TonalityGUIDE - basic tonal music theory and analysis for undergraduates
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Introduction to tonality More about the TonalityGUIDE analysis tool kit Clefs, note labels, intervals and transposition
chord identification understanding voice-leading style awareness

The ToolKIT, which is accessible from all pages of the site, outlines the three main analytical skills that aims to develop. It also links to a short introduction to the study of tonality as well as a reminder of some basics (note and interval labels, clefs and transpositions).

Chord Identification
overview triads Roman numerals figured bass

Roman numerals are traditionally the main way of identifying and labelling chords and are used in TonalityGUIDE in conjunction with figured bass. Numerals I to VII are assigned to the triads formed on each of the seven notes of the diatonic major (or minor) scale. Upper case (e.g. I or V) Roman numerals are reserved for major triads, and all others are labelled in lower case (e.g. i or v).

The seven diatonic triads based on the scale of C major would therefore be labelled as follows:

As in the example, the key of the extract being analysed is shown with an arabic letter followed by a colon. Major keys are labelled with an upper case letter (i.e. C major is written 'C:') and minor keys in lower case (i.e. G minor is written 'g:').

TonalityGUIDE avoids the use of any other extra letters or symbols, preferring to show inversions and chromatic alterations by using figured bass. The only exception is where the root of the chord is chromatically altered, in which case an accidental is placed just before the Roman numeral. In the following example the second chord is a major triad with the flattened II of C major as its root. As an ordinary major triad it is signified by an upper case Roman numeral with a flat preceding it - no other labelling is necessary:

It is sometimes useful to to indicate the wider harmonic context of chords as in the following example. The perfect cadence (V to I) at the end of the extract is in G major but the overall key is C major (as shown by 'C:' on the example). This relationship is is shown by using a horizontal line. The numeral under the line shows that the music is temporarily in the dominant of the main key (G is V of C), while the numbers above the line show how each chord relates to that temporary key:

The Tonality GUIDE tonal music analysis tool kit
information and orientation as you browse around
chord identification
understanding voice-leading
style awareness

© Copyright Thomas Pankhurst

TonalityGUIDE - Tonal Harmony and Voiceleading - Table of Contents