The paper begins with a short history of harmonic ciphering, which developed from the 17th century with the practice of continuo. The signs for the leading note often were ambiguous and the paper shows the change in meaning of crossed out Arabic numerals which first denoted a chord including the leading note, then came to denote a diminished or, at times, an augmented interval. Roman numerals date back to Georg Joseph Vogler (1802), but were not adopted in France before the second part of the 20th century. The functional designation with the letters T, S and D is due to Hugo Riemann (1873).
In France, the ciphering of the morphology of the chords usually is kept distinct from that of the degree, allowing an easy differenciation between consonances and dissonances, or stable and unstable chords. Roman numerals indicate the position of the fundamental in the scale, but is not always sufficient; the functional ciphering of Riemann is particularly efficient to mark the role of the chord in the organization of the sentence. Music analysis has everything to gain in making use of these three methods.