I am learning music theory and I was told to transcribe some songs and also note the chords as roman numerals.

The song I have is in the key of D Major, but contains an A minor, which to my understanding is not part of this scale. The V of D Major would be an A Major, right?

So, I went on a google search bonanza and read some things about "altered chords". And since A Major became A Minor in my example, I guess that is what it is since it is the third that has been flattened. So, can I note this as I v IV for the progression "D Am G"?

2 Answers 2


I v IV would be correct, because what seems to be going on here is that you have 'borrowed' a chord from D natural minor scale. The v from the D natural minor is Am, and it is common to borrow chords from the parallel minor scale (scale with the same name); (the same happens when you are in the minor scale; you can borrow a chord from the major scale)

  • It's called the parallel major/minor.
    – Tim
    Nov 21, 2015 at 7:35
  • This would be what is called a "naive" name for the chord. There's no way to produce an accurate name without knowing the CONTEXT of the chord...i.e. chords leading up to the Am, and chords following the Am, as well as the melody across that section. But, given the amount of information we have been given, a simple parallel minor substitution isn't a bad option.
    – dwoz
    Nov 21, 2015 at 20:42

With a lower case v

minor chords are indicated in our figured bass with smaller case roman letters and the Major chords with upper case roman letters.

So I --> i for the tonic chord

II --> ii for the super tonic chord

III --> iii for the mediant

IV --> iv for the Sub dominant

V --> v for the Dominant

Vi --> vi for the Sub mediant

and lastly Vii --> vii for the leading tone chord.

Just remember that the Major Sub dominant and Dominant chords have to have two horizontal line going above and below them. That part of the notation gets lost when we use the computer but when writing a figured bass of your own they should include it.

  • "Figured Bass" ?? Nov 22, 2015 at 23:32
  • 'Have to have the two horizontal lines'? Why? There is absolutely no reason, as they're very clear as they are. In fact, it's only in some printed copies that they do, and that's down to the printer's discretion. In fact, as you say, it gets lost on computer font - unless we go to the trouble of changing to trajan font - for what?
    – Tim
    Sep 10, 2016 at 15:35

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.