Text entry for traditional Harmonic Analysis

• Feb 26, 2015 - 04:57

I'm trying to use MuseScore (one of the daily builds) to do some Harmonic Analysis. In particular, I want to annotate a score with Figured Bass Notation where the chord is represented by a Roman numeral (upper and lower case) with "stacked arabic" numbers at the right (i.e. a superscript with or without a subscript) that indicate the voicing of the chord.

Something like the Roman Numeral Analysis shown here:

//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_numeral_analysis .

Is this possible? If so, where is the technique documented ... or more simply: How do I do it?



Welcome aboard...

It's been decades since I've used figured bass, so I can't recall the specific layout style I used, but something like this is possible:


The wikipedia link you reference shows lower case Roman numerals, so instead of 'II', you can type 'ii', if that's what you want.

Anyway, figured bass is a brand new feature in MuseScore 2.0, set for release in March 2015. Work on the handbook and tutorials has progressed, but further documentation depends on the final release candidate.
Meanwhile, existing info. on figured bass can be found here:

In my posted image, to show Roman numerals, I used staff text (menu item: Style / Text / Staff) where I set the text size to 24, and the horizontal and vertical offset to 0.60sp and 10.00sp repectively. Under 'Alignment', the center text radio button was selected so that the Roman numerals are centered below the figured bass digits. Of course, these Roman numerals can be placed anywhere you want them - even to the side of the digits.


Attachment Size
Figured Bass.png 12.21 KB

In reply to by Jm6stringer

> The wikipedia link you reference shows lower case Roman numerals

Well, upper case for Major triads/chords, lower case for Minor is the traditional usage.

> Roman numerals can be placed anywhere you want them - even to the side of the digits

Yes, the style I was taught has an Upper/Lower case Roman numeral with either a single superscript, or dual super- subscript Arabic numbers on the right hand side (to signify various inversions, sixths and sevenths, e.g.).

But: I was actually asking it it were possible at all ... if the capability was part of MuseScore. It seems that it almost is. But no matter: I can do this with Noteflight online, as I have been doing.

Thanks for the reply! (And I may give your suggestion a try, too: It would be nice to have all my work in a single place.)

The new figured bass facility in 2.0 is great, but unfortunately it's really intended for figured bass, not Roman numeral analysis per se. The main relevant difference being, figured bass doens't use the Roman numeral - just the Arabic numerals. So you can placed "64" using the figured bass notation, but would need to place the "V" separately using lyric, staff text, etc.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

> The...facility in 2.0 is great, but unfortunately it's really intended for figured bass

Just so, and that (while disappointing) is not a deal-breaker for me. With fingers crossed, I was hoping that the feature existed but was as yet undocumented. I'm fine with it as it is.

Thanks for the input.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Just to explain a little more: I initially thought to include the Roman Numerals in the Figured Bass implementation (if you bother to check, they have been added in the font I created for it).

But, after some discussion with interested users, enough different styles of notating RNA emerged to force me to postpone this part. I have forgot all the details, but a trace can be presumably be found by searching the site for "roman numerals".

As a first, partial support, I have however added the possibility to line up the B.C. figures at their bottom, rather than at their top as usual for B.C., as this alignment is used with (some styles of?) RNA.

Note also that with 2.0, it is possible to add user-defined text styles; so, it is possible to define a text style called for instance "Roman Numerals" with the proper size, position, alignment, etc. and assign it to the relevant text fragments (whether they are staff texts or other) to have them properly formatted with a minimum of manual operations.

In reply to by Miwarre

@Miwarre.... Ah yes...
When I read the original post and tried my hand at Roman numeral analysis, I could sense that it wasn't as completely implemented as the figured bass feature.
I do, however, compliment you on your contribution in this area and appreciate your comments. I also agree that there are different styles of Roman numeral analysis. My own recollection (from decades ago) was that, for instance, in any major scale, triads built on scale degrees were all capitalized. It was understood that the II, III, and VI triads were minor mode - no lower case.
Anyway, with all the user controls available in MuseScore 2.0, I can see how RNA is possible - whatever style.

You people are doing an amazing job, and what great (and surprising) features have been added - especially with figured bass *and* tablature included in the same release! Such an accomplishment!
I eagerly await March 2015.
Best regards.
(BTW: how can one access the figured bass font to see the Roman numerals you mentioned?)

In reply to by Jm6stringer

"how can one access the figured bass font to see the Roman numerals you mentioned?"

Not easily, I agree. The fonts are embedded in the binary executable; to access them, the sources are needed; if one needs or want to look just at them, they are here .

