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Roman numeral analysis

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Title: Roman numeral analysis  
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Subject: Musical analysis, Twelve-bar blues, Cadence (music), Eight-bar blues, I–V–vi–IV progression
Collection: Chords, Musical Analysis
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Roman numeral analysis

Root position triads of the C major scale with Roman numerals.[1] About this sound   
Root position triads of the C minor scale with Roman numerals. About this sound   

In music, Roman numeral analysis involves the use of Roman numerals to represent chords. In this context, Roman numerals (I, II, III, IV, ...) typically denote scale degrees (first, second, third, fourth, ...). When a Roman numeral is used to represent a chord, it is meant to indicate the scale degree corresponding to its root note, which is the note on which the chord is built. For instance, III is the Roman numeral which denotes either the third degree of a scale, or the chord built on that degree. In many cases, uppercase Roman numerals (such as I, IV, V) represent major chords while lowercase Roman numerals (such as i, iv, v) represent the minor chords (see Major and Minor below for alternative notations); elsewhere, upper-case Roman numerals are used for all chords.[2]

In the most common day-to-day use, Roman numerals allow musicians to quickly understand the progression of chords in a piece. For instance, the standard twelve bar blues progression is denoted by the Roman numerals I7 (first), IV7 (fourth), and V7 (fifth). In the key of C (where the notes of the scale are C, D, E, F, G, A, B), the first scale degree (Tonic) is C, the fourth (Subdominant) is F, and the fifth (Dominant) is a G. So the I7, IV7, and V7 chords are C7, F7, and G7. Similarly, if one were to play the same progression in the key of A (A, B, C, D, E, F, G) the I7, IV7, and V7 chords would be A7, D7, and E7. In essence, Roman numerals provide a way to abstract chord progressions, by making them independent of the selected key. This allows chord progressions to be easily transposed to any key.


  • Overview 1
  • Common practice numerals 2
  • Jazz and pop numerals 3
    • Major 3.1
    • Minor 3.2
  • Sources 4


Roman numeral analysis is the use of Roman numeral symbols in the musical analysis of chords. In music theory related to or derived from the common practice period, Roman numerals are frequently used to designate scale degrees as well as the chords built on them.[2] In some contexts, arabic numerals with carets are used to designate scale degrees (scale degree 1); theory related to or derived from jazz or modern popular music may use Roman numerals or arabic numbers (1, 2, 3, etc...) to represent scale degrees (See also diatonic function). In some contexts an arabic number, or careted number, may refer also to a chord built upon that scale degree. For example, \hat 1 or 1 may both refer to the chord upon the first scale step.

  1. ^ Jonas, Oswald (1982). Introduction to the Theory of Heinrich Schenker (1934: Das Wesen des musikalischen Kunstwerks: Eine Einführung in Die Lehre Heinrich Schenkers), p.22. Trans. John Rothgeb. ISBN 0-582-28227-6. Shown all uppercase.
  2. ^ a b Sessions, Roger (1951). Harmonic Practice. New York: Harcourt, Brace. LCCN 51008476. p. 7.
  3. ^ Grave, Floyd Kersey and Margaret G. Grave (1988). In Praise of Harmony: The Teachings of Abbé Georg Joseph Vogler.
  4. ^ Bruce Benward & Marilyn Nadine Saker (2003), Music: In Theory and Practice, seventh edition, 2 vols. (Boston: McGraw-Hill) Vol. I, p. 71. ISBN 978-0-07-294262-0.
  5. ^ Taylor, Eric (1989). The AB Guide to Music Theory, Part 1. London: Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. ISBN 1-85472-446-0. pp. 60–61.
  6. ^ Dahlhaus, Carl. "Harmony." Grove Online Music Dictionary
  7. ^ Richard Cohn, "Harmony 6. Practice". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001).
  8. ^ Gorow, Ron (2002). Hearing and Writing Music: Professional Training for Today's Musician, second edition (Studio City, California: September Publishing, 2002), p. 251. ISBN 0-9629496-7-1.


Scale degree
(minor mode)
Tonic Supertonic Mediant Subdominant Dominant Submediant Subtonic Leading tone
Traditional notation i ii° III iv v VI VII vii°
Alternative notation I ii iii iv v vi vii
Chord symbol I min II dim III Maj IV min V min VI Maj VII Maj VII dim


Scale degree
(major mode)
Tonic Supertonic Mediant Subdominant Dominant Submediant Leading tone
Traditional notation I ii iii IV V vi vii°
Alternative notation I II III IV V VI VII
Chord symbol I Maj II min III min IV Maj V Maj VI min VII dim


  • E maj7 becomes I maj7
  • F -7 becomes II -7
  • G -7 becomes III -7
  • A maj7 becomes IV maj7
  • B7 becomes V7
  • C -7 becomes VI -7
  • Dø7 becomes VIIø7

E Major:

In music theory aimed towards jazz and popular music, all triads are represented by upper case numerals, followed by a symbol to indicate if it is not a major chord (e.g. "-" for minor or "ø" for half-diminished):

Jazz and pop numerals

. macro analysis and [8]Nashville number system Alternatives include the functional hybrid [7] The current system used today to study and analyze tonal music comes about initially from the work and writings of

Roman numeral analysis symbols[4][5]
Symbol Meaning Examples
Uppercase Roman numeral Major triad I
Lowercase Roman numeral Minor triad i
Superscript ° Diminished triad
Superscript + (sometimes x ) Augmented triad I+
Superscript number added note V7, I6
Two or more numbers figured bass notation V4 - 3, I6
(equivalent to Ic)
Lowercase b First inversion Ib
Lowercase c Second inversion Ic
Lowercase d Third inversion V7d
Types of triads:    

Common practice numerals


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