V (five) chord in minor mode should have a minor quality, but it shows up a capital Roman numeral (major quality) in some TheoryTabs

This question came over via email and I thought it was good enough that others could benefit from it.

I was researching musical theory, and came upon the Hook Theory site.

In order to see what it was, I entered a song that I know, and that I am analysing.

The Hook Theory system displayed part of the song, Sultans of Swing (Dire Straits), with an apparent “error” in the chord labeling.

The song is in the key of Dm:
i ii III IV v VI VII
D E F G A Bb C

The Hook system showed the correct chord, A major, but incorrectly labelled it as the V chord.

The fifth scale tone chord of Dm is A minor (A C E), not A major (A C# E).

It makes no mention of chord substitution being used.

I realise that the " V " might refer to making the Am (v) into an A (V),
but, it is only a " V " in the key of D major:


D E F# G A B C#

The melodic minor scale uses a raised seventh degree (C#),
and chord substitutions work best when supporting the melody, which is why, I suppose, the A major chord is used.

I’m wondering exactly what the Hook Theory system show’s and teaches, based on that example, as it would be very misleading and confusing to someone who is trying to learn music theory, doesn’t know what that material yet.

Thanks for your comments about theorytabs.

One important thing to keep in mind is that the Theorytab section of our website relies on contributions entirely from our community of users. Since we don’t do the analyses ourselves, we can’t guarantee that the analyses will be error free. The database works like wikipedia in the sense that anyone who finds an error can go in and make corrections, so if you see any problems in song, I encourage you to fix them. It just takes a second and improves the experience for everyone. As a teaching tool, we view that database as an aid to augment formal instruction in theory. We wouldn’t recommend someone new learn theory just by browsing the database without any additional tools. Our book for example, contains carefully curated examples along with instruction based around them that is more appropriate for someone trying to learn theory.

For the song you bring up, you are correct that v chords are minor in the natural minor mode. The person who did this analysis, had to use a borrowed chord to get the Major V chord used in the song (I would note that major V chords would be correct without substitution in the Melodic and Harmonic modes, however). That said, your point that we currently don’t show directly whether a chord is borrowed could be confusing to new people trying to learn music theory just by browsing the theorytab database. Adding a label that a chord is borrowed is something that we’ve considered in the past and may end up doing in the future. Currently the way you can tell that a chord is borrowed is by hovering your mouse over the chord to highlight the scale degrees used in it in the staff above. Borrowed chords will contain non-diatonic scale degrees labeled with a hash pattern on them.

I just checked and the Sultans of Swing example you brought up is currently missing melody so it won’t do this, unfortunately. Hopefully, someone like yourself who has figured out the melody will take the time to transcribe it! :wink:

Hope that answer helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.


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