Passamezzo moderno

The Gregory Walker or passamezzo moderno ("modern half step"; also quadran, quadrant, or quadro pavan) was "one of the most popular harmonic formulae in the Renaissance period, divid[ing] into two complementary strains thus:"

 1)  I  IV  I  V 
 2)  I  IV  I-V  I 
(Middleton 1990, 117).

For example, in C major the progression is as follows:

Gregory Walker root progression  Play .[lower-alpha 1]

The progression or ground bass, the major mode variation of the passamezzo antico, originated in Italian and French dance music during the first half of the 16th century, where it was often used with a contrasting progression or section known as ripresi. Though one of Thomas Morley's characters in Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke denigrates the Gregory Walker, comparing unskilled singing to its sound (Morley 1597, 120), it was popular in both pop/popular/folk and classical musics through 1700. Its popularity was revived in the mid 19th century, and the American variant (below) evolved into the twelve bar blues (van der Merwe 1989, 198–201).


"Darling Nelly Gray", page one  Play .

Listed in van der Merwe (1989, 198–201):

Listed in Helms, Ilmbrecht, and Dieckelmann (1954, ):


American Gregory Walker

The American Gregory Walker, popular in parlour music, is a variation in which the subdominant (IV) chords become the progression IV-I (van der Merwe 1989, 201–202).

 1)  I  IV-I  I  V 
 2)  I  IV-I  I-V  I 
(Middleton 1990, 117).

For example, in C major this variation is as follows:

American Gregory Walker root progression  Play .


Listed in van der Merwe (1989, 201–202):

Other variations

On original progression

  • "She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain" (traditional) text at Anon [n.d.]; melody at (file composed specifically for dissemination via website pursuant to site's policy imposing non-commercial and share-alike restrictions but not attribution requirement)
The Bluegrass variation frequently occurs in conjunction with the I-I7 "lead-in" and/or the direct IV-to-V transition listed above.
The resulting progression is  ||| I | I | I | V || I(-I7) | IV | (I-)V | I ||| ; examples include:
  • "Mbube" (Solomon Linda, 1939), imported into English as "Wimoweh [uyimbube]"/"The Lion Sleeps Tonight"

On American variant


  1. Caution: Keeping all chords in root position produces parallel fifths (see parallel harmony), which are prohibited by classical (rather than popular) voice-leading rules. The following files may or may not be more suitable for use in strict counterpoint:  progression with tonic (I) chord in root position ,  tonic in first inversion ,  tonic in second inversion ; though they lack the ground bass.


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