That is, a I or V followed by an M in the superscript.

What I am talking about

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    (1) You put a capitol M in the text, but a lowercase m in the title (they would mean different things no matter what) Also, (2) can you provide a picture? There are a few different systems of notation, and it could mean several slightly different things. – Ben I. Mar 28 '19 at 15:59
  • Frequently, upper case means major and lower case means minor. But in roman numeral notation, the case is usually in the roman numeral itself, so there's no need for an "m" to denote the quality of the third. That is, IV means a major chord on the 4th scale degree and iv means a minor chord on the same scale degree, while GM means G major (though simply G is more common) and Gm means G minor. The picture you've posted is puzzling. – phoog Mar 28 '19 at 16:03
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    That symbol is new for me. What book/source did this come from? – Michael Curtis Mar 28 '19 at 16:03
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    Could you give some more context? Where do you see this? What key is the piece in? What chords come before or after it? – phoog Mar 28 '19 at 16:10
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    @MichaelCurtis This symbol is found in the Chapter Fifteen quiz of the 7th edition of Tonal Harmony. I am not looking for help with a quiz, I merely seek to understand what it is asking. – Nathan Tibbitts Apr 7 '19 at 2:38

This might simply be a not-so-good way to indicate that the chord is Major. I usually see this in some kind of off-beat music sheets, usually written by people that don't really know that the capital I indicates that the chord is major or just don't know how to notate the chord numerals.

I disagree that the M means means major 7th (as in Imaj7), because you can deduce that from the 4 2, which means that the chord has a seventh and is in the third inversion.

What is really common, and you might often see, is the lower case m, which means minor, as in Cm or C minor (or Im / im). People extend this writing as C M or C Major (or IM . I Major), but it's not as common. You might see it on some transcriptions of songs on the internet for instance. So amateur musicians might often blend these two together to create a chord name / Roman numeral hybrid.


In my experience, the most common usage is that this "M" signifies that this is a major seventh chord. (But note, as phoog states, that "maj" is the more common usage.)

This is necessary because something like a V7 assumes a minor seventh above the chordal root. As such, we have to clarify that this chord will be a major seventh quality.

Regarding diatonic seventh chords in a major key, this M will only be necessary above the I and IV chords. All other seventh chords either:

  1. assume the minor seventh above the root (ii7, iii7, V7, vi7),

  2. or explicitly tell you the quality of the seventh chord (like for vii°7).

  • In my experience the standard notation for a major seventh chord is maj7, as in IVmaj7. – phoog Mar 28 '19 at 16:06
  • @phoog You're right; my first sentence was worded strangely. Edit incoming! – Richard Mar 28 '19 at 16:06
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    @MichaelCurtis It is redundant, assuming the chord is diatonic. But nevertheless some systems include these clarifications. It's really no different than clarifying "ø" for the vii7 chord in major. – Richard Mar 28 '19 at 16:10
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    Adding to your major sevenths symbols, there's 'little triangle' - can't find a font for it though! – Tim Mar 28 '19 at 16:25
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    Yes, this answer is Kostka/Payne usage (among other texts). The idea is that without an M, there would be no difference between the Roman Numeral symbols for dominant seventh and major seventh chords (since both would have an uppercase Roman numeral). There’s always debate about how specific Roman numerals have to be about qualities of chords, since some would prefer to just infer diatonic harmonies. The most extreme version of that is to not even bother with different cases at all. This notation is on the opposite side of that spectrum, being hyper-specific about quality. – Pat Muchmore Mar 29 '19 at 8:56

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