[Smt-talk] Inquiry about Capiatl versus Lowercase Roman Numerals Usage

Joel Galand galandj at fiu.edu
Mon Dec 10 09:28:29 PST 2012

Dear Dimitar (and others):

I use only upper-case, plus figured-bass, which I tend to put on a different system than the RNs, instead of using figures as superscripts following the RN.   I do this for all the predictable reasons (not all figured-bass symbols denote inversion; not all figured-bass events "merit" an RN; etc.)

In short, I find it preferable conceptually to separate the harmonic scale step currently in play (shown with the RN) from modal quality (shown with the key signature and figured-bass accidentals) and voice-leading (shown in the figured bass).

When I was a student (Yale, 1980s), the system I am describing seemed to be gaining currency--Allen Forte had used it in his undergraduate textbook (TONAL HARMONY IN CONCEPT AND PRACTICE), as did Aldwell & Schachter in their then brand-new text, and as did most Schenkerians.  

>From informal conversations at conferences, I have gathered the impression that many of my fellow Yale alums have abandoned this "Viennese" model and gone back to the upper/lower-case notation, which can now be found even in textbooks by authors who probably would describe themselves as Schenkerians. I can see some pedagogical value in doing that (helps undergrads remember, at the early stages, what is major, what is minor, and what is diminished), as well as a practical value (my department gets a lot of transfers from various public junior colleges--and as you can imagine, some those students freak out when they are suddenly confronted with a very different way of doing things).  I'll have to give all of this some thought--some day when I have time to think!  


Joel Galand
Associate Director for Academic Affairs and Director of Graduate Studies
School of Music
Florida International University

From: smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org [smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org] on behalf of Ninov, Dimitar N [dn16 at txstate.edu]
Sent: Monday, December 10, 2012 10:00 AM
To: smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org
Subject: [Smt-talk] Inquiry about Capiatl versus Lowercase Roman Numerals       Usage

Dear Colleagues,

Does anyone teach harmonic analysis with capital RN only, the key signature suggesting the size of the chords?

Although I apply the mixed system at Texas Stet (because of the policy of the school) I prefer the capital numerals for they look neater and more uniform (in the good sense of the word). But I was curious to see the scale of its usage in the US. I also think American students should be acquainted with both systems for reference.

Thank you.

With best wisehs,


Dr. Dimitar Ninov, Lecturer
School of Music
Texas State University
601 University Drive
San Marcos, Texas 78666
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