Let's say that I'm in the key of A minor and there is a G major chord proceeding an A minor chord. Do I notate the G major as VII or bVII? Confusing since G is the VII in the natural minor scale and is bVII in the harmonic minor scale.

Same question in regards if there is a F major chord preceding an A minor chord. Is the F Major notated as VI or bVI, due to the natural minor vs. melodic minor scale?


You have described precisely why the only sensible system is to label chords in relation to the MAJOR scale, no matter what mode the music may be using at any particular moment. If the tonic is A, Am triad is i, A major triad is I. G major is ♭VII, F major is ♭VI.

But beware. A less robust and potentially confusing alternative system is sometimes used which names a G major triad as VII if the music is deemed to be using the A natural minor scale. (I refuse to say 'in A natural minor'. There is no such key.)

Roman numeral chord naming is all about functional harmony. The sort of harmony where chords DO something. Not so relevant to modal harmony. I suggest you just settle for a clear system of descriptive chord naming rather than trying to force functional names onto modal music.

  • The system the Royal Conservatory of Music curriculum taught me is to label that G major triad in A minor as VII regardless of whether that piece primarily uses natural or harmonic minor scales.
    – Dekkadeci
    Feb 4 at 13:41
  • So how did you label a G# rooted triad? Feb 4 at 15:16
  • In A minor, we labelled that as vii°. Confusing, I know.
    – Dekkadeci
    Feb 4 at 15:20

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