While watching Seth Monahan's Youtube videos on Classical harmony and counterpoint,

I noticed that he used ^1 ^2 ^3 ^4 ^5 ^6 ^7 for minor scale.

I have read harmony books on different genres other than Classical music, and in those books minor scale degrees were ^1 ^2 ^b3 ^4 ^5 ^b6 ^b7, which must be in perspective of major scale.

I wonder in Classical music ^1 ^2 ^3 ^4 ^5 ^6 ^7 is the norm?

  • 1
    Does this answer your question? Naming Scale Degrees
    – Aaron
    Commented May 17 at 4:44
  • 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7 for A minor would be A, B, Cb, D, E, Fb, Gb.
    – Lazy
    Commented May 17 at 6:19
  • 1
    @Lazy In this context "b" means "lowered from major" not "flat".
    – Aaron
    Commented May 17 at 7:38
  • @Aaron No, b means a low altered scale degree, i.e. a scale degree that differs from the “natural” scale note. Usually you’d use this for something like the neapolitan 6th chord (bII). I’ve neven once in my life encountered anyone who’d use major scale degrees in a minor scale.
    – Lazy
    Commented May 18 at 8:43
  • @Lazy as pointed out by Michael, when analyzing styles which use modulations and alterations a lot, it's typical to use major (ionian) scale as a reference point for everything. There are two, incompatible standards. OP's question is perfectly valid. Commented May 20 at 7:08

1 Answer 1


Broadly speaking there are two different systems:

  • one gives a key signature before symbols
  • the other gives no key signature and assumes a generic major tonality

You can apply those to Roman numeral analysis (RNA) and scale degree notation.


Cm: ^1 ^2 ^3 ^4 ^5 ^6 ^7 ^1

or ^1 ^2 ^♭3 ^4 ^5 ^♭6 ^♭7 ^1

...mean essentially the same thing but the latter is generic regarding a tonic.

The latter tends to be used in jazz analysis. "Classical" analysis will often give RNA without labelling the key when the point is general, brief, or does not need to describe key modulations.

So, if you don't give a key label, or there isn't some other textual context making minor key clear, using the flats is the safe way to go.

One final point. In "classical" analysis, the function of scale degrees and chords does not change with a change of mode. For example, tonic function of I does not change if the modes changes to minor i, mediant function of iii or ^3 does not change in minor ♭III or ^♭3. From that perspective some "classical" analysis doesn't use flats nor capitalization.

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