How do I determine figured bass in a chorale?!

Question: How do I determine figured bass in a chorale!?
Musicians, I need your help again =]!. I CANNOT figure out how to work backwards with figured bass!. If I'm given the FB in an exercise with the key, I can write the chorale just fine!. If I'm given a 4 part chorale I can determine the roman numeral analysis but I can't figure out the figured bass!. What confuses me is the doubled tone!. We're covering the cadential 6-4 and 7th chords and their inversions!. I really want to know how to determine the FB before it gets too advanced and out of hand for me!. Please help!Www@Enter-QA@Com

You have many questions!. I will try to separate them!.

#1: Figured bass
Theory teachers tend to confuse their students unnecessarily about figured bass!.

ALL that figured bass is is a way of accounting for the notes present ABOVE THE BASS!. (this has nothing to do with Roman numerals, although the two are often put together by 20th century theorists who think that they tell the same story!.!.!.)

So, look at the chorale's bass line, note by note!. What are the pitches above that bass note!? Now, think of those pitches in terms of intervals!. What are the INTERVALS present above the bass note!? Write those numbers down below your bass note, and move on to the next one!.

If you have a D in the bass, and two B's and an F# in the upper voice, you figure out all the intervals!. D up to B is a 6th, and D up to F# is a 3rd!. Put 6 and 3 as your figured bass!. Were those upper voices both in the key signature!? As in, does the key allow for B-natural and F# with no alterations!? If so, then you're done!. But let's say you're in a key with a signature of 1 flat!. The B-natural gets a "natural" sign in the notation, so you should put a natural sign before the 6 of your figured bass!. And the F# gets a sharp sign in the notation, so you should put a sharp sign before the 3 of your figured bass!. THEN you're done!

#2: Roman numeral analysis
Now, the Roman numeral bit is a whole other can of worms!. The problem is that theorists like to teach figured bass symbols as if they actually MEAN "1st inversion," "2nd inversion," etc!. This is historically not the case!. If you see 6/4 as the figured bass, this does NOT automatically mean this is a second-inversion chord!. It means that the bass note has a diatonic 6th and a 4th above it!. (this is precisely why theorists argue about whether a cadential 6/4 is a "I 6/4" or a "V 6/4")

Write your figured bass symbols out as I have described above, and then determine what the chord's root is!. Let's go back to my D - B - B - F# chord!.

We're going to imagine that we're in the key of G major!. What is the root of D-B-B-F#!? The answer is B!. So, figure out how that note (B) fits within the key of G major!. It is the 3rd scale degree, right!? So you write that number as a Roman numeral -- iii!. The decision for whether to make the Roman numeral III or iii is based on whether the triad is major or minor, respectively!.

#3: doubled tones
In a four voice setting, any triad will HAVE to have some chord tone doubled!. When you're doing a Roman numeral analysis, it doesn't really matter which tone is doubled!. If my D-B-B-F# chord had been written as D-D-B-F#, it would still be a B minor (iii) chord!. (doubling rules are more important for part-writing than they are for determining Roman numeral analysis)!.

If you have a 7th chord, then you probably DON'T have any notes doubled!.!.!.unless one note from the chord has been omitted!. Usually, if there is an omitted tone (imagine D-F#-C-D -- that doesn't stack in thirds, so it's not a triad), it's the fifth of the chord!. So take D-F#-C-D and try to stack it in thirds, but with one third missing!. D-F#-(A)-C-D -- the A is the missing note!.

#4: Cadential 6/4
I'm going to leave this to your professor, because different theorists have different points of view!. I'm trying really hard to bite my tongue about telling you which point of view is actually correct!. :-)

Does this help at all!?

Some examples from the bass upwards:

CEGC = 5/3 (usually notated as nothing)
EGCC = 6/3 (notated as 'just' 6)
GGEC = 6/4
GBDF = 7/5/3 (notated as 7)
BDFG = 6/5/3 (notated as 6/5)
DFGB = 6/4/3
FGBD = 6/4/2Www@Enter-QA@Com

Not sure what book you are using but get Harmony by Walter Piston!. All that stuff is in there!. Www@Enter-QA@Com

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