Passamezzo moderno

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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 About this soundPlay .[a]

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 About this soundPlay .

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

Listed in Helms, Ilmbrecht, and Dieckelmann (1954,[page needed]):

  • Hans Neusidler's "Gassenhauer" (Nuremberg, 1536)
  • "Oxstedter Mühle" (folk dance from Lower Saxony) (B section)
  • Diego Ortiz' Recercada Prima / Segunda / Tercera sobre el Passamezzo Moderno (three-part didactic composition in Tratado de Glosas sobre cláusulas y Otros Generos de Puntos en la Música de Violones, 1553). (Readers of Spanish may benefit from the Spanish-language Wikipedia's more extensive treatment of Diego Ortiz and of the Tratado de Glosas.)


American Gregory Walker[edit]

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 About this soundPlay .


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

Other variations[edit]

On original progression[edit]

  • Second strain's first I becomes I–I7 (for a stronger "lead-in" to the upcoming IV):
  • Second strain progresses from IV directly to a full measure of V, displacing its second (half-measure) I:
  • Bluegrass variation: First strain's change from I to IV and back is omitted:
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:

On American variant[edit]

  • IV–I is reversed, becoming I–IV or I7–IV:
  • Second I in second strain becomes II7, yielding second-strain progression of  || I | IV–II7 | I–V | I ||| :


  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: About this soundprogression with tonic (I) chord in root position , About this soundtonic in first inversion , About this soundtonic in second inversion ; though they lack the ground bass.


  • Anon. n.d. “Coming 'round the Mountain”. Song text, at Leader in Lieder mit Midi Melodies website (accessed 22 May 2010)/
  • Carter Family. 1935. "Gathering Flowers From The Hillside". Columbia 37636. Recorded May 7, 1935.
  • Helms, Anna, Otto Ilmbrecht, and Heinrich Dieckelmann (1954). Die Tanzkette, Frankfurt am Main: Hoffmeister Verlag.
  • Holt, David, Doc Watson, and Merle Watson. 2009. "Free Little Bird". Piney Grove Ramblers: Bluegrass for the People website (accessed 22 May 2010)/
  • Iron e Wine [2005]. A History of Lovers CifrasFX website (accessed 22 May 2010).
  • Middleton, Richard. 1990. Studying Popular Music. Milton Keynes and Philadelphia: Open University Press. ISBN 0-335-15276-7 (cloth); ISBN 0-335-15275-9 (pbk). Reprinted 2002.
  • Morley, Thomas. 1597. A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke. London: Peter Short.
  • van der Merwe, Peter. 1989. Origins of the Popular Style: The Antecedents of Twentieth-Century Popular Music. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-316121-4.