Robert Estrin - piano expert

What is the Neapolitan 6th Chord?

Learn an important harmonic cadence of the musical language

In this video, Robert introduces you to the Neapolitan 6th Chord, also known as "Neapolitan Cadenza". Its unique sound is reminiscent of the traditional musical repertoire from the Naples area in Italy, hence its peculiar name.

Released on August 17, 2016

Share this page!
Post a Comment   |   Video problems? Contact Us!
DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, welcome to and I'm Robert Estrin with a theory lesson today. What is a Neapolitan sixth chord? Neapolitan sixth, it sounds like somewhere between dessert and an after dinner drink, but it's actually a very spicy chord that can add beautiful elements to your music. You've probably heard it before. I'm going to play a simple progression of a one, four, one-six-four, five-seven, one. A perfect authentic cadence.

Now the second chord, the four chord, you can use instead a two chord in the first inversion, a two-six, which changes your F A C to F A D. It sounds like this and there's a reason why I'm showing you this. So now listen to the perfect authentic cadence: one, two-six, one-six-four, five-seven-one...compared to the one, four, one-six-four, five-seven-one. And here it is again with a two-six for the second chord.

So now we're getting to the Neapolitan sixth. The reason why I showed you this is because really the Neapolitan sixth is a substitution for the four chord or the two-six chord. What it is is a major triad built on the flatted second degree of the scale. Now that's an earful. Let's break it down. In the key of C major, the second degree of the scale is D. Flat the D and you have a D flat. Build a major chord on it, you have...You might think, "What is a D flat major chord doing in a piece in C major?" Well, listen to it in context. I'm going to now play a perfect authentic cadence where the second chord will be the Neapolitan sixth. That is the D flat chord with the F on the bottom.

So I'm gonna play the three versions of this. First with the second chord being the four chord, then the second chord being the two-six chord, and finally the second chord being the Neapolitan sixth chord, then I'm gonna show you how to build this for yourself...So you hear it functions the same, but has a very different flavor. So once again to break it down, build a major chord on the flatted second degree of the scale. So in C major, the second degree of the scale is D. Flat it to D flat. Build a major chord. Then put it in the first inversion, putting the F on the bottom.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the Neapolitan sixth chord. Use it and enjoy it and notice in your music where it occurs. So if you were in G major, for example, you'd go to the second degree of the G major scale, which is A. You'd flat that. You'd have an A flat major chord. Put it in the sixth inversion and that would be the Neapolitan sixth in G major. You can find this chord in virtually any key with the same formula. And if you're improvising or composing, any time you'd use a four chord, consider the use of the Neapolitan sixth. And look for it in your music and you'll understand the beauty of this chord.

Thanks so much for joining me here at and Again, Robert Estrin, thanks for joining me.
Post a comment, question or special request:
You may: Login as a Member  or  
Otherwise, fill the form below to post your comment:
Add your name below:

Add your email below: (to receive replies, will not be displayed or shared)

For verification purposes, please enter the word MUSIC in the field below

Comments, Questions, Requests:

Pamela Freeman * VSM MEMBER * on November 9, 2018 @4:49 pm PST
A beautiful example is found on the 3rd beat of Bar 28 in Granada’s Quejs o la Maja y el Ruisenor (The Maiden & the Nightingale)....luscious!
Robert Estrin - host, on November 9, 2018 @6:14 pm PST
Once you know what to listen for, you will find them quite often.
Debby on November 7, 2018 @5:24 am PST
Is this what Queen also uses in their music?
Robert Estrin - host, on November 9, 2018 @11:26 am PST
Queen's music has many interesting harmonies. I can't recall specific examples of the use of the Neapolitan chord in their music, but I'm sure they have utilized it in some of their songs.
Oluwaseun Collins on August 18, 2016 @8:42 am PST
Thanks a lot for this lesson, really helpful
Questions? Problems? Contact Us.
Norton Shopping Guarantee Seal