I was reading some music theory stuff here, and I cannot figure out why the guy is putting a flat before the III, VI, and VII, chords while showing what I think is just a regular III (etc.) chord:

I've seen this before, and it confused the heck out of me. Google has failed. I'm sure the answer is stupidly obvious, but I can't figure it.

Help?
I recommend reading theory elsewhere.. Cause that is just plain wrong. I check the site out and it's just badly done. A harmonized natural minor scale consists of i, ii°, III, iv, v, VI, VII.

Try this, http://www.musictheory.net/
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yeah it's very...clunky.

the bIII is talking in relation to the intervals of the major scale, though, the minor scale is 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7. which, i mean, it's economical to throw scales and chords together so the reader has that relationship established, but that's just a really messy way to draw it up.
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Because C is a minor 3rd up from A. Remember, this is the harmonization of a minor key, not a major one. If it were to be a III (instead of bIII) we would have to use C#.
C is the b3rd of the scale so the bIII is a major chord built off the b3rd degree of the scale.

I suppose I should rewind a bit. All harmonizations of scales (major and minor) are done assuming that the major scale is the standard.
Look at A major:

I IIm IIIm IV V VIm VIIdim
A Bm C#m D E F#m G#m

Now assuming that the minor scale has a flat 3,6,and7 (IN RELATION TO MAJOR), we can derive this:

Im IIdim bIII IVm Vm bVI bVII
Am Bdim C Dm Em F G

Does this make sense?

EDIT: I agree, it's pretty clunky. The info I provided was "translated" to fit the diagram TS was reading from. Ordinarily, I wouldn't harmonize a minor scale that way.
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Last edited by MattyBoy 1337 at Jun 13, 2013,
woah okay. that chart is not right. it says chord I is minor, so a minor key, but relating the roman numerals to the tonic's major key. it's incredibly misleading and not at all how roman numerals are used in the common practice.

in a major key:
I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, vii

in a harmonic minor based key:
i, ii, III+, iv, V, VI, vii

in a melodic minor based key:
i, ii, III+, VI, V, vi, vii

If I spoke of chord 3 in A major, that would be C#m. chord 3 in A minor would be C+.
If I spoke of bII in A minor, that would be Bb, for example.
but a b3 in A minor would be Cb, equivalent to B - but B is chord ii anyway so it's redundant. what that chart you got there is doing is taking stuff from a derivative that's not there. the link Sickz posted is a good place to check out.
Last edited by UnmagicMushroom at Jun 13, 2013,
Quote by UnmagicMushroom
woah okay. that chart is not right. it says chord I is minor, so a minor key, but relating the roman numerals to the tonic's major key. it's incredibly misleading and not at all how roman numerals are used in the common practice.

in a major key:
I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, vii

in a harmonic minor based key:
i, ii, III+, iv, V, VI, vii

in a melodic minor based key:
i, ii, III+, VI, V, vi, vii

If I spoke of chord 3 in A major, that would be C#m. chord 3 in A minor would be C+.
If I spoke of bII in A minor, that would be Bb, for example.
but a b3 in A minor would be Cb, equivalent to B - but B is chord ii anyway so it's redundant. what that chart you got there is doing is taking stuff from a derivative that's not there. the link Sickz posted is a good place to check out.

Actually IMO using the same numerals in both major and minor makes sense. The b in front of the numeral just means it's a minor interval away from the tonic. Because for example in A natural minor you have a G note and in harmonic minor you have a G#. So how do you separate the G# dim and G major chord by using numerals only? I think the simplest way is to say that the G major chord is the bVII chord. The b in front of the numeral only means it's a minor interval away from the tonic and without the b it's a major interval away from the tonic. IMO this way is just more logical.
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Thanks for the detailed explanations! Things are making a bit more sense, now.
Quote by MaggaraMarine
Actually IMO using the same numerals in both major and minor makes sense. The b in front of the numeral just means it's a minor interval away from the tonic. Because for example in A natural minor you have a G note and in harmonic minor you have a G#. So how do you separate the G# dim and G major chord by using numerals only? I think the simplest way is to say that the G major chord is the bVII chord. The b in front of the numeral only means it's a minor interval away from the tonic and without the b it's a major interval away from the tonic. IMO this way is just more logical.

