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Just curious... why would someone use numbers instead of letters for chords? Is it just preference? Using numbers seems more challenging, such as you have to know the key very well to know all the chords. Or do most contemporary pianist get well versed in both styles?

Last edited by Sebs; 07/01/21 02:46 PM.
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Sebs--I think the reason was given earlier, but buried in the welter of words.

Roman numerals are universal for any key. Letters are key-specific.

Both can be used, but numerals allow for quick transposition, for those fluent in the language.

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Originally Posted by rogerzell
Sebs--I think the reason was given earlier, but buried in the welter of words.

Roman numerals are universal for any key. Letters are key-specific.

Both can be used, but numerals allow for quick transposition, for those fluent in the language.

Got it, yeh I wasnt sure if the main purpose was for quick transposing ability or if I missed something.

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I only skimmed this thread. So I will add that thinking in Roman Numerals is another terminology for thinking in "root movement". The I IV V is root movement up a (perfect) 4th then up a (major) 2nd. If thinking of the Roman Numerals helps , that's great. I've in years past visualized a piano keyboard and my hands sort of playing - without doing dramatic gesture - more like wiggling my fingers as they pretend-played.

Eventually the Roman Numerals will become less necessary to think of.

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Sebs: I speak strictly from a jazz perspective, and there, roman numerals certainly are needed for transposition, but there primary purpose is for jazz theory. You may see in a standard G-7, C7 and Fmaj7 and can play those chords. But the jazz theory explanation for this progression is ii-V-I, which is one of the fundamental concepts for jazz improvisation.

As an example, if a band asks me to play an intro and I want the bass player to join, and he knows the key, I'll say: I'm playing a iii VI ii V I. He'll know exactly what chords to accompany me with. While this could be written with any kind of numbers, Roman numerals are the tradition, for reasons I don't know.

Rogerzell: You are right that I've not seen a Roman Numeral chart that accounts for modulations, which is why it's very hard to write a good lead sheet in Roman Numerals. A tune like Joy Spring starts in F, but them modulates to Gb/F#. I don't know how a Roman Numeral chart would refer to that! Jazz players talk about that as simply a ii-V-I to Gb.

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Originally Posted by jjo
A tune like Joy Spring starts in F, but them modulates to Gb/F#. I don't know how a Roman Numeral chart would refer to that! Jazz players talk about that as simply a ii-V-I to Gb.

b3- b6 b2 with their respective qualities.

-Rhodes74

Last edited by Rhodes74; 07/01/21 06:06 PM.
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Originally Posted by jjo
Sebs: A tune like Joy Spring starts in F, but them modulates to Gb/F#. I don't know how a Roman Numeral chart would refer to that! Jazz players talk about that as simply a ii-V-I to Gb.

For me to understand Joy Spring using Roman Numerals:

1st 8 bars are in F
2nd 8 bars are in Gb
3rd 8 bars to me mingles the harmonic elements from the 1st 16 bars

There are elements that resist Roman Numerals

Thanks

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I didn’t understand the third section and went back and looked at it again.

I was mistaken about it, it’s actually a little more mainstream, a series of ii-V-I’s all descending whole steps down

Thanks

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Emenelton: I agree with your analysis. I also agree that the approach suggested by Rhodes74, while it may be technically correct, is functionally of no assistance, and not how jazz players think of a piece. The point of Roman Numeral analysis is to explain what is happening harmonically which, in Joy Spring, as you point out, is a series of ii-V-Is.

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Joy Spring

Roman Numeral

Bars: 1-8 F major

Bars: 9-16. Gb major

Bars: 25-32 F major

Imaj7 - - -/ iim-7 - V7 - / Imaj7 - - - / iv-7 - bVII7 - / iii-7 - bIII7 - / ii7 - V7 - / I maj7 - - - / ii-V of next key

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Hi

This is an interesting video by Rick Beato.



This does highlight how difficult using the Roman numeral system can be for more complicated songs. Rick Beato is a very talented musician, and even he is less than 100% sure sometimes.

Cheers


Simon

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Originally Posted by Simon_b
Hi

This is an interesting video by Rick Beato.


3 minutes in i still don't even know what tune he is talking about!

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Originally Posted by beeboss
Originally Posted by Simon_b
Hi

This is an interesting video by Rick Beato.


3 minutes in i still don't even know what tune he is talking about!

Never Gonna Let You Go - Sergio Mendes (about 4 mins in)

The video is as clear as mud.

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What’s great about Roman Numeral is not about the most complex but how it can take a song that seems complex like Joy Spring and distill it down to the known song writing harmonic progressions.

If you look at any of the 2 or 4 bar groups in Joy Spring progression’s ;they are all of them, the standard vanilla chord progression used in song writing.

The iv-7 - bVII7 in measure 4 for example, is a common harmonic progression device that resolves to the tonic, it’s used constantly in these jazz and American songbook type compositions. Before I understood it, it just seemed to me to be another appearance of a dominate 7th chord that moved to a minor 7th chord a tri-tone away.

For me seeing groups of measures.as standard progressions helped a-lot.

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I agree with you, emenelton, that the benefit of the Roman numeral system is simplifies and explains an otherwise random series of chord. That likely why the original poster was likely looking for a fake book that put the Roman numerals in. While there may be other reasons why such books do not seem to exist, one may be that the Roman numeral system is better talked about and understood than written down due to modulations and other factors.

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One way to think of modulations in a jazz tune is to just think "up a step" or "up a third" or "down a fifth" and think of the modulations in this way. I studied this with a pro bass player, and that is how he thought of this. And, some jazz tunes have a consistent type of modulation, like Autumn Leaves, so if you can get that in your brain should be easy to think in Roman numerals. Do not get too hung up on the key. Think more of how one key relates to another, i.e. is it going up a third, are multiple ii V I's descending by whole steps? The point here is to understand the chord progressions and then look at how they move through the tune.

Last edited by gracegren; 07/05/21 06:14 PM.

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Beato did another analysis of this same song back in mid-June, but without the Roman numeral analysis. He uses audio clips from the actual recording...I found it easier to follow.



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Originally Posted by jjo
Sebs: I speak strictly from a jazz perspective, and there, roman numerals certainly are needed for transposition, but there primary purpose is for jazz theory. You may see in a standard G-7, C7 and Fmaj7 and can play those chords. But the jazz theory explanation for this progression is ii-V-I, which is one of the fundamental concepts for jazz improvisation.

As an example, if a band asks me to play an intro and I want the bass player to join, and he knows the key, I'll say: I'm playing a iii VI ii V I. He'll know exactly what chords to accompany me with. While this could be written with any kind of numbers, Roman numerals are the tradition, for reasons I don't know.

Rogerzell: You are right that I've not seen a Roman Numeral chart that accounts for modulations, which is why it's very hard to write a good lead sheet in Roman Numerals. A tune like Joy Spring starts in F, but them modulates to Gb/F#. I don't know how a Roman Numeral chart would refer to that! Jazz players talk about that as simply a ii-V-I to Gb.

I'm guessing Roman numerals are preferred because, unlike regular numerals (e.g., 1, 2, 3...), they allow for the distinction between upper and lower case numerals. For instance, "I" represents a major "1" chord, and "i" represents a minor. That's my understanding of it at least...someone please correct me if I'm wrong here, because I'm pretty inexperienced with this stuff, but definitely trying to learn!

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