Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/? about music theory


QUESTION: Hi Jessica

Hope you've been having a good day.

What do these roman numeral mean in this picture at...

While your there I have my own videos for you to see.

Take Care

ANSWER: Hi Sterling,

The Roman numerals you see in the picture and other pieces of music is how musicians communicate which chord is to be played. Instead if memorizing specific chord progressions, musicians think in terms of key signatures and use capital Roman numerals for major chords and lower case for minor chords. Sometimes these may be mixed with regular numbers. Every type of key signature has foundational chords that songs are made from. If we were building a house, the chords would be the bricks. In a major key, the progression is generally the major chord built off the root, the chord built off of the fourth degree of the root scale, and the chord built from the 5th degree. Everything else is minor or diminished. So, a song in the key of C is:

I - C - CEG
ii - Dm - DFA
iii - Em - EGB
IV - F - FAC
V or V7 - GBD or GBDF (the regular number refers to the degree of the chord scale)
vi - Am - ACE
vii° - Bdim - BDF

Using this system of numbering, instead of memorizing lettered chords, allows a musician to play almost any song without having played it muchand also allows them to play any song in any key. We remember the numbers instead of the letters.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Jessica

What is the name of this study of how musicians communicate by using  capital Roman numerals for major chords and lower case for minor chords on to sheet music or into a scale practice book?

Have a blessed day

Hi Sterling,

Sorry about the delay in answering this followup. I didn't receive any notice that there was a question pending.

As far as I know, this system of notation is simply called "Roman Numeral Analysis". I tried to Google it, and that's pretty much all that came up.

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Jessica Vaughan


I can answer any questions about Music Theory and Music Education, and I can answer questions about musical composition in American and Western European folk and popular music. I can also answer questions about playing in musical ensembles.

I CANNOT answer questions about orchestral composition, vocal compositions or give advice on how to sing. My specialty is non-classical music, however I can answer some classical questions.


I am a professional musician having played music since age 5. I have been a professional musician since the age of 13. I have been a full-time private music educator since 2002, and I am a full-time performer. I have had many students of all ages who have also become professional and semi-professional. My specialty is non-classical music, however I am classically trained since age 9. I play: piano, trumpet, violin, guitar, fiddle, electric bass, mandolin, and I sing (however, my technical knowledge in the vocal area is limited). I am also a studio musician and also a "hired gun" (musician who is paid to quickly fill in for stage/live performances).


I have been a musician for 29 years and I am 34 years old. My mother was my main teacher my entire life. She has a Bachelor of Music Education, an Associate of Arts, a Master of Music, and is an adjunct professor at Indiana Weslyan University. I studied piano under professors from Cleveland State University since I was 10, and I studied violin under Simma Korostoshevsky, former Master Violinist with the Toledo Symphony. I've played in the bluegrass band "Rogues Hollow Junction", am a regular guest with local performing groups, placed 3rd in the State in championship old-time fiddling, and I do play professionally and have done so since I was 13.

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