I see where you're coming from, and your logic appears to be coming from how one would determine intervals between two notes - here being the tonic note in relation every other note in the scale. But the numeral thing is in the context of the key area and not just the two notes. It is really unnecessary to mix up major and minor like that.
The numeral things also assumes upon the fact that the player already knows the qualities of each chord in the key area that the numeral stands for. So for example, when I am told that the key area is C major and we're playing 1, 6 , 2, 5 - I immediately know I can play: Cmaj7 Am9, Dmin7, G13.
In C minor same 1, 6, 2, 5 could be Cm(#7), Amaj7, Dmin7(b5), G13. It doesn't get easier than that. You're making this extremely complicated. What if I want to use bVII, then by your logic it would read as bbVII - and that's just ridiculous to think about on the spot.
The funny thing is that you're first statement is right, it is exactly the same, but then what follows proves the opposite.
He put it as a Im or a IVm when it should be i or iv
Quote by -Rane-
I was reading some music theory stuff here, and I cannot figure out why the guy is putting a flat before the III, VI, and VII, chords while showing what I think is just a regular III (etc.) chord:

I've seen this before, and it confused the heck out of me. Google has failed. I'm sure the answer is stupidly obvious, but I can't figure it.

Help?

It's because the chord LETTERS, as they are using them are derived from the Major Scale being understood. Once understood, then it can be modified. The quality of the chords types at those degrees change and are notated as well.

A B C# D E F# G# A is a Major

I IIm IIIm IV V VIm and VIIo

Using their conventions, they are using chordish symbols to indicate which of these Roman Numeric chords are major and minor

Not in your example above, but if that person that wrote the above chart wrote one in A MAJOR, then A Bm C#m for example would be written as . I IIm IIIm.

The reason that some feel that sort of notation is clunky, (and I agree), is that most of us would write the same thing as:

I ii iii, where lower case roman numerals represent minor chords and upper case, are Major chords.

The reason I think they did it that way, is because not everyone understands the use of upper case and lower case.

The other reason it is clunky in that instance, (and in my opinion, the more distressing reason) is we'd usually only see these bIII in the context of a progression derived from a minor key into a Major key, and where modal interchange is being used.

For example a I IV bVII in A is A D and G. G isn't a chord diatonic in A major, it comes from A minor. In A Major the (7th chord in the diatonic array) would have been marked viio and been a G#o.

The presence of a G and identifying it as a bVII in this case would be correct as G# a half-step (in other words flat that interval by one fret) down is G and the capital letters would tell us it's a major chord.

Now, some or none of this may have made sense to you. If it did, cool, and if it didn't you might need to have some more conventional theory knowledge under your belt.

Best,

Sean
Last edited by Sean0913 at Jun 14, 2013,
they are making it harder then it has to be by relating the natural minor to the major.

I would also go elsewhere.
Quote by ShreddinShane
they are making it harder then it has to be by relating the natural minor to the major.

I would also go elsewhere.

Who's 'they'? The creators of those diagrams, or the posters in this forum?
The minor scale is derived from the major scale. It's just how it is.
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Quote by MaggaraMarine
Actually IMO using the same numerals in both major and minor makes sense. IMO this way is just more logical.

I agree. That way we can determine major or minor by the chords being used rather than having to know if it is major or minor in order to determine the chords being represented. Similarly it can avoid other possible problems. (i.e. how to notate chromatic/ non-diatonic chords or avoid notating the same chord differently when we switch between parallel major/minor.)

Regardless, both methods are commonly used in music literature and there is no real "right" way. One should be aware of both methods and use their brain to work out which is being used.

Same goes with the use of all caps vs a mix of upper and lower case. A minor chord built on the second degree can be either IIm or ii. Both ways are legitimate.

One can not determine whether the author knows what they are talking about based on whether they use bIII or all upper case / lower case etc. To suggest otherwise, as some here have, is kind of stupid. Even if in this particular case it might be true I can assure you it is not always.

TS - Some people use the roman numerals to refer to scale degrees. Thus the III would refer to a major chord built on the third scale degree. In a major scale the root of such a chord would be a major third against the tonic, in a minor scale it would be a minor third against the tonic note.

Other people use the roman numerals to notate the root of the chord in relation to the tonic. Hence III would always be a major chord built on the major third above the tonic while bIII would always be a major chord built on a minor third above the tonic - regardless of whether we are major or minor.

Further some people use all upper case roman numerals and write chord symbols to notate the chord's quality. For example IIm in the key of C would be Dm. Other's use lower case to denote the minor quality of the chord and would notate that same Dm chord simply as ii.

Si