Chord notation refers to the written notation for musical chords. This article describes musical chords in traditional Western styles
There are an almost infinite number of chords possible, although many are much more commonly found than others in compositions. Although it is possible to notate any chord using staff notation, showing not only the harmonic characteristics but also the exact voicing, staff notation is very difficult to read and requires years of training. In standard Western Musical notation, the staff ( AmE) or stave It also provides too much information making improvisation for Jazz much more difficult. Jazz is an American Musical art form which originated in the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States Other problems are that voicings for one instrument are not necessarily physically playable on another (for example, the thirteenth chord, played on piano with up to seven notes, is usually played on guitar as a 4 or 5 note voicing that is impossible to play on piano with one hand). In Music or Music theory, a thirteenth is the Note thirteen Scale degrees from the Root of a chord. The piano is a Musical instrument played by means of a keyboard that produces sound by striking steel strings with Felt covered hammers The guitar is a Musical instrument with ancient roots that is used in a wide variety of musical styles
As a result of these limitations, a shorthand describing the harmonic characteristics of chords is used.
In a musical composition, each chord serves a purpose. Musical composition is an original piece of Music the structure of a musical piece the process of creating a new For any given function there are many possible voicings, and although voicings can and do have a significant effect on the subjective musical qualities of a composition, generally these interpretations retain the central characteristics of the chord. This provides an opportunity for improvisation within a defined structure and is important to improvised music such as jazz. Jazz is an American Musical art form which originated in the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States Additionally, Chord substitution provides another way of modifying the harmonic structure of a piece of music to maintain interest. A chord substitution is the use of a chord in the place of another related chord in a Chord progression.
For more information on chords themselves, see Chord (music). This article describes musical chords in traditional Western styles This article concerns systems of notation for chords, rather than the chords themselves.
A chord consists of two or more notes played simultaneously that are certain intervals apart. The following table shows the labels given to these intervals and the respective notes for each of the twelve keys. Chord notation provides a shorthand for intervals, not actual notes. This table provides a mapping of intervals to actual notes to play.
|Interval from Root||Root||Minor Second||Major Second||Minor Third||Major Third||Perfect Fourth||Diminished Fifth / Augmented Fourth (Tritone)||Perfect Fifth||Minor Sixth (Augmented Fifth)||Major Sixth|
|Minor Seventh||Major Seventh|
|Key of F||F||F♯ / G♭||G||G♯ / A♭||A||A♯ / B♭||B||C||C♯ / D♭||D||D♯ / E♭||E|
|Key of C||C||C♯ / D♭||D||D♯ / E♭||E||F||F♯ / G♭||G||G♯ / A♭||A||A♯ / B♭||B|
|Key of G||G||G♯ / A♭||A||A♯ / B♭||B||C||C♯ / D♭||D||D♯ / E♭||E||F||F♯ / G♭|
|Key of D||D||D♯ / E♭||E||F||F♯ / G♭||G||G♯ / A♭||A||A♯ / B♭||B||C||C♯ / D♭|
|Key of A||A||A♯ / B♭||B||C||C♯ / D♭||D||D♯ / E♭||E||F||F♯ / G♭||G||G♯ / A♭|
|Key of E||E||F||F♯ / G♭||G||G♯ / A♭||A||A♯ / B♭||B||C||C♯ / D♭||D||D♯ / E♭|
|Key of B||B||C||C♯ / D♭||D||D♯ / E♭||E||F||F♯ / G♭||G||G♯ / A♭||A||A♯ / B♭|
|Key of F♯ / G♭||F♯ / G♭||G||G♯ / A♭||A||A♯ / B♭||B||C||C♯ / D♭||D||D♯ / E♭||E||F|
|Key of C♯ / D♭||C♯ / D♭||D||D♯ / E♭||E||F||F♯ / G♭||G||G♯ / A♭||A||A♯ / B♭||B||C|
|Key of G♯ / A♭||G♯ / A♭||A||A♯ / B♭||B||C||C♯ / D♭||D||D♯ / E♭||E||F||F♯ / G♭||G|
|Key of D♯ / E♭||D♯ / E♭||E||F||F♯ / G♭||G||G♯ / A♭||A||A♯ / B♭||B||C||C♯ / D♭||D|
|Key of A♯ / B♭||A♯ / B♭||B||C||C♯ / D♭||D||D♯ / E♭||E||F||F♯ / G♭||G||G♯ / A♭||A|
The first part of a symbol for a chord defines the root of the chord. The root of the chord will always be played by one of the instruments in the ensemble (usually by a bass instrument) -- failure to include the root means that the indicated chord is not being played. By convention, the root alone indicates a simple major triad, i. e. the root, the major third, and the perfect fifth above the root. After this, various additional symbols are added to modify this chord. There is unfortunately no universal standard for these symbols. The most common ones are presented here.
