The question What is the function of this chord progression in Schubert's “Winterreise”? was closed as needing "details or clarity."

In response to various comments, the OP did provide additional clarity, and, as of this post, four of us have voted to reopen.

However, @Richard addressed the post in his answer to On closing vs. tolerating weak questions:

even after the edits to the question, the question still seems to be "what is the analysis of all of these ca. twenty-seven chords in this section of a Schubert Lied," which is far too broad for our site.


In light of Richard's comment, I first edited the question, thinking it just hadn't been made sufficiently clear. I then worked through my own analysis in hopes of answering the question if and when it was reopened.

Which led to

Richard is right. The analysis is complex and touches on a number of analytical issues. There are multiple layers of analysis involved, each with it's own set of theory concepts that may or may not need explanation.


The OP could still receive a helpful answer that could also be helpful to the site at large.

A possible benefit from "good/interesting" but over-broad or over-complex questions

A summary answer could be provided, which would include links to other relevant posts for "further reading". So a hypothetical answer might look like:

The progression at large is Em moving to Dm, to Gm, to Am. In measures XX - YY, we see such and such chord, etc. ...

The second chord in m. 16 is a common-tone French augmented sixth chord. C.T. Aug6 chords operate in the same way as common-tone diminished chords, which can be read about in A chord progression from Leavitt: how to analyze it correctly

Additional links within SE MP&T could be provided, thus connecting a variety of topics and creating the kind of web that seems helpful to the overall purpose of the site.

Thus, a question like this one can become a hub tying together a variety of different issues, even if the core question is not one that in and of itself fits the site.

For example

The recent question Improvising: can't play what I hear (internally), on its face, is too broad, opinion based, and generally a difficult fit for this site. It also touches on an immensely popular topic that generates many questions and answers.

Rather than vote to close the question, in this case I tried giving a general answer and then provided a list of related questions that touched on various other aspects of the topic.

Barring a rush to close the question in light of the present post, it seems to have worked, at least in the short term.

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    I think this is a clever idea, although I'll need some time to gather all of my thoughts. Until then, I'm curious how you would differentiate between "this is too broad, but answerable in an equally broad fashion" and "this is too broad and needs to be closed." How do we determine which is which? – Richard Mar 20 at 1:58
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    @Richard Initial thought ... in theory any question, no matter how broad, could be answered generally and with some references to "further reading", which seems like a problem. A reasonable limit on breadth isn't immediately clear to me, but maybe there's a community wiki requirement so that broad questions don't just become fodder for reputation hunters. And maybe some sort of community-voted "would anybody search for this question?" criterion. For example, the "Winterreise" question probably wouldn't make the cut, because it's a very specific instance of a very broad question. Cogitating.... – Aaron Mar 20 at 2:10
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    @Richard I guess the problem is questions where an answer that isn't purely a redirect to another resource would have to go into both breadth and depth? For example, "How should I understand each of the Italian terms I might see on a musical score" - you can't really give a very useful answer without actually going through a lot of those terms. Possibly questions that are genuinely too broad will usually have a flavor of being 'multiple questions in one'... – topo Reinstate Monica Mar 21 at 0:50
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    @Aaron I'm always a bit suspicious of "would anybody search for this question?" as a test of legitimacy - there are ways of finding questions beyond searching terms already in the question. – topo Reinstate Monica Mar 21 at 0:51
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    @topoReinstateMonica but when push comes to shove for questions you need to talk about searchability and future use to the site. If nobody can find them and nobody gets use out of question after the OP I very much feel like it works against to our goal as an SE to have a library of questions and answers for music practice and theory topics. There is similar reasoning to not allowing link only questions and questions that cannot be maintained properly like infinite lists as the content degrades and cannot be mantained. – Dom Mar 21 at 5:55
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    @Dom you've touched on a number of things there, so let me just focus on one aspect first, and ask you this: If a question is on-topic aside from searchability concerns, asked in a way that makes sense, and answered in a way that helps the OP, how will answering that question actively work against that goal? – topo Reinstate Monica Mar 21 at 8:50
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    @topoReinstateMonica I'd argue this goes towards the scope discussion and why we have the scope as is and not just allow any music theory and practice topic. If a question really no use to anyone but the OP and we start getting those types of questions en mass, they make other content harder to find. That should not be the only criteria for off-topicness/change of policy, but we should be aware of it. A good example in the middle is the vocal range questions where we decided on meta to close new ones as duplicates of canonical questions. – Dom Mar 21 at 15:56
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    @topoReinstateMonica These comments from you and Dom are particularly apropos in the context of the "Winterreise" question that prompted the OP. The likelihood of someone else asking the same specific question is fairly low -- true of most of our "how to analyze this" questions, I think -- but using tags or other keywords, someone looking for tips on how to analyze a piece in general might find it helpful. I think the ambiguity of exactly who is likely to benefit from that Q&A, and whether they would find it, goes to the heart of the discussion. – Aaron Mar 21 at 16:09
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    @Dom and Aaron - I guess part of my point is that it's possibly a bit unfair to say that questions aren't 'searchable' (i.e. aren't going to be found by anyone else in the future) but also in the same breath say that they make other content harder to find. If these questions are "making other content harder to find" it's because they're appearing in people's results and sidebar suggestions - i.e. they are being found by future visitors - whether by deliberate search or by other means. – topo Reinstate Monica Mar 21 at 17:33
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    Canonical questions have their place, but I imagine we'd agree that analyzing harmony is a bigger topic than can be dealt with in one canonical question? If so, the best we can hope for is a number of questions each of which approaches analysis from a different perspective, perhaps using a particular work as an example. In many of those cases the particular work might not be something that someone's likely to search for in the future, but not necessarily that a question mentioning that work can't be part of a useful set of analysis questions on the site. – topo Reinstate Monica Mar 21 at 17:33
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    @Aaron I'm aware we're discussing 'minority interest' questions here in your meta question about broad questions - apologies for the derail! – topo Reinstate Monica Mar 21 at 17:34
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    @topoReinstateMonica This is exactly the discussion I'd hoped for, and I think both you and Dom make excellent points. My implicit understanding agrees with your description of "specific" analysis questions: it's a big topic, so having lots of "small" questions that address it from various angles. Where I think there's a question is, even if the "right" Q&A shows up in search results, will it be recognizable as such to the searcher. – Aaron Mar 21 at 17:38
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    @Aaron It's been suggested before that we can be bold about editing titles to give a better hint at the goodies in the question and answer body, and I feel that can be really helpful (although analysis of harmony isn't one of my personal specialities, so I'm probably not the person for the job in this topic area!) – topo Reinstate Monica Mar 21 at 18:58

