What is a Neapolitan 6 chord?

a Neapolitan chord (or simply a "Neapolitan") is a major chord built on the lowered second (supertonic) scale degree. It most commonly occurs in first inversion so that it is notated either as ♭II6 or N6 and normally referred to as a Neapolitan sixth chord.

How do you construct a N6 chord? (give example in key of C)

 Root: flatted second ("Ra")
  • Build a Major chord on Ra
  • Soprano: Root (mostly)
  • Bass: third
  • Double third
  • Put third in Bass
  • Le goes anywhere
  • Root goes in Soprano (most times)
  • 5th is RARELY doubled (causes parallel 5ths most of the time)
It is known as the Neapolitan ‘sixth’ chord due to the interval of a sixth between the 3rd and the root note of the chord.
For example, in the key of C major the Neapolitan sixth chord would consist of the notes D♭ (the root note), F (the third) and A♭ (the fifth) with the F in the bass to make it a ♭II6 or N6 rather than a ♭II. The interval of a sixth is between F and D♭.

function of N6 chords?

In tonal harmony, the function of the Neapolitan chord is to prepare the dominant, substituting for the IV or ii (particularly ii6) chord. For example, it often precedes an authentic cadence, where it functions as a subdominant (IV). In such circumstances, the Neapolitan sixth may be considered to be a type of chromatic alteration of the subdominant.

Relate IV chords to N6 in C Major and C minor keys

For example, in C major, the IV (subdominant) triad in root position contains the notes – F-A-C. By lowering the A by a semitone to A♭ and raising the C by a semitone to D♭, the Neapolitan sixth chord F-A♭-D♭ is formed.
In C minor, the resemblance between the subdominant (F-A♭-C) and the Neapolitan (F-A♭-D♭) is even stronger, since only one note differs by a half-step. (Note that the Neapolitan is also only a half-step away from the diminished supertonic triad in minor in first inversion, F-A♭-D, and thus lies chromatically between the two primary subdominant function chords.

A common use in a minor key

The Neapolitan sixth chord is particularly common in minor keys. As a simple alteration of the subdominant triad (iv) of the minor mode, it provides contrast as a major chord compared to the minor subdominant or the diminished supertonic triad. The most common variation on the Neapolitan chord is the Neapolitan major seventh, which adds a major seventh to the chord (this also happens to be the tonic).

Two ways to modulate with it as the pivot chord

A common use of the Neapolitan chord is in tonicizations and modulations to different keys. It is the most common means of modulating down a semitone, which is usually done by using the I chord in a major key as a Neapolitan chord (or a flattened major supertonic chord in the new key, a semitone below the original).


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Occasionally, a minor seventh is added to the Neapolitan chord, which turns it into a potential secondary dominant that can allow tonicization or modulation to the ♭V/♯IV key area relative to the primary tonic. For example, in C major or C minor, the Neapolitan chord with added seventh D♭7 can lead to G♭ (or F♯) major/minor. Another such use of the Neapolitan is along with the German augmented sixth chord, which can serve as a pivot chord to tonicize the Neapolitan as a tonic. In C major/minor, the German augmented sixth chord an enharmonic A♭7 chord, which could lead as a secondary dominant to D♭, the Neapolitan key area. As the dominant to ♭II, the A♭7 chord can then be respelled as a German augmented sixth, resolving back to the home key of C major/minor.


Because of its close relationship to the subdominant, the Neapolitan sixth resolves to the dominant using similar voice-leading. In the present example of a C major/minor tonic, the D♭ generally moves down by step to the leading tone B-natural (creating the expressive melodic interval of a diminished third, one of the few places this interval is accepted in traditional voice-leading), while the F in the bass moves up by step to the dominant root G. The fifth of the chord (A♭) usually resolves down a semitone to G as well. In four-part harmony, the bass note F is generally doubled, and this doubled F either resolves down to D or remains as the seventh F of the G-major dominant seventh chord. In summary, the conventional resolution is for all upper voices to move down against a rising bass.

how to avoid Parallel 5ths

Care must be taken to avoid consecutive fifths when moving from the Neapolitan to the cadential 6/4. The simplest solution is to avoid placing the fifth of the chord in the top part. If the root or (doubled) third is in the top part, all upper parts simply resolve down by step while the bass rises. According to some theorists, however, such an unusual consecutive fifth (with both parts descending a semitone) is allowable in chromatic harmony, so long as it does not involve the lowest part. (The same allowance is often made more explicitly for the German augmented sixth, except in that case it may involve the bass – or must, if the chord is in its usual root position.)

N6 always resolves to __ or __
I64 ; V(7)

Resolve an N6 to a I64

(use solfege)

N6     I64
Ra     Do
Le     So
Fa     Mi
Fa     So
(Fas are probably an octave apart)

How to identify an N6 chord in a progression:
Look for Ra