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8. Figured Bass

Figured bass is a shorthand method of indicating harmonic accompaniment for a bass line. Arabic numbers placed under the bass note designate the intervals (usually reduced to simple intervals) above the bass note. The figured bass does not indicate which voice (soprano, alto, or tenor) has which part (root, third, or fifth) of the chord. The intervals stay within the key signature unless chromatically altered (lesson 2). Figured bass does not indicate open or close position (Figure 1-27).

Figure 1-27. Figured Bass Examples



Write the notes above the bass note that are indicated by the figured bass numbers. The first measure has been done for you (Figure 1-28).

Figure 1-28. Figured Bass

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Answer Key

9. Roman Numeral Analysis

a. Roman numerals written under the staff indicate chord analysis. They are not used below the bass note except for analysis. The Roman numeral identifies the corresponding scale degree on which the triad is built. Upper case numerals represent Major triads. Lower case numerals represent minor triads. Uppercase numerals with a plus sign (+) indicate an augmented triad. A lower case numeral with a circle (o) indicates a diminished triad (Figure 1-29).

Figure 1-29. Quality of Triads

b. The root of the triad, not necessarily the bass note, is indicated by the Roman numerals whether the triad is in root position or in an inversion (Figure 1-30).

Figure 1-30. Root in Relation to Bass Note

NOTE: Roman numeral analysis can be combined with figured bass to show a complete analysis (triad root, triad inversion).


Write the Roman numeral analysis below the bass clef staff. The exercise is in Major and minor keys (Figure 1-31).

Figure 1-31. Roman Numeral Analysis

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David L. Heiserman, Editor

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Revised: June 06, 2015