Seventh Chords and Roman Numerals

Additional numbers are used along with roman numerals to indicate seventh chords and their inversions. A seventh chord can be found in root position or any one of three inversions. A seven after the roman numeral means a seventh chord in root position. A 6 and a 5 after the roman numeral means a seventh chord in first inversion (third in the bass). A 4 and a 3 after the roman numeral means a seventh chord in second inversion (fifth in the bass). A 4 and a 2 after the roman numeral means a seventh chord in third inversion (seventh in the bass). Refer to the examples below.

Root in the Bass
Root Position

Third in the Bass
First Inversion

Fifth in the Bass
Second Inversion

Seventh in the Bass
Third Inversion

The numbers after the roman numerals are a representation of intervals found above the bass note. The notes represented by the numbers can be played in any octave above the bass note.

The seven after the roman numeral in the root position seventh chord actually means that notes a third, a fifth, and a seventh are located above the bass note. The 6 and 5 in the first inversion roman numeral symbol means that notes a sixth, a fifth, and a third are located above the bass note. The 4 and 3 in the second inversion roman numeral symbol mean that notes a third, a fourth, and a sixth are located above the bass note. The 4 and 2 in the third inversion roman numeral symbol mean that notes a fourth, a second, and a sixth are located above the bass note.

  1. In the following example the the supertonic chord (iio) occurs twice: once in first inversion (65) and once in second inversion (43). The o with a slash through it means that the chord is a half-diminished seventh chord. Click on the speaker icon to listen to the example.

    from "Standchen" by Schubert







  2. The following example uses the supertonic seventh chord in third inversion (42) the the dominant seventh chord in second inversion (43).

    from Go Down Moses



    from Piano Sonata, Op. 2, No. 1 by Beethoven



    from Song without Words, Op. 38, No. 4 by Mendelssohn