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The following is an excerpt from this Wikipedia article:

[The Lydian cadence] is so-called because it evokes the Lydian mode based on its final chord as a tonic, and may be construed with the chord symbols VII♯6/3-I (if the final is taken as a Lydian-mode tonic) or III6/3-IV (if the final is taken as a scale degree 4 in major).

I'm having immense trouble trying to wrap my head around VII# -- which after looking around I've come to the conclusion that it's just a sharpened VII chord.

But... wouldn't VII# = I ?

If, in C major,

VII = B D# F#

VII# = C E G

= I

? I have to be misunderstanding something or else would that not mean the cadence goes from itself to itself, only 1st inv. to root position?

I'm thoroughly confused and would be grateful for some guidance...

  • 1
    No, the # refers to the 6, not the VII. – Jos Feb 4 at 11:27
  • 1
    Does the 6/3 notation not refer to the first inversion link ? Pardon my crappy formatting :( – hisalutannyeongmarhabanihao Feb 4 at 14:29
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The notated tones of the penultimate chord are F# A# D# - D# minor - and the final chord is E B E.

If the D# chord were diatonic is would simply be a viio6/3, D# diminished in first inversion, spelled F# A D# with an A natural.

For the Roman numeral I would think it should be lower case vii for a minor chord, but some systems just use upper case for all chord qualities.

For the numeric figures the chromatic change needs to be on the third to raise A natural to A#. That's raising the fifth of the chord or fourth of the scale. So I would think the # is for the 3 rather than the 6. Like vii(6)/(#3).

Roman numerals weren't developed for 14th century music so the figures for this particular chord are clunky. Nevertheless, the penultimate chord is a minor chord in first inversion rooted on the leading tone.

For a C tonic the penultimate chord would be B D F with the fifth raised B D F#, finally inverted to D F# B.

You might want to read another source like the Harvard Dictionary of Music.

enter image description here

...no figures are given and the basic definition doesn't seem different, but it's more authoritative than the wiki article.

  • Thank you! "... some systems just use upper case for all chord qualities." <- this is really... confusing... :( Would the reader in this case then be expected to know that VII = vii, or leading tone minor triad, based on "(if the final is taken as a Lydian-mode tonic)"? (My understanding being based on this chart.) Thank you again! – hisalutannyeongmarhabanihao Feb 5 at 4:10
  • I agree that using only upper cases if a bit confusing - perhaps "less descriptive" is a better way to say it. Walter Piston is someone who used only upper case. In part I think that system is mostly interested in root progressions and doesn't bother with modal details. When harmony stays in common practice norms the voice leading and modal handling is standardized enough that you can sort of get away with only root and inversion symbols. – Michael Curtis Feb 5 at 21:37
  • Harmonization of the lowered seventh degree offers a good case. So that would be a Bb relative to a C tonic. That tone in the bass could be a bVII Bb major chord in a rock style. But in common practice that tone would more likely be harmonized like V6 a G minor chord in first inversion, in C minor, or perhaps V4/2 of IV a C dominant seventh in third inversion in C major. In either case the chord root is a dominant. In a broad sense that's all the common practice analysis cares about: what is the dominant? You only need simple, upper case Roman numerals for that. – Michael Curtis Feb 5 at 21:38
  • More complex symbols like bVII or vii (lower case for minor), etc. aren't needed for simple analysis. Chords like Bb major or B minor relative to a C tonic are anachronisms in common practice. That brings us back to your original question and the main issue. 14th century music is not "common practice" classical style so the Roman numeral analysis is tricky. Notice how the Harvard Dictionary article didn't bother to put symbols on the Lydian cadence? And example #6 doesn't use lower case for the minor IV6 A minor in first inversion. :-) – Michael Curtis Feb 5 at 21:44
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The link says: *...construed with the chord symbols VII♯6 3-I (if the final is taken as a Lydian-mode tonic) or III6 3-IV (if the final is taken as a scale degree 4 in major). This must be clear.

It is not VII# refers to the example in E, 6/3 means 1st inversion. The VII degree of Em is D. VII# = D#.

So III63-IV is analog to VII#63 - I ...

But if we are in C or F there is a major 7th (B respectively E) and the sharp must refer to the augmented 3rd and 6th.

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In a minor key, the subtonic triad is usually represented by VII. In a harmonic minor context, it becomes necessary to use an accidental to modify the root of this chord into the leading tone. Some authors prefer to write this as ♯vii°, with the ♯ "sharpening the subtonic into the leading tone.

Personally, I prefer to write this as ♮vii°, using the natural sign to represent this leading tone, because Roman Numeral Analysis should be able to represent any arbitrarily chromatic triad in relation to a specified tonic. I like to use the major scale as the unmodified scale degrees, so in C minor, ♮vii° would represent B°, and if for whatever ungodly reason I wanted B♯°, ♯vii° would be the symbol I'd use. Under this system, it becomes necessary to write in the accidentals even for lowered roots of diatonic chords in minor keys, but I think it's fine to leave those out if they're obvious in context (i VII7 VI7 V7), using accidentals for any other modifications (i VII ♮vi° VI V). When in doubt, accidentals on everything outside of the major scale.

To me, ♯7 should mean sharpen the 7th degree, and ♮7 naturalise it, and it makes more sense to me to "unflatten" the degree than "sharpen" it.

Also, be aware that this answer is only talking about accidentals in front of a roman numeral. This is different from the figured bass tradition where the symbols might include a 6 with a sharp on it, for example.

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