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#1152380 - 09/10/07 05:27 PM question: chord notation Roman numerals
ZeroZero Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/31/07
Posts: 303
Loc: UK
OK so I am familiar with the roman numeral system of writing chords (i.e.without reference to a particular key) and I am familar with the modern notation system for writing various chords, but I have not come across the following before:

I cant write this properly here because I can't get the proper superscript... but here goes

If you have a 1 with the numbers 6 & 4 in subscript so that the 6 is above the 4 - looking a bit like a fraction, what does this mean?

Here is an example:
In the treble clef there is an E crotchet in the octave above middle C, followed by two decending quavers D & C. In the Bass Clef there is a G minim and underneath this two beat section is notated 1 "6/4". The key signature is C. the chord before is a II and after is a V (dominant).

It does not seem to make sense to say that this is a C with a sixth and a fourth.

There is something obvious I dont know here

Is this something to do with cadences?

Text is Kent Kennon's Counterpoint and I am dealing with implied harmony. There are plenty of other examples, but no explanation. I tried Google but no luck!


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#1152381 - 09/10/07 05:58 PM Re: question: chord notation Roman numerals
Reaper978 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/08/05
Posts: 1326
Aha! Do you lean more towards jazz and pop tunes rather than classical literature?

What you are seeing is the way chord inversions are notated in the figured bass system. As far as I know, the concept of chord roots were not in place when figured bass was developed so they instead used numbers designating the interval or intervals between some notes of the chord and the bass note of the chord.

So, when you see a 6 by itself after the roman numeral, it means the triad is in first inversion because the root is a generic sixth above the bass note. If you see a "6\4" it means the triad is in second inversion because the root is a fourth above the bass and the third degree of the chord is a sixth above the bass. You could write a "5\3" next to the roman numeral designating root position but if there are no numbers afterwards it is implied that the chord is in root position.

Seventh chords are notated in a similar fashion and for the same reasons. So, this is basically what you will see:


(nothing): root position
6: first inversion
6\4: Second inversion

I memorized this simply by knowing that "one number" is "first inversion" and "two numbers" is second inversion.

Seventh chords:

7: root position
6\5: first inversion
4\3: second inversion
4\2 or 2: third inversion

Notice that the figured bass numbers descend from 7 to 6\5, to 4\3, to 2.

NOW, after all that is stated, it would seem that your foundations are a bit rickety. When roman numeral analysis is taught the figured bass inversion system seems to be a fundamental requirement, did you teach yourself theory? If you are teaching yourself, be sure to look at plenty of examples and look up anything you don't understand.

Roman numeral analysis of denser music (especially romantic and impressionistic piano literature) is especially difficult, so I would recommend doing roman numeral analysis on Bach four-part harmonizations to come to grips with what the chords look like. Most baroque music is tertian with the occasional V7 chord so it's probably the easiest to start with.

Roman numeral analysis is one of my favorite aspects of theory.

If you have any more questions please feel free to ask.


#1152382 - 09/10/07 06:06 PM Re: question: chord notation Roman numerals
superlocrian Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/30/07
Posts: 69
Loc: Dallas, TX
Zero- this is a cadential 6/4 cadence. Look it up in any theory book. It is a second inversion I chord going to V. G in bass and CE in treble moving to BD. The implied part here is that the second upper voice (E moving to D) is missing, and therefore implied.

The 6/4 refers to intervals above the bass note. You have the 6 in your example (which resolves to 5) but the 4 (which resolves to 3) is implied.

Another way of looking at this (and the way Kennan looks at it) is that the chord with the 6/4 is a V chord with a double suspension.

#1152383 - 09/10/07 07:24 PM Re: question: chord notation Roman numerals
ZeroZero Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/31/07
Posts: 303
Loc: UK
I understand this now thanks.

Seems we are all getting to know eachother... so here is a bio:
Yes reaper! you are right I am a jazzer, though I played classical in my youth I stuck to reading the notes by rote and played a melody instrument the trumpet/cornet. I was fairly good once auditioning for a London Philamornic practice orchestra (failed!!). I also played in a good brass band.
At heart I am a saxophonist, also a melody instrument - so though I can improvise over hundreds of jazz standards and all that jazz, and know my jazz modes, inside out. I play guitar a bit as well.
I have only recently taken up piano seriously, though I do use it to input notation into Cubase. There is plenty of stuff I can do by ear ( I can play any tune I hear back, and I can name intervals that I hear. I can get around Giant Steps in all keys for example - so I am not a novice.
When I compose I do not keep strictly to my knowledge of form but let my ear do the walking - such as adding chromaticisms and so forth.
Grasping the conventional thoeritical language is a challenge that |I am working on. I listen to plenty of classical though, can tell my Palestrina from my Stravinski!
Being an autodidact, I have developed my own theory of harmony based on the Lydian concept, where tones are passing or functional. For me harmony is about tension and release/resolution and all the chromatics can be used in this sense - with an accompanying awareness of strong and weak beats, dynamics, timbre and so forth. I see the major scale as being a primary expression of the palette of harmonic foci- just like the primary colors of a rainbow.
I also compose for myself using Cubase and virtual orchestras - using my knowledge of song form, chord progressions, chiefly with a smattering of a atonal writing, bending the form and so forth.

I am presently deepening my knowledge of traditional harmony and counterpoint. My primary interest is not to play, ... its consciousness and music, but that is another story. I have wide ranging background in psychology - my career.

Super.. I understood you too.

You guys re helping me a lot thanks



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