Chord notation does not easily provide for ways of describing all chords. Some chords can be very difficult to notate, and others that exist theoretically are rarely encountered. For example, there are 6 possible permutations of triads (chords with three notes) involving minor and major thirds and augmented/diminished and perfect fifths. However, conventionally only four are used (major, minor, augmented and diminished). There is nothing to stop a composer using the other two, but the question of what to call them is interesting. A minor third with an augmented fifth might be, for example, Am+, which will strike most musicians as odd; in fact this turns out to be the same as F/A (see slash chords below). A major third with a diminished fifth might be shown as A(♭5). Usually, when a composer requires a chord that is not easily described using this notation, he/she will indicate the required chord in a footnote or in the header of the music.
A major triad can be built on each note:
|C||C♯ / D♭||D||D♯ / E♭||E||F||F♯ / G♭||G||G♯ / A♭||A||A♯ / B♭||B|
Referring to the interval table, we can see that the notes to play for C are the root C, the major third E and the perfect fifth G. For B♭ the notes are B♭, D, F:
|Root||Major Third||Perfect Fifth|
|Root||Major Third||Perfect Fifth|
For the rest of this article, we will build our examples using C as the root of our chords.
Minor triads are the same as major triads, but with the third lowered by a half step. The most common notations are as follows:
|Root||Minor third||Perfect Fifth|
These are the same as a major triad, but with an augmented fifth instead of a perfect fifth. The most common ways to notate this are as follows:
|Root||Major third||Augmented fifth|
Diminished triads are similar to minor triads, but with a diminished fifth instead of a perfect fifth (the minor third is retained). The most common ways this is notated are as follows:
|Root||Minor third||Diminished fifth|
Please note that while the above symbols are commonly seen, the technically correct way to write a C diminished triad is C°.
A seventh chord is a triad with an added note, which is either the note a major 7th above the root, the note a minor 7th above the root (flatted 7th), or the note a diminished 7th above the root (double flatted 7th). Please note that the diminished 7th note is enharmonically the same note as the major 6th above the root of the chord.
There are several different kinds of seventh chords, including major, dominant, minor, and diminished. For example, if you add the major 7th interval to your triad the resulting chord is called a major 7th, because the note you are adding to your triad is a major 7th interval above the root and the base chord is a major chord. A major chord built with the flatted 7th note above the root is known as a major-minor 7th chord, or a dominant 7th chord, or simply just a 7th chord. However, a dominant 7th chord usually refers to a chord built on the 5th note of the scale (in C major, this would be G). The G chord is the dominant (V) chord in the key of C major, therefore a G7 chord in C major is the dominant 7th, and all the notes used in this chord are diatonic to the key of C Major.
The table below shows the various kinds of 7th chords:
|Major 7th||Minor-Major 7th||Augmented-Major 7th||(Dominant) 7th||Minor 7th||Augmented 7th||Half-Diminished 7th||Diminished 7th|
|Notational forms:||CM7 / Cmaj7 / CΔ7 / CΔ||CmM7 / Cmmaj7 / CminM7 / Cminmaj7 / C-M7 / C-maj7 / C-Δ||C+M7 / C+maj7 / CaugM7 / Caugmaj7 / CΔ+||C7 / C7||Cm7 / Cmin7 / C-7 / C-7||C+7 / Caug7 / C7♯5||CØ7 / Cm7♭5 / Cmin7♭5 / C-7♭5||C°7 / Cdim7|
|Example||C E G B||C E♭ G B||C E G♯ B||C E G B♭||C E♭ G B♭||C E G♯ B♭||C E♭ G♭ B♭||C E♭ G♭ B|
Extended tertian chords add further notes on to 7th chords. Of the 7 notes in the major scale, a seventh chord uses only 4. The other 3 notes can be added in any combination; however, just as with the triads and seventh chords, notes are most commonly stacked--a seventh implies that there is a fifth and a third and a root. In practice, especially in Jazz, certain notes can be omitted without changing the quality of the chord.