Select the .ttf you are interested in (mscore-BC.ttf in this case) and use the "Raw" button (near "History") to download it (what actually happens pressing that button may depends on your browser...)

In reply to by Miwarre

> I have however added the possibility to line up the B.C. figures at their bottom, rather than at their top as usual for B.C.

You've lost me: What is "B.C."? "Bass Clef?" But you're right: At least the way I do it (as I was taught) is to annotate the RNA below the sta[ff|ves].

> with 2.0, it is possible to add user-defined text styles

At least at this point in my exploration of MuseScore, I'm afraid this capability is probably beyond me. I was totally unaware that MS allowed that level of customization.

But, if I can propose the RNA entry method for some future MuseScore release, it would be this:

  1. Select a note
  2. Enter text-entry mode (<C-k>)
  3. Enter the chord as, say, "V6/4" or "V4/3"
  4. Move to the next note
  5. Repeat...

This sequence marks up the staff with something like this:


And, while I freely admit my existing bias to this method because that's how it's done in Noteflight/Sibelius, it's also just very simple and intuitive. "6/4" is "six over four" and is just concatenated to the preceding text (whatever it may be).

It occurred to me that there should exist a font for Roman numeral analysis that doens't require any special software support - that just provides the necessary characters. Turns out after a brief search, there is. See this


The "demo" version is pretty useful as is, full version may well be worth the $25 he's asking.

I'd love one with full horizontal bars for the "V", and with the Arabic numerals & diminished symbols a bit bigger.

Actually, I know just enough about font design that I could probably put something together when I have time - after release of 2.0! It should be pretty darned simple if you've ever played with FontForge or another font editor before. Would be a wonderful contribution to the community!

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Here, BTW, is what I get with the aforementioned font. I entered these as lyrics, with the "Lyrics Odd Lines" text style set to SicilianNumeralsDemo, 14pt. The superscripted numbers are entered with "Shift". So the third chord, for example, is "I Shift+6 4".


In my post above, I meant to have said, "if someone who *does* have the time right now wants to tackle this, it would be a wonderful contribution to the community"...

I'd start with FreeSerif but edit the I and V to extend the serifs to full horizontal bars extending the entire width of the character. Then replace the characters above the numbers with superscripted versions of the numbers (eg, @ is a superscripted 2) and the leadings and/or kerning adjusted so things line up as expected vertically. Provide an easier access to the diminished and half-diminished symbols - copy them to "o" and "0", say - and you've got something!

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

> Here, BTW, is what I get with the aforementioned font
Holy moly, that's precisely what I wanted when I started this thread!
[Edit: I reread your post, and see now that you have given directions. I got too excited and glossed right over that bit.]

Now I am forced to ask: What gyrations are required to have that ability here? I can do quite a bit of hoop-jumping, if necessary.

And, while your original "would be a wonderful contribution" may not have been what you wanted to say, the meaning came across perfectly fine. In fact, I do have some time, and I'd be willing to pay back what I can. I'll gladly install FontForge, and dive right in ... if only I knew what needed to be done!

> edit the I and V to extend the serifs to full horizontal bars extending the entire width of the character

Can you paint a clearer picture for me? But, as I read on in your post -- replace the characters above the numbers with superscripted versions of the numbers (eg, @ is a superscripted 2) and the leadings and/or kerning adjusted so things line up as expected vertically -- leads me to believe that I am probably not the best fit for the task at hand.

If there is a way I can contribute, point me at it. I am (sadly) not the Donald Knuth of musical fonts.

So I'll leave it at my original query: What must I do to make those characters appear in my scores?

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Dagnabit! That is a cinch to do! You have given me precisely what I wanted, and I am thus a truly happy camper, indeed.

I'll retire to my musty corner once again, and remember that I owe you a beer. That is just as easy (perhaps even easier) than the entry method I proposed (er, stole from Noteflight).

Thank you!

In reply to by lasconic

What format is it? I had tried changing the filename to end in TTF and OTF, but neither allowed the file to be recognized by Windows Font Viewer. BTW, I see there are two copies of the file, the one in the Sicilian Numerals folder is 0 bytes, the one in the _MACOS folder is 29KB which looks more promising but I can't get it to work.

BTW, the license indicates you can distribute it but need to include the license text. I don't suppose that works for us?

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

The problem is that whoever created this file has done so on a Mac in such a way that the resource fork of the Mac file has been stuck on the front of the data fork. The data fork is the only part of the .ttf file that the PC needs (or can use), so a file prepared like this won't be accepted as a valid .ttf file on a PC. To resolve this problem you just have to remove the first 380 bytes from the .ttf file - then the file will be usable on a PC. I've done this and have attached the fixed version of the file below.

