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I' m studying classical harmony, and on the chapter with the V9, I came upon this numbered bass:

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What does 9 7 mean? I know that it includes the 9th, but why is there the 7th there? Does it tell me to add the 7th as well? The theory says that the 7th must be present anyway in a V9 chord.

I know it isn't some kind of inversion, since the V9 inversions are indicated differently.

This is supposed to be for four voices

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3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

It's figured bass and while typically associated with analysis and chords the meaning typically differs. As you said typically when thinking in chords or analysis in a V9 the 7th is implied. However, in figured bass only the typical triad is implied unless otherwise noted so just putting the 9 would make the harmony add9 instead of dominant 9. So yes it is telling you along with the typical triad built from the scale and there is also a 7th and 9th in the harmony.

This page shows the other variants that are possible and outlines the whole figured bass notation pretty well. You can even see how 9 is interpreted different than a 9 7.

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I was just typing up an answer but I think you got it all. One other thing I might mention is that I have never encountered figured bass for a 9 chord. When I studied figured bass, we primarily used it for Baroque and Classical era pieces. Clearly it is used otherwise and its language and rules act the same. I was also compelled to mention that the 9 appears as the melodic note, so when completing, the 9 would not need to be added. – Basstickler Mar 12 at 17:21
So basically, the 9 7 tells me omit the 5th, while 9 tells me to omit the 7th? (to put it really bluntly) – Shevliaskovic Mar 12 at 17:26
If it's a four part harmony exercise, then yes. Although the fifth is implicit, so should be included if you have enough voices. – Bob Broadley Mar 12 at 17:31
I think I've most commonly seen 9 in figured bass parts as part of a 9-8 suspension. – Bob Broadley Mar 12 at 17:35
@Shevliaskovic saw your edit. If it's 4 part harmony omit the 5th like Bob suggests. – Dom Mar 12 at 19:05

They want you to add the ninth and the seventh of the chord. You can leave out the fifth. It is the least important note of the triad and just add those two notes. Remember the seventh still has to resolve.

I'm curious as to why the indications are between the staves. That seems poor to me. I have never seen that before.

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They are just there to tell me what inversions etc to use. It makes no big difference where they are, since I have to copy this into my textbook and solve it there – Shevliaskovic Mar 12 at 18:59
If you are ever asked to figure a four part harmony just always do it below the staffs. – Neil Meyer Mar 12 at 19:00
That's what I do. If I have to write between the staves, I cannot write the inversions there, can I? – Shevliaskovic Mar 12 at 19:01

This should be thought of as a root-position seventh chord with a ninth added to it.

You wrote:

I know it isn't some kind of inversion, since the V9 inversions are indicated differently.

In fact, it's even easier than you thought. :) It's not an inversion, it's in root position. Basically, it's almost the same as just writing "7", which is also root position. But since F is in the bass, and G in the treble, the composer may have wanted to clarify that the G functions as the 9th of this F7 chord.

I think the composer could have gotten away with just writing "7" but decided to make it clear that it was an F7 chord with a 9th in the treble. Confusion may have evolved otherwise, as F and G can form a 4 2 G7 chord, (i.e., third inversion), and G7 is not too distantly related (V7/ii); while sight-reading this excerpt, there could be a gut-reaction to see it this way otherwise.

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