Summertime Chord Changes


I  A-           I                        I                      I                    I

ID-            I                         I Bmi7b5     I E7b9         I

I  A-           I                        I                      I                    I

I C     A-    I D-7   E7b9   I  A-                I E7b9        I



Summertime Open Pos Chords

Summertime Chords

Here are some ideas from guitar great Pat Martino which fit well into the chords of summertime: Pat Martino Lick #1

Summertime 75bpm

Summertime in Amin




Analysis of Summertime by George Gershwin (from “Porgy and Bess”)

My analysis based on the “Fake Book” will make mention several times to Gershwin’s original harmonic structure for his song — reasons for substitutions are based on the artist making those changes — I will comment only slightly on that area since I do not know the mind of another artist — however, I know how I would make sub. changes.

This analysis is “One Direction” that can be taken amongst many. Because improvisation is a vast domain of conceptual theories in application it becomes a very real probability of “many ways” to envision and “see” an analysis


A – B – A – C

Thematic development occurs four times in 4 bar motifs (each section) equaling 16 bars to complete the strain. The entire form is repeated to produce a 32 bar complete form which consists of A – B – A – C + A – B – A – C=32 bars.


1) Am. A natural minor is the best starting place with no sharps or flats.

Note: Although the V7 (E7) appears in the key of A Harmonic Minor, the fact of the major 7th degree (G#) does not agree with the use of i7 (Am7) in bar 1. For this, and numerous other shared “tonality” purposes and reasons we will establish the key of A Natural minor.


The introduction of the first V7 (Dom 7th) chord (E7) in bar 2 is derived from the secondary dominant of A major tonality (more on this as we progress).

2) The song moves in A minor and for a short moment in bars


The major melodic devise Gershwin employed was Pentatonic Minor: A-C-D-E-G. This is what gives the song that “Bluesy” or folk sound

In many charts of Summertime we see today there have been added either “rhythm” chords (for a rhythm section) or substitution chords. My main focus will be on the harmonic structure underlining the melody.

Pick-Up Measure:

E7#5 = The 2 melody notes of E – C – begin the pentatonic melody — both notes acting as altered chordal tones of E7#5. Since Em is actually the v chord of A minor, the use of V7# (E7#5) serves as a “secondary dominant” of the key of A major.

Rationale: In theory we do not have to share the key signature of a “shared” tonality key — within music we have two forms of modulation: between two different tonal centers, and between two different tonal types (major and minor).

A minor and A Major share the following tones: A – B – D – E.

A minor = A min7 – B half dim7 – Dmin7 – Em7

A Major = Amaj7 – Bmin7 – D – E7


NOTE: Any of the shared tones of both keys can be played as dom. 7 or min. 7 (including alterations).

 Common-Note and Note-Similar Keys

By counting the number of notes two chords in a progression have in common we come up with a very basic relationship between keys, chord types and tonal center. The closest related keys, as compared by the distance between the notes, are the relative major and minor keys because they share all seven notes.

Ex. 1: The key of C and the key of A minor share 7 common notes out of 7

C major:         C(I)      D(ii)     E(iii)    F(IV)   G(V)    A(vi)    B(vii)

a minor:          A(i)      B(ii)     C(III)    D(iv)    E(v)     F(VI)   G(VII)

For Example (Secondary Dominance):

  1. In the key of C à A7 is the V of ii (Dm)
  2. In the key of C à B7 is the V of iii (Em)
  3. In the key of C à C7 is the V of IV (F)
  4. In the key of C à D7 is the V of V (G)
  5. In the key of C à E7 is the V of vi (Am)
  6. In the key of C à G7 is the V of I (C)

Diatonic chords in A Natural minor =

1) Am

2) B half dim

3) C

4) Dm

5) Em

6) F

7) G


For “jazz” purposes let’s add 7ths. to the chords:

  1. Am7
  2. B half dim7
  3. C Maj7
  4. Dm 7
  5. Em7
  6. F Maj7
  7. G7


(i) = Am7, (I) = A Major


Summertime Analysis:

Bar 1: Am7 (i of A Nat. Min)

Bar 2: E7#5 (V of I – A Major) OR E7#5 is the IV of ii

Bar 3: Am7 (i of A Nat. Min)

Bar 4: A7(#5)  (V of ii : A7 is V of D min)

Bar 5: Dmin7 (iv of i – Dmin is iv of A min)

Bar 6: F9 (original “Gershwin” chord is F6 (vi of i)


NOTE: Why & how can we change a major chord (F6) into a dominant 7 chord F7(9). Also see Levine’s book where he explains how in jazz artists regularly interchange the use of minors and dominants. The use of F7 adds a slight “bluesy” feeling in the harmony. (Remember that the original chord is not dominant but F6). Very frequently do jazz artists do the following to the very common I – vi – ii – V (rhythm changes):


Example 1:

C – Am7 – Dm7  G7 — Instead they may play: C – A7 – D7 – G7

Example 2 (variation: I – iii – vi – ii – V)

C – Em7 – Am7 – Dm7 – G7 – instead they play: C E7 – A7 – D7 – G7


Bar 7: B7(#5) (V of v : B7 is V of v (Em) … can also bee seen as the tri-tone sub of Bar 5 (F9) ….


NOTE: Gershwin knew he had a conflicting melody note of “b” that is not in the pentatonic minor scale, and that its upper partial F# grated against the root and tonic, so, the #5 of B7 smoothes the whole tonality out.


Bar 8: E7b9 (the “coming home” chord”):

Parallel Functions:

1). (V of I – A Major)

2). (V of I tonality “A”) – we have established “A-ness” tonality and expect to hear the minor not the major. This is use of what is called in Jazz, “Back-cycling” – to precede the next chord by its 5th degree.


Bars 9, 10, 11 same as Bars 1, 2, 3

Bar 12: D7 to G7(b9) :

  1. In the key of C à D7 is the V of V (G)
  2. In the key of Am à D7 is the V of VII (G)
  3. G7 is the Vii of A min (i) OR/AND G7 is V of iv (D min)
  4. The b9 (Ab) is harmonic embellishment.


Bar 13: C Maj7 to Amin7 (Original Gershwin chords are Cmaj7 to Fmaj7)

NOTE: This is where we have a momentary KEY center change to C Major (for 2 bars)

  1. C Maj7 to Amin7 is a I – vi
  2. C Maj7 to Fmaj7 (original harmony) is a I – IV


Bar 14: B Half Dim7 to E7#5 : B Half dim is the vii of I (C) and In the key of C  à E7 is the V of vi (Am)


Bar 15: Am6 (original Gershwin chord is Am – no extension at all). The 6th degree was added by some arranger to add “flavor” and variety (or spice) to the harmony – I can expand on this purpose and intent but it would create another analysis direction.


This Am6 sets up the next measure of ii – V turn around to the next section of 16 bars of t he same A – B – C – D section as the first 16 bars.


Bar 16: B Half Dim7 to E7 : this turn around has a parallel function:

  1. ii – V (V of i) of A minor OR

B)   vii – III (E7) where E7 is the V of vi (Am).


For purposes of soloing over this song I would strongly suggest following the flow of the Tonal Key Centers. For more on soloing over this analysis I would look into the tonal centers of all the “secondary dominants.”