Neapolitan Chords: What They Are and How to Use Them

Hey guys, I decided to make a very random but informative video about Neapolitan Chords! These chords are my absolute favorite when it comes to chromatic harmony.

Ultimate Guitar
Hey guys, I decided to make a very random but informative video about Neapolitan Chords!

These chords are my absolute favorite when it comes to chromatic harmony.

Neapolitan Chords:
  • Neapolitan Chords have a very distinct sound in the chord progression.
  • A Neapolitan Chord is a bII chord.
  • If we are in A minor, the Neapolitan chord would be B-flat Major.
  • Usually Neapolitan chords are found in minor keys but exist in Major keys as well.
  • The Neapolitan chord is typically in 1st Inversion meaning that the 3rd of the chord will be the lowest sounding note or bass note of the chord.
  • Neapolitan chords resolve best with a V chord. Ex. In E minor the Neapolitan would be F Major / A (in the bass) and it would resolve to a B Major or B7 chord (V or dominant chord).
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*If certain terminology is confusing, please leave me a comment or private message and I could help out.

About the Author:
By George Salas. To download sheet music to the video, please visit my website.

38 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I learnt the concept which was great. Learning the concept through only my left ear made me very frustrated. Don't do that again thank you.
    That's good that you learned it! I'm sorry! My mic records mono so I'm trying to figure this out lol It's a miracle I'm able to produce these videos with my lack of understanding iMovie. Thanks for watching!
    have you thought about recording with your video recording device, then recording audio in audacity where you can change that sort of thing then just sync up the audio and video? little more work but might solve your issue. thanks for the lesson as well
    Yes, I have thought of that actually. I will only use GB since I am familiar with it already. Thanks for the tip and I'm glad you enjoyed!
    Actually, bII chords are usually simply a tritone replacement of the V, since the 3rd and 7th of both chords are switched,for instance in the key of Am: bII= Bb D F Ab and V= E G# B D. The reason why most people would call it a tritone replacement V is because of the function, it serves as the V, I hear it almost as a V good article nonetheless!
    I think the way the bII is used in jazz is a bit different. Neapolitan chord is a subdominant chord. It's a substitution for the IV or II chords and it is most of the time followed by the dominant. But in jazz bII chord usually functions as a dominant chord. BTW, why tritone substitution works is because C7b5 (C E Gb Bb) has exactly the same notes (enharmonically) as F#7b5 (F# A# C E). They just have different bass notes. So the bII7 chord can actually be seen as the V7b5 chord with the tritone on bass.
    Yes, you are correct. The way you put it would probably be how a jazz player would view a neapolitan chord. Unfortunately, I am not a jazz player but I am glad to have learned your approach to it! Thank you!!!
    You're mixing things up. The tritone sub is made with a bII7 chord. The Neapolitan is a triad, it has no 7th. I guess it can have one, but it would be a major 7th. That's why they're completely different chords. Edit: my answer was supposed to be directed to npilmeyer, but I think I clicked on the wrong button. Sorry
    Thanks lazaro. It's been a couple of years since my theory classes... A bII IS NOT a replacement of the V because it does not FUNCTION like one. And lazaro is right, a neapolitan wouldn't have a 7th. (At least I've never seen one). If it had a seventh, it could make the resolution sound weird. So in short, a Neapolitan is not a replacement of a dominant chord. Thank you!
    Nice Lesson. I have a huge interest in neapolitan scales. more lessons regarding them would be much apreciated. thanks.
    I may do some more. Just to be clear, there are no neapolitan scales. They are only referred to as neapolitan chords Thank you for the comment!
    Really? I've seen around forums and stuff that there are two scales, the neapolitan minor and major(altough both are minor scales), but I don't have that much of information about it. thanks!
    The scales list of Guitar Pro 5 includes both of these scales. According to GP5... The Neapolitan Minor Scale is essentially harmonic minor with a flat 2. In C it would be: C Db Eb F G Ab B The Neapolitan Major is the same thing with a raised 6. C Db Eb F G A B Again, this is coming straight from the GP5 program, so I can't personally vouch for accuracy. In any case, I hope this helps
    Thanks for pointing that out... After 2 and a half years of undergraduate theory, I have never heard of the neapolitan scale lol. I think that knowing all these scales gets confusing. I like to keep things as simple as possible.
    That's because it's not a real scale, it's more like a set that has been altered to include the Neapolitan harmony in it, altering the scale to reflect non-diatonic chords (or chord tones) is a soloing technique some jazz musicians use.
    I'm pretty sure there are no such thing as Neapolitan scales. I would imagine that all it is is a Major scale half a step up from your root.
    the tab is unreadable, thank you very much
    I apologize if you cannot read it... It looks fine from my computer though. You can always download it for free on my website. The link is provided on the "About the Author" section.
    First off, great lesson, on topic and got the point across clearly !! Question ... the G# in that E chord implies you are in A harmonic minor.. Does that mean that the use of the N chord is more suited to use in that scale as opposed to melodic minor ?
    Yes, you are right. Harmonic minor is treated as the "true" minor because of the leading tone. Melodic minor can have an E Major or Dominant chord since there is a #7 (ascending). As long as you remember that the Neapolitan resolves to the dominant chord, you'll be ok
    Fun fact: this chord was used by classical (mainly Romantic era) composers to symbolize death. It might be because of it's jarring sound in a chord progression.
    Dead Eye Dick
    Isn't this just phrygian mode, and the V being a phrygian cadence? shit what would i know.
    It sounds like it, I agree. It's just the way theorists label music. It's difficult to describe and I knew this would be a risky and difficult subject to try and talk about. Thanks for watching!
    Yeah man it's not phrygian. That would be changing more than one chord in the scale if you look at it that way. A GREAT example of how a neapolitan chord sounds is in Frederic Chopins Ballade No.1 in G minor. The opning chord is some sort of Ab major chord, but the whole composition remains in G minor.