The 9th, 11th and 13th chords are known as Extended Tertian Chords. As the scale repeats for every seven notes in the scale, these notes are enharmonic to the 2nd, 4th, and 6th-- except they are more than an octave above the root. However, this does not mean that they must be played in the higher octave. Although changing the octave of certain notes in a chord (within reason) does change the way the chord sounds, it does not change the essential characteristics or tendency of it. Accordingly, using 9th, 11th and 13th in chord notation implies that the chord is an extended tertian chord rather than an added chord (see Added Chords below).
These are chords with the note that is an interval of a ninth added to the chord. The 9th notation implies that the 7th is also included in the chord, though in some cases it may be omitted. 9ths may be theoretically added to any type of chord, however they are most commonly seen with Major, Dominant and Minor sevenths.
The most commonly omitted note for voicings is the perfect 5th.
|Major 9th||Minor-Major 9th||Augmented-Major 9th||(Dominant) 9th||Minor 9th||Augmented 9th||Half-Diminished 9th||Diminished 9th|
|Notational forms:||CM9 / Cmaj9 / CΔ9||CmM9 / Cmmaj9 / CminM9 / Cminmaj9 / C-M9 / C-maj9||C+M9 / C+maj9 / CaugM9 / Caugmaj9||C9||Cm9 / Cmin9 / C-9||C+9 / Caug9 / C9♯5||CØ9||C°9 / Cdim9|
|Example||C E G B D||C E♭ G B D||C E G♯ B D||C E G B♭ D||C E♭ G B♭ D||C E G♯ B♭ D||C E♭ G♭ B♭ D♭||C E♭ G♭ B D♭|
Note that the terms half-diminished 9th and diminished 9th, strictly speaking, refer only to the natural diatonic extensions of the corresponding seventh chords, which have only the minor ninth. Such chords with a major ninth are best referred to the corresponding minor chord with lowered fifth: Cm9♭5 / . . etc. . .
These are theoretically 9th chords with the 4th note in the scale added. However, it is common to leave certain notes out. As well as the 5th, the 9th (2nd) can be omitted. Often the major 3rd is omitted because of a strong dissonance with the 11th (4th). Omission of the 3rd reduces an 11th chord to the corresponding suspended 7th or 9th chord and it is properly no longer an 11th chord (Aiken 2004, p. 104) (see Added Chords below). Similarly, omission of the 5th in a sharped 11th chord reduces its sound to a flat-five chord. (Aiken 2004, p. 94).
C-()-G-B♭-(D)-F = C-F-G-B♭-(D)
C-E-()-B♭-(D)-F♯ = C-E-G♭-B♭-(D)
|Major 11th||Minor-Major 11th||Augmented-Major 11th||(Dominant) 11th||Minor 11th||Augmented 11th||Half-Diminished 11th||Diminished 11th|
|Notational forms:||CM11 / Cmaj11 / CΔ11||CmM11 / Cmmaj11 / CminM11 / Cminmaj11 / C-M11 / C-maj11||C+M11 / C+maj11 / CaugM11 / Caugmaj11||C11||Cm11 / Cmin11 / C-11||C+11 / Caug11 / C11♯5||CØ11||C°11 / Cdim11|
|Example||C E G B D F||C E♭ G B D F||C E G♯ B D F||C E G B♭ D F||C E♭ G B♭ D F||C E G♯ B♭ D F||C E♭ G♭ B♭ D♭ F||C E♭ G♭ B D♭ F♭|
Alterations from the natural diatonic chords can be specified as C9♯11 . . etc. .
