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Dimitar Ninov

(Texas State University, San Marcos, TX United States of America)

Harmonic Analysis of a Jazz Piece: “The Girl from Ipanema” Case


In the past several decades a certain synthesis has been observed between classical and popular methods of analysing tonal music. On the one hand, classical theory adopted practical symbols from popular music that show the exact size of the chords; on the other hand, popular music adopted Roman numerals and functional letters for harmonic analysis. Therefore, harmonic analysis of a standard jazz tune is similar to the harmonic analysis of a classical piece as it deals with the three main harmonic functions: tonic, subdominant, dominant, their chord substitutes, and various kinds of auxiliary chords in the form of secondary dominants and secondary subdominants. Of course, some of these chords may be diatonic, and others – chromatic (altered). Within the latter area, we may also distinguish between relatively altered chords and really altered chords. In this paper, I will discuss ways of analysing The Girl from Ipanema, to find a balance between “theoretical correctness” and “practical implementation”.

Short biography

Dr. Dimitar Ninov teaches music theory at Texas State University. He is a published composer and theorist as well as an invited lecturer at international, national, and regional music conferences. His original research spreads in the fields of tonal harmony and musical form. His music has been performed worldwide. Ninov is a former Chair of the National Association of Composers, USA. He holds a DMA in composition from The University of Texas at Austin, and a master’s degree in theory and composition from the National Academy of Music in Sofia, Bulgaria. Web: