[Smt-talk] Abbreviated Labels of Seventh Chords

Bruce Grant bruce.grant at wanadoo.fr
Sat Feb 11 00:17:35 PST 2012

I much appreciate Dr Kelly’s reminder that “figured bass is a practical system for performing basso continuo that predates fundamental bass theory.” In fact, I find it much more useful to use jazz figuring for harmonic analysis than figured bass, because it is melody based, rather than bass based. Also, one can either name the chords, use roman numerals or function letters: T, D, S for the primary triads, and TRm (tonic of the relative minor), DRm or DRma (altered dominant of the relative minor) and SRm for the secondary triads. In the minor mode I use Tm, Dm or D, Sm and TRM (tonic of the relative major), DRM, and SRM.  The diminished triad is considered to be either an incomplete dominant (D7°) or an incomplete Sm6° without a fifth. The fundamental bass is thus clearer than with figures calculated from the bass. However, if inversions are involved, I don’t use the jazz system of writing the note (G7/B) but the chord member, G7/3. The 4/2 chord under discussion would be V7/7 or D7/7 using functions. Secondary dominants are D7S for example and therefore do not imply modulation. A chromatic descending bass can be indicated in the following manner: Tm, D/3, D7S/7, S/3, Sm6/3, Tm/5, D7, TM.


Obviously, the usage of this system does not replace the study of traditional figured bass for those who wish to learn basso continuo, improvised baroque accompaniment. 


Bruce Grant, DM, Indiana University

Chef d’orchestre et chef des chœurs,

Théâtre de l’opérette de Lyon


De : smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org [mailto:smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org] 

composer at mykeyboard.com
Envoyé : jeudi 9 février 2012 16:27
À : smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org
Objet : [Smt-talk] Abbreviated Labels of Seventh Chords


I think that it's important to remember that figured bass is a practical system for performing basso continuo that predates fundamental bass theory.  A continuo player shouldn't need to worry about what is dissonant or what the chord root is.  The figures merely indicate what alterations to make to the default (8)53 intervals above the bass.  Thus, the figure "2", while certainly seen as a short form of 642, is ambiguous, possibly meaning 52 instead.  I personally don't have a problem with using just 2, and I also teach the 7 65 43 2 mnemonic to my students, but I consistently use 42 for all third-inversion seventh chords to appease my inner continuo harpsichordist.


Robert T. Kelley, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Music

Lander University

CPO Box 6009

320 Stanley Ave.

Greenwood, SC 29649-2099

Office: Abney Cultural Center Rm. A364

Phone: 864-388-8774

Email: rkelley at lander.edu

Web: http://www.lander.edu/en/Academics/Colleges-Departments/Arts-Humanities/Music/faculty-member.aspx?emailid=rkelley

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