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So I have this chord progression in A minor:

Am, Fm, Dm, Gm, Gmaj

The first three chords are fine in roman numerals:

i, VI, iv

However at Gm I got stuck, as none of the online analysis generators did have vii as an option for the minor key. Gmaj is simple as it is just VII, but is Gm not just vii?

viiᵒ is given as an option, however that gives G♯dim which is a different chord all together.

I would have just written it as vii if I didn't double check with the online calculator, however now I feel like I have misunderstood how the numeral analysis works..

If this is wrong, how can I intuitively write this chord with roman numerals?

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  • 3
    Your Fm should be F major if you use VI as RNA.
    – Tim
    Jul 1 at 16:31
  • 1
    If the OP asked about subtonic VII, then that linked question might be appropriate, but they asked about vii, a chord that will be found, but not in usual major/minor tonality. Jul 1 at 17:35
  • @MichaelCurtis My mistake. I misread the question to be about the Gmaj chord. Thanks.
    – Aaron
    Jul 1 at 17:54
  • Among music in A minor, I have typically only seen Gm in those passages that also contain the Bb (major) chord (e.g. "Below the Duchy's Banner" from Bravely Default, Galacta Knight's theme from the Kirby series).
    – Dekkadeci
    Jul 1 at 19:16

4 Answers 4

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All the following assumes a diatonic gamut of scale degrees.

viio is a diminished triad rooted on the seventh scale degree.

vii is a minor triad rooted on the seventh scale degree.

Which scale has a vii depends on what degree of the diatonic gamut - letters ABCDEFG - is the tonic.

Phrygian mode - tonic of E, key signature of zero sharps/flats - would be a case where vii occurs.

Your chord progression is not in A minor, not in the proper sense of major/minor keys.

how can I intuitively write this chord with roman numerals?

Roman numerals are normally used to analyze major/minor keys along with certain chromatic alterations, it's for functional harmony analysis.

If you really want to indicate the chords "in A minor" regardless, then give the key, then you use upper/lower case for major/minor chord quality, o and usually + for diminished/augmented quality, and or to show roots altered from the diatonic key signature. So...

Am, Fm, Dm, Gm, Gmaj jazz/pop chord symbols

Am: i vi iv vii VII, Roman numeral analysis

The jazz/pop chord symbols will probably be easier for someone to read if you want them to be used for performance.

The Roman numeral analysis (RNA) would be to analyze functional harmony where primarily you would be looking at root progression - like noticing your progression is all roots by descending thirds - and finding dominant/tonic relationships, which are not in your progression. Other that those two observations, I think it would be a bit cumbersome to perform from those Roman numerals mostly because your progression isn't using typical functional progressions, I can't rely on commonly known patterns, and I have to think too much to translate those Roman numerals into the actual chords to play.


Note: reading vii which is a minor triad versus viio which is a diminished triad can be tricky. Only the little o makes the difference, and in major/minor keys the Roman numeral seven is generally understood by context to mean a leading tone diminished triad in major or minor, or the subtonic major triad in minor. It can get confusing!

Sometimes in my own notation I use vii(min) to make clear the chord is a minor triad.

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  • I didn't upvote this and upvoted the current most popular answer instead because it's too easy to confuse vii as being based on the leading tone since vii° is (and ouch, I've seen VII, based on the leading tone, in heavy metal). bvii removes that ambiguity and enforces that it is based on the (flattened) subtonic.
    – Dekkadeci
    Jul 5 at 16:57
  • @Dekkadeci, yeah chords on the seventh scale degree are tricky sometimes. I made an edit about how I sometimes deal with that. Jul 5 at 21:00
  • Weird, I instinctively interpret vii(min) as also being based on the leading tone, including in minor keys.
    – Dekkadeci
    Jul 6 at 20:18
  • If you use the system where unaltered (no sharp/flat) Roman numerals represent diatonic degrees, and you use a key label in RNA, as you should, and then also consider trying to use RNA for phrygian mode, then it gets confusing. Chords Dm E could be a phrygian cadence. RNA would be E phrygian: vii(min) I. You don't see much RNA for phrygian mode, nevertheless the chord being discussed does occur this way. Jul 6 at 20:34
  • In one of my collections, I labelled the chord with a flat and minor ♭vii(min) to emphasize the root is not a leading tone, and it isn't a diminished triad. Jul 6 at 20:38
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There's not only viiᵒ, but viiᵒ is the only triad that can be built on the 7th scale degree in major only using the notes of the scale. What you are doing is outside of the scale so you'll need to denote the deviation from the 7th scale degree. In this specific case you are lowering the 7th so we denote it with a flat then the normal upper/lower casing of the Roman numerals apply. G and Gm would be bVII and bvii respectively. The former is extremely common in music, the latter not as much, but not unheard of.

One last point is that not every set of notes makes sense in Roman Numeral Analysis especially when including things like non harmonic tones. Without hearing it I can't say, but my guess would be the Gm->G the 3rd is a passing tone going somewhere, but again without actually hearing the piece I wouldn't know for sure.

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Why is there only a viiᵒ chord and no vii chord?

There's no vii chord in lists of diatonic triads, because vii is not diatonic. The analysis charts and tools you've been looking at have been about diatonic chords in the key.

If you want to say vii, you say vii, but be prepared that some people may find it difficult to believe that someone would actually mean a non-diatonic chord.

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If you use the logical method of chord naming where upper-case means a major triad, lower-case a minor one, there's no problem. Naming is relative to the tonic note and the major scale starting on it. (Same as intervals.) No matter whether the music is in C major, C minor or C-anything-else, C,E,G is I, C,E♭G is i.

So (in a C-rooted key) VII is B,D♯,F♯, vii is B,D,F♯, viiᵒ is B, D,F.

There is another chord-naming method where you have to decide what mode you're in before deciding what to call a chord. I suggest you don't use this inferior, confusing method.

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