em7b5 – A7 – Dm), Sor now moves into F (IV) with an altered ii-V-I progression (Gm7b5 – C7 – F). These two areas, supertonic (ii) and subdominant (IV), are interchangeable in practice as are tonic (I) and submediant (vi). Sor exploits this relationship in measure fifty-eight where he re-harmonizes the same melody heard in measure fifty using A minor (vi) rather than C major (I). Compare the two harmonizations as you sing the phrase “Land where my Fathers died, Land of the pilgrims’ pride” beginning on the note G in triple time:

Em7b5 | A7 | Dm7b5 | G7 |

Gm7b5 | C7 | F | Dm7b5 – G7 |

Both are correct and equally good.

Make note of these relationships and try using these techniques the next time you do an arrangement or chord/melody of a jazz or pop tune. A new harmonization of an old familiar tune can make it sound fresh once again and can be an excellent exercise in applied harmonic principles.

Included below are the performance and analytical versions of Etude ten.

Sor Etude 10 Performance.pdf

Sor Etude 10 Analysis.pdf


April 08, 2011 @09:52 am
Brian Andonian
That is simply brilliant! Wow! You rock John!
March 30, 2011 @09:26 pm
I can't thank you enough for all the in-depth Sor analyses! I keep meaning to add a thoughtful comment, but honestly your knowledge of harmony is so far beyond mine that I'm not sure what I could possibly add! I sincerely hope you don't stop because you feel nobody is appreciating your great work.

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