Attachment Size
Sicilian Numerals.zip 127.13 KB

In reply to by MarkWWW

Thank you! I am a reasonably technically adept person, but this is not something I'd have had much chance of figuring out on my own.

I am still wondering about the license and whether we could reasonably include this, or something based on it, in MuseScore. If nothing else, we could consider having a place on the site for downloading add-ons like this.

Thanks to all contributors for the info and th ecomments.

However, let me note that all of this has little to do with Basso Continuo and has much to do with other things like chord symbols, functional analysis and so on. In addition, there exist several styles of them.

It is a totally legitimate and interesting request, but it opens its own lot of cans of worms. So, it is not something I personally feel compelled to attempt to implement; if anybody else want to step forth, good! This is open source, folks!

Hi, this may not be the right place to ask. I am not a developer, and am only really trying to type out Roman numeral chords. Is there an easy way to do that? (sorry, I did not quite understand the posts above since they are rather technical).


In reply to by bone

The easiest way to type Roman numeral chords is to use either Lyrics (if you want them below the staff as is most customary) or Chord Symbols (if you want them above). To enter lyrics, click a note, press Ctrl+L, then start typing. To enter chord symbols, press Ctrl+K and start typing. For more information, see the appropriate sections of the Handbook.

I found a reasonable workaround that doesn't require buying and installing a special font. The font size and position can be specified for lyrics and figured bass, so by using both you can have a large roman numeral in one font next to smaller figured bass numbers.

For me, under Style -> General -> Figured Bass I set size: 6pt, vertical position: 7pt. Then under Style -> Text -> Lyrics Odd Lines I set size: 12, vertical offset 7sp. With these settings I can enter the roman numeral, then the figured bass for any stacked numbers. A diminished symbol is available in the list by pressing F2. The horizontal position of the numbers still has to be fixed using the arrow keys.

It looks like this: Capture.PNG

Attachment Size
Capture.PNG 21.38 KB

I realize this is an old thread and more recent solutions exist for figured bass...

BUT - when you want to do (what I will try to precisely describe as) "Traditional-Roman-Numeral-Figured-Bass-Harmonic-Analysis". This use of the lyric-line really does seem to be the best way - and I really do thank everyone who contributed to solving this problem...

That said, as of this date (9/20/2018), it was a royal pain in the butt trying to get the Sicilian Numerals font installed... Even after all these years, I had to: 1.) make the mistake that classical figured bass is not the same as jazz figured bass, 2.) find the George Hess "lyric-line" alternative, 3.) Download the George Hess "Sicilian Numerals" file, extract it and figure out it didn't work in Win10, 4.) do another search to find this thread, 5.) figure out merely typing .ttf on the end of the font file wouldnt work in Win10 and reinstall it as a .ttf, 6.) download the non-mac version tht deleted 300bytes that confused Win10, extract it, and reinstall it correctly...

My point?

Whoever is in charge of MuseScore - why not just include the correct font file, the whole "Traditional Roman Numeral Style Figured Bass" functionality, and George's video tutorial - in the next MuseScore distribution? Make it a standard part of MuseScore. The problem is basically solved, and it adds a nice new feature to the MuseScore program, but everything still lies asunder. It seems, if we just package it all together now, it should be fully complete.

In reply to by myMelodies

And after that obstacle course I just very luckily made it through - maybe we could call it "The LOL Style of Roman Numeral Figured Bass"?

LOL = Lyrics Odd Line

It seems to me it would be nice if this style of figured bass had its own functional designation in the menu or a plugin... I study under classical teachers, and they have always referred to the "old, traditional" method of figured bass (above), so I really didnt even know there was a more modern (jazz) style... It's nice to know both, so why not be able to access both directly from one of the main menu items (even setting the default font size to George's recommendation) - so everything is just ready to go?

In reply to by myMelodies

As discussed in other threads on the subject, the current thinking is that the best way forward is for someone to propose a standardization for RNA to the SMuFML folks, and then they can include the appropriate symbols in the next version of BravuraText. No reaosn we should have to (re)invent the wheel ourselves here.

Not sure what you mean about "jazz" style of figured bass, though. There is no such thing. Figured bass is figured bass, RN is RNA, and jazz chord symbols are jazz chord symbols. Three entirely separate things. MuseScore provides excellent support for figured bass and for chord symbols, but does not current provide support for RNA.

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