SG101 on the Web

Follow SurfGuitar101 on Twitter

Photo of the Day

Slingerland61: Such shouting...
87 days ago

Tikitena: awesome....there's a pulse!
86 days ago

Emilien03: SUUUUUURF!
61 days ago

JHL: tab
59 days ago

DannySnyder: I just got fired from my job at the bakery, which is upsetting as I really kneaded the dough
49 days ago

Meindert: Why didn't the skeleton want to go to school? His heart wasn't in it
47 days ago

Emilien03: Messer Chups + Los Grainders
44 days ago

Emilien03: Halloween Party / Oct 31th / Mexico City
44 days ago

TheAmpFibian: I was feeling nauseous on my recent vacation to Spain..I probably should have avoided Barfalonia
44 days ago

toninho: SAAARFFFF!
14 days ago

Please login or register to shout.

Current Polls

No polls at this time. Check out our past polls.

Current Contests

No contests at this time. Check out our past contests.


Help us meet our monthly goal:



Donate Now

SG101 2006-2017

SurfGuitar101 Forums » Surf Musician »

Permalink Chord Numbering Convention

New Topic
Page 1 of 1

Here's a subject my friend and I were discussing last weekend while musiking.

For those of you who regularly call out chord progressions by the numbering system--let's keep it simple and say you're playing a 50's rock n' roller that's a I-IV-V in the key of C major--what do you do when you're playing something of similar structure but in a minor key? For instance, say you're playing something like Bullwinkle pt 1 or 2. Do you call it a I-IV-V in A minor? Or do you retain the numbering convention of its relative major and say it's a VI-II-III in A minor and people have to know that the I is assumed to be the relative major?

It seems like if you make the numbering system mutable so that the I is always the root of that key, be it aeolian, dorian, or whatever, then that's a lot of memorization of different numbering sequences, whereas if you always keep the I as the relative major of your key, then you always know what chord each number is automatically and actually, you could get by without even being aware of the whole modal thing. Like if you were describing an A dorian song to someone who didn't know what that was, you could just say it's a II-I-IV-III in G major.


Last edited: Aug 09, 2017 23:26:39

For me, the key is the key. Sure, The notes and chords are the same in both modes, but the focus and the mood is different because of where they begin. So, IMO, progression number is unique to the scale. The root is the root regardless of I or i.

I ii iii IV V vi viiº

i iiº III iv v VI VII

When getting into more exotic scales or modifying the mode (ie Phrygian Dominant), the chords can become something more than just major or minor or diminished (yay augmented!). I would just use the progression roman numeral with the appropriate modifier (like + or º) but keep everything in the right key.

What would you do if the song modulates between keys instead of just relative maj/min? You would need to properly label them in their key, right?

Last edited: Aug 10, 2017 20:58:26

I agree that the key is the key. I wasn't trying to say that one shouldn't recognize the true flavor of the song and just try to call everything by its major "equivalent." And I agree with you--I think the numbers should adjust to the actual key. So a I-IV-V in A dorian might actually be written i-IV-v and the player just needs to understand that he/she is playing the ii-V-iv of G major. So... that's a lot of memorization I need to get started on.

Quick! What's the 3rd chord of the locrian scale? And so on...

Readfeather wrote:

So... that's a lot of memorization I need to get started on.

Excuse my ignorance, but considering the need for memorization, where do you (and the others) see the advantage of chord numbering over just writing out the chord sequences?

Los Apollos - interplanetary surf music trio (Berlin)
"Chaos at the Lobster Lounge" OUT NOW as LP and download on Surf Cookie Records!

Last edited: Aug 11, 2017 06:55:11

Simoncoil, the guitar has the convenient characteristic of being easy to transpose keys on by the simple motion of moving up or down the board so getting the numbering system down makes it really easy to call out a progression and then put it in whatever key you or the singer or the lights guy wants on the fly-- "Guys, it's a 1-4-5 in G major" --without needing to sit there and figure out what all the chords are. It just makes it easy to convey the structure of a song in a way that is easily translated to any key. Of course it works the same regardless of the instrument but it's just nice that the guitar is so conducive to key flexibility. As opposed to a piano, for instance, where each key is a different combination of whites/blacks that must be learned.

Last edited: Aug 11, 2017 14:16:58

Thanks, that makes sense! Of course I also do this when I want to transpose a chord sequence to another key, but I in almost every other case I have sticked to naming the chords so far.

Los Apollos - interplanetary surf music trio (Berlin)
"Chaos at the Lobster Lounge" OUT NOW as LP and download on Surf Cookie Records!

Page 1 of 1