Christmas Time Is Here

Hi Hayden & community,

I’m now playing “Christmas Time is Here.” I’m a “Beginner 2” (I never know how to rate my ability, let’s say in a range from 1-6). I can play the fingering but I’m trying to become a better musician by taking your suggestion of a) Song form (this is an A-A-B-A) and b)understanding the progressions. But I can’t work out the progression of this song. Okay, the key is in FMaj, but the chords don’t seem to match any structure that I am familiar with. From FMaj, it goes to Eb13(#11). In the Bridge, does it change keys? …many questions. Anyway, I imagine there are substitutions for certain chords within the key framework.

My question, have you previously worked out the theoretical underpinning/ progression for this song?
Look, I know you are extremely busy, so if no… no problems.

I am trying to learn songs by progressions (in order to switch keys) but it isn’t easy. Maybe in 5 years…
Thank you, or anyone else that answers, for all your help.

Hi Armando,

I was curious about your questions, so I googled a bit. The Eb7 chord is the bVII of F. Here is what I found.


This is less of a chord progression and more of a harmonic technique that’s often found in rock and pop songs.

One easy way to keep a song centered but still moving forward is to simplify the harmony, like in this “progression” that moves from the tonic to bVII and back again.

bVII is a borrowed chord from the natural minor scale, but it feels familiar because it’s only a whole step away from the tonic.

bVII adds satisfying color to a progression because of its association with the Mixolydian mode.

I did not look at the bridge. I know Hayden or someone else can provide excellent answers to both of your questions. Just thought I would share what I found.


Hi Celia,

Thank you so much for your insight and help.

I see that the bVII is in the F minor chords but your insight of a)it’s a harmonic technique, b) borrowed chord a whole step away is helpful, and c) the association with the Mixolydian mode, are theoretical leaps I couldn’t have made. Thank you.
I will have to try it in other keys with similar melodies to see how it sounds.

Bar 5-8 may also be a harmonic technique moving down by semitones finishing with a ii-V-I (bar 7,8). The bridge, I don’t know. Okay, DbMaj7 is in the F minor chords (VI) but the Gb13(#11)?

By the way, in Bar 21, the chords is an Am7, not AMaj7 (it’s just wrong on the lead sheet but not in Hayden’s explanation in the vid.

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Hi @armando, here’s my analysis on the song:

Christmas Time Is Here.pdf (22.2 KB)

About the Eb7; You’re on the right track, this is “borrowed” from the minor key Fminor. In a matter of fact, Eb7 in the key of Fmaj functions as a IV-minor, as Eb7 is the same thing as Bb-7, remember the II V connection, II and V can be used together or separately, it still functions as a II V.

This harmonic event has been around since the dawn of western music, and appears in all genres, from Bach to pop- and jazz music.

Here’s a tutorial on the subject of IV minor, or bVII7:

Other place in this song that might need explanation is the bars 5-6 of the A section.

This descending harmony is a common harmony, a variation/substitution for II V I VI turnaround. Here’s a tutorial on this subject:

Let me know if this helped, and if you have any further questions, let me know!


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Thanks for letting me know @armando - I will correct that typo.

If ever in doubt follow the demonstrations in the video.

Hi @Tuomo, @Hayden, @Celia

Thank you so much for the A section help and I will follow up, and have been looking up, and trying to get my head around the valuable information you have given me. I do have additional questions on the Bridge.

I imagine the composer changed keys to DbMaj7, so bars 17-20 are I-IV-I-IV, but I don’t understand bars 21-24 (e.g. I looked at the Db Major and Db minor chords and can’t figure out where the Eb7, D7, Gm7 and C are coming from - chord substitutions?).

Another question (sorry, not theory and I know this is the theory section). When you memorize songs, there are some that are simple in terms of progressions (e.g. Fly Me To The Moon) and I can remember the chord progression in Roman numerals, but something like this, is it better to just memorize the piece, since it seems difficult to write down the progression without a lot of extra information about substitutions and then memorize the progression (if I ever had to transpose the piece, I would do it on paper using intervals)?

Thank you for your help in advance,

Hi @armando , the second half of the bridge returns to the original key Fmajor:

Where the basic harmony would be:
A-7 I D7 (II V to the 2nd degree G-7) and G-7 I C7 (II V to Fmajor)

Now, the chords Eb7 and Db7 are tritone sub dominants to the next chord; Eb7 is a tritone sub dominant to D7, and Db7 to C7. Tritone subs are a replacement to a regular dominant (Eb7 is tritone subsitution for A7, Db7 is for G7). Adding dominants in front of any chord is a good way to create movement in harmony, and tritione subs are a good variation of the regular dominant sound.

Here’s a tutorial on the subject to check out:

About memorization, there are several techniques that can help you; understanding basic forms, common harmonic concepts and modulations, understanding how the “core” harmony, as well as learning to transpose into other keys etc.

You’re in luck, I’ll be starting a new classroom on the subject in 2 weeks, hope to see you there! We’ll be sending notifications and starting dates shortly :slight_smile:

Meanwhile, I did a live seminar on the subject, please check out:

Let me know if this helped,

all the best,