Passamezzo antico

Passamezzo antico  Play 
Passamezzo and Romanesca melodic formula[1]  Play .

The passamezzo antico is a ground bass or chord progression that was popular during the Italian Renaissance and known throughout Europe in the 16th century.[2] The progression is a variant of the double tonic: its major mode variant is known as the passamezzo moderno.

The sequence consists of two phrases as follows: (For an explanation of this notation see Chord progression)

i VII i V

Though usually in the key of G minor,[1] in the key of A minor this gives:

Am G Am E
C G AmE Am

The romanesca is a variant of the passamezzo antico, where the first chord is the III (e.g., a C major chord in A minor). A famous example is "Greensleeves".

The passamezzo antico chord changes are found, knowingly or not, in modern popular music culture: Carrie Underwood's debut album Some Hearts has two examples, "Before He Cheats" (a big U.S. hit in 2006) and "Starts with Goodbye". "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin is essentially a variant of the progression.


  1. 1 2 Apel, Willi (1997). The History of Keyboard Music to 1700, p.263. Trans. Tischler, Hans. ISBN 0-253-21141-7.
  2. van der Merwe, Peter. 1989. Origins of the Popular Style: The Antecedents of Twentieth-Century Popular Music, p.207. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-316121-4.
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