Home > Lessons > Pitch of sounds > Chords > Labeling chords

Labeling chords

To begin with labeling chords, you had to learn some theoretical notions:

- Scales degrees
- Triad notion
- Root, root position and inversions

Below is a quick summary about these theoretical notions about chords:

Scales degrees (summary)

Scales degrees are explained in the article Scales, please read this before.


Scale degrees of C major scale:

C major scale degrees

The names of the Scale Degrees are:

I : Tonic
II : Supertonic
III : Mediant
IV : Subdominant
V : Dominant
VI : Submediant
VII : Leading Tone or subtonic

Triad notion (summary)

Triad notion is explained in the article Chords, please read this before.

A triad is a set of 3 notes that are been stacked vertically in thirds.

Example of a triad:


From low to high, the notes of the triad are called:

* The root
* The third (a third above the root)
* The fifth (a fifth above the root

Root, root position and inversions (summary)

Root, root position and inversions notions are explained in the article Chords, please read this before.

Root of the chord is the lowest note (pitch) of the chord when the notes of the chord are been stacked vertically in thirds.

Root position is the position of a chord when notes of the chord are been stacked vertically in thirds.

* Root position of the chord occur when the lowest note is the root
* First inversion of the chord occur when the lowest note is the third
* Second inversion of the chord occur when the lowest note is the fifth

Root and root position

Finding scale degrees

First example in C major

Here, we will learn how to find scale degrees in a music score.

Here is our examples for which we will find the degrees of chords:


First step, move all the chords in root position:

Finding scales degrees

Roots of chords are written in red.

Second step, labeling chords with roman numbers to notice the degrees of chords:

Finding scales degrees

The key is C major scale, so C is I, D is II, E is III, ....

Final result is:

Finding scales degrees

Second example in F major

Here is a more complicated example in F Major:


First step, find the key:

The key signature has 1 sharp, so the key is F Major, and the scale degrees of F Major are:
I : F
II : G
III : A
IV : B♭
V : C
VI : D
VII : E


Second step, identify ornaments (notes that are not in the principal chord):

Finding scales degrees

Third step, remove ornaments and move all the chords in root position:

Finding scales degrees

Fourth step, labeling chords with roman numbers to notice the degrees of chords:



Final result is:

Finding scales degrees

Alternatives notations of scale degrees

Sometimes, you will find alternative notations of scale degrees, but I really hate these notations:

Alternatives notations of scale degrees

Figured bass

Figured bass (or thoroughbass) is a numeric notation system that indicates intervals in the chords.

Convention:

- A thoroughbass figure indicates the simple intervals from the root
- Compound intervals (an octave or larger) are reduced to their simple interval equivalent.
- The intervals are represented as Arabic numerals


Finding the thoroughbass figure of a chord:


Finding the thoroughbass figure of a chord

It is our example

Finding the thoroughbass figure of a chord

Step #1: make simple the compound interval

Finding the thoroughbass figure of a chord

Step #2: Move the chord on its root position

Finding the thoroughbass figure of a chord

Step #3: Find the intervals from the root. 3 is the third and 5 is the fifth

Figured bass, triad symbols

Below are all figures for triads:

figured bass, triad symbols

Another convention: There are shortcuts for triads symbols.

Triad root position symbol, shortcut is the shortcut of Triad root position symbol, shortcut

Triad first inversion symbol, shortcut is the shortcut of Triad root position symbol, shortcut

Figured bass, seventh chord symbols

It depends, but most of the time a difference is made between seventh chord and dominant seventh chord.

A seventh chord is chord composed of a triad and a note forming the interval of a seventh above the chord’s root.

A dominant seventh chord is a seventh chord based on the degree V (dominant degree)

seventh chord and dominant seventh chord

Dominant seventh chord

Below are dominant seventh chord symbols:

Dominant seventh chord symbols


Dominant seventh chord symbol, shorcut is the shortcut of Dominant seventh chord symbol, root position, no shortcut

Dominant seventh chord symbol, first inversion shortcut is the shortcut of Dominant seventh chord symbol, first inversion no shortcut

Dominant seventh chord symbol, second inversion shortcut is the shortcut of Dominant seventh chord symbol, second inversion no shortcut

Dominant seventh chord symbol, third inversion shortcut is the shortcut of Dominant seventh chord symbol, third inversion no shortcut


chord symbol, leading tone represents the leading tone

chord symbol, diminished fifth represents the diminished fifth

(non dominant) seventh chord

Below are non dominant seventh chord symbols, also named seventh chords:

Seventh chord symbols

Other symbols

Accidentals

Accidentals are also indicated, examples:

Chords symbols, accidentals


All music practice games: Let's play to our free games
All music practice games


Comments

Write a comment

Your comment comment will be manually validate.

Your name/pseudo (needed):
pseudo

Do not fill if you are human (anti spam)

Your comment:

Email (optional) (needed if you want to be inform of a reply):
email

Image/photo (optional) (JPG, JPEG, PNG ou GIF) (image concerning your comment):
photo, image

Javascript should be activated

Copy this code please (needed):