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Explain Chord Symbols and Practices

Explain Chord Symbols and Practices

Chords are frequently indicated by utilization of symbols, especially in lead sheet notation. Presently there are a number of fundamental parts of a chord symbol:

The root, indicated simply by a letter.
The triad quality, indicated by a number of different symbols, this kind as Cmin, this could lengthen towards the family quality of a 6th or 7th chord.
A family designation, this kind as six or seven.
The five, if this is modified [such since min7b5].
Tensions [9, 11, 13] and added notes [2].

In addition, there might be signs intended for bass notes, hybrid chords, and poly-chords, as well as diagrams  for guitar or additional string devices that show particular methods to carry out the chord.

Whilst variants can be found, a few methods possess surfaced that are approved throughout a fairly wide spectrum of musicians. The preferences we would recommend are common (of course not universal) in Berklee College of Music, where all of us think regarding this a lot-based around the experiences of training and observing the experiences of numerous thousands of college students. [Check How I got into Berklee College of Music eBook on Amazon here]

The general guideline: letters indicate note titles, and numbers indicate scale degrees depending on a main scale.

Therefore, the 7 of C major is 4. An 11 of C major is  the note F. The greatest numeral utilized in common practice is usually 13. Some of these may end up being modified simply by an accidental: any sharp [#, up a half step] or flat [b, down a half step].

Let us consider each one of these elements individually below.

Jazz It Up A Little


Chord roots are indicated as any particular records [A to G, possibly including accidentals] or chord functions. Right now there are 3 common conventions for suggesting chord function.

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Roman Numerals, all uppercase [II V I].
Roman Numerals, combined case, with uppercase implying major chords and lowercase indicating small chords [ii V I, assuming a major key].
Arabic numerals, widely used in Nashville style notation [2 5 1]. [Read more about Roman Numerals Symbols]

Triad Quality

Triads can become indicated with an extremely wide range of symbols, there is definitely no general opinion.

A chord root with no quality indicator is thought main. In case you see an abbreviation for major, this in fact relates to the 7. So, a CMaj7 chord is [C E G B]. Common abbreviations for main consist of M, ma, maj, and △, however the common convention is to leave these types of out of triads.

Therefore, a C triad can be written as C, not CMaj, although CMaj can only indicate a C major triad: C E G.

Minor is indicated simply by m, min, mi, an en-dash, or a hyphen [usually, just people that do not understand how to make en-dashes make use of hyphens here]. Cmin, Cmi, C-, C-, almost all suggesting C Eb G.

In Berklee College of Music, college students are encouraged to hand-write a dash to add additional distinction from numerous main abbreviations, particularly the normal misunderstandings of M and m, which are generally rendered likewise in fonts and handwriting, especially the Jazz Text font. Since 2014, most of the faculty are preferring to use mi as the very best compromise among clarity conciseness.

Sustained triads [where the 3 is certainly replaced] are indicated with sus, generally followed by a 2 or a 4. In the event that no numeral is included, this is presumed to become a sus4. Csus4 is C F G.

Reduced triads are indicated by dim, di, o, or ᴼ. Cdim is C Eb Gb.

Increased triads are indicated with aug, au, or +. C+ is C E G#.

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Chord Family members

Chord family members intended for 6th and 7th chords are given with either a 6 or a 7. The majority of commonly, these types of notes are certainly not placed in parentheses.

Major 7 chords are indicated with M, ma, Ma, maj, Maj, and △ before the 7. CMa7 is C E G B.

Dominant 7 chords have no unintentional indication. C7 is C E G Bb.

Although parentheses are usually reserved specifically for tensions 9, 11, and 13, they are typically utilized in the minor/major 7 chord, this kind of as Cmi(ma7), which are the notes C Eb G B.

The triadic quality of reduced and increased chords reaches the sevenths. Cdim7 is usually C Eb Gb Bbb.

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A half-diminished chord is usually a reduced triad plus a dominant 7. This is indicated by either ø7 or a variety of minor plus 7b5. Cø7 and Cmi7b5 are C Eb Gb Bb.

5: While the nature of the five is generally assumed, there are two instances exactly where this is indicated.

Power chords include the root and a 5. C5 is C G.
Modifications of the five comes after the 7, generally with out parentheses. A Cmi7b5 is C Eb Gb Bb.


Chord tensions 9, 11, and 13 are typically placed in parentheses. Frequently, they are ordered sequentially, from low to high, even though this is not really usually the case. A common abbreviation for 7th chords having a single tension is to keep out the 7. Therefore, C7(9) and C9 may indicate the same group of notes: C E G Bb D.

To add a tension to a triad, the word “add” is used. Cadd9 is C E G D.

Like a shorthand to get the support of any tensions, the abbreviation “alt” is used. C(alt) can consist of any kind of obtainable tensions.

The Slash

The slash symbol is utilized to indicate a number of possibilities. Hence, different authors will imply different constructs with all the same symbol. Take for example, Eb/F.

Bass Note. Upon the still left is the chord, on the right is the bass note. Right here, we all have Eb G Bb over the note F.
Polychord. A polychord is usually two chords performed simultaneously: all of the notes Eb G Bb F A C.
Upper-Structure Triads. Yet we actually recommend a horizontal collection for all those.

Horizontal Line

A couple of two chords separated by a horizontally line shows an upper-structure triad, which is usually a shorthand to the make use of tensions. The bottom note is the root chord, the top chord is the UST, which is a triad centered on the root chord’s 5, 7, or 9.  [Read more about UST – Upper-Structure Triads]

Consider: [Ab – Bb7]

In this instance, it means possibly using any kind of notes through the Bb7 chord [Bb D F Ab] in addition the notes from an Ab triad (Ab C Eb), yet prioritizing guideline tones [3 and 7, or D and Ab] and tensions [9, 11, 13, or Ab C Eb]. Although some writers make use of the slash for USTs, it is clearer to render these horizontal lines, rather than the already-overloaded slash. The UST explains the simple blend.

Chord Diagrams

Associated a chord symbol may be a chord diagram, or chord “frame”, which is symbolic representation intended for a string instrument like a guitar or ukulele. The vertical lines indicate strings, and the horizontal ones show frets, with dots displaying precisely what fret and string to press.

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