I dunno, man. It's starting to feel like only Mama Bear will ever write a question that will satisfy Goldilocks.

After several days of seeing questions closed as not detailed enough, or not specific enough, now we get this:

Modulation Techniques in 'Sword Art Online - Swordland (Main Theme)'

Well, it's detailed enough. It's specific enough. But now, it's too long-- TOO detailed, presumably. I get that-- it took me several minutes to read through the person's question, listen to the midi file, and so on. But I read the question, and listened to the file, and found there was enough interest to justify commenting.

When this particular question was closed, I'd already written what I thought was a useful and reasonable response to the question. Since I now have enough points to edit, I considered doing that, but I felt that The sum of the parts would have been lesser than the whole. There were certain common techniques throughout the piece, but some radically different handlings, that I felt needed to be considered together.

I came to Music SE through stackexchange, which is a programming forum, and which is closely related to my current profession. I got a link to a music question from the SE side list, and thought it would be a nice diversion to dig up my music major memories and engage in some discussions.

My experience so far has been that programmers, among the most precise thinkers, are quite a lot MORE tolerant than musicians. Go figure! :D

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    The problem with the SAO question was not that it was too detailed. It's that it was several questions all asked as one. The close reason, "needs more focus", is explained here: music.stackexchange.com/help/closed-questions. Now that the OP has updated to break the original question into more than one post, the original has (at the moment) two reopen votes and the new question has an answer (mine). – Aaron Mar 20 at 22:56
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    A thought on the more general issue: programming questions tend to be more objective and clean-cut than musical ones (note: "tend to" not "are"), and this site is far less trafficked than stackexchange, so this site may well have taken on the characteristic of tighter moderation, both to try to keep things focused/objective(ish) and also because the lighter traffic makes it easier to moderate overall. – Aaron Mar 20 at 23:07
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    Okay, I think I've made my point plenty, and you've not been lax in responding to it. I've seen what happens when a forum is too weakly moderated (hello, Quora!), so I'm gonna just chill and enjoy the music from now on. Thanks for your responses! :D – Bennyboy1973 Mar 20 at 23:44
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    Benny I'd also like to point out that in general, we're a Q&A site and lean away from discussion aspects of music for the more objective ones. There are still many discussions you can have about music, but chat should be used for that rather than questions and answers themselves. – Dom Mar 21 at 5:54

I think I pretty much agree with your thoughts on how this could be treated - my thinking is that

  • In general, questions can be asked, and answers can be given, at different levels of detail
  • A question asked in "broad brush-strokes" terms can often be appropriately and usefully answered in similarly broad terms.

...and as you say, each of those 'broad brush strokes' potentially introduces a concept that can allow the asker to make more detailed investigation.

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