These are theoretically 11th chords with the 6th note in the scale added. Again it is common to leave certain notes out. After the 5th, the most commonly omitted note is the troublesome 11th (4th). The 9th (2nd) can also be omitted. A very common voicing on guitar for a 13th chord, for example, is just the root, 7th, 3rd and 13th (6th). This reduced chord does convey the essence of the 13th chord. Omission of the 5th in a flatted 13th chord, however, reduces its sound to an augmented chord and it is no longer properly a 13th.
C-E-()-B♭-(D)-(F)-A♭ = C-E-G♯-B♭-(D)-(F)
|Major 13th||Minor-Major 13th||Augmented-Major 13th||(Dominant) 13th||Minor 13th||Augmented 13th||Half-Diminished 13th||Diminished 13th|
|Notational forms:||CM13 / Cmaj13 / CΔ13||CmM13 / Cmmaj13 / CminM13 / Cminmaj13 / C-M13 / C-maj13||C+M13 / C+maj13 / CaugM13 / Caugmaj13||C13||Cm13 / Cmin13 / C-13||C+13 / Caug13 / C13♯5||CØ13||C°13 / Cdim13|
|Example||C E G B D F A||C E♭ G B D F A||C E G♯ B D F A||C E G B♭ D F A||C E♭ G B♭ D F A||C E G♯ B♭ D F A||C E♭ G♭ B♭ D♭ F A♭||C E♭ G♭ B D♭ F♭ A♭|
Alterations from the natural diatonic chords can be specified as C11♭13 . . etc. .
An important characteristic of Jazz is the extensive use of sevenths. The combination of 9th (2nd), 11th (4th) and 13th (6th) notes with 7ths in a chord give jazz chord voicing their distinctive sound. However the use of these notes is not exclusive to the jazz genre; in fact they are very commonly used in folk, classical and popular music generally. These chords are called added chords because they are basic triads with notes added. Added chords can be described as having a more open sound than extended chords. Without the 7th, these chords lose their jazzy feel, but can still be very complex. There are also suspended (sus) chords in which the 3rd is replaced with the 4th or the 2nd; they can be played with or without the 7th.
Notation must provide some way of showing that a chord is an added chord as opposed to extended. There are two ways this is shown generally, and it is very common to see both methods on the same score. One way is to simply use the word 'add':
The second way is to use 2 instead of 9, implying that it is not a 7th chord:
Note that in this way we potentially get other ways of showing a 9th chord:
Generally however the above will be shown as simply C9, which implies a 7th in the chord. Added chord notation is useful with 7th chords to indicate partial extended chords. For example:
This would indicate that the 13th is added to the 7th, but without the 9th and 11th.
The use of 2, 4 and 6 as opposed to 9, 11 and 13 pretty safely indicates that the chord does not include a 7th unless specifically specified. However, it does not mean that these notes must be played within an octave of the root, nor the extended notes in 7th chords should be played outside of the octave, although it is commonly the case.
It is possible to have added chords with more than one added note. The most commonly encountered of these are 6/9 chords, which are basic triads with the 6th and 2nd notes of the scale added. These can be confusing because of the use of 9, yet the chord does not include the 7th. A good rule of thumb is that if any added note is less than 7, then no 7th is implied, even if there are some notes shown as greater than 7.
Finally, mention should be made of a special kind of commonly encountered chord, the suspended chord. A suspended chord is a triad where the 3rd is replaced by another note. In practice the 3rd is replaced either by the 4th or the 2nd. These are called suspended chords because they create an impression of suspense. These chords "desire" to resolve into a normal triad. Suspended chords are notated with the symbols "sus4" or "sus2". Sometimes you will see "sus" on its own, in which case the 4 is implied. This can be combined with any other notation. So for example:
This chord is an extended 9th chord with the 3rd replaced by the 4th (C-F-G-B♭-D).
In addition to all of the ways of building chords (listed above), a chord may be inverted. Inverting a chord refers to playing a chord, but with a note other than the root as the lowest note of the chord. Take, for example, the C Major Chord. Refer to the table below for a list of inversions.
C Major Chord
|Root Position||First Inversion||Second Inversion|
|C - E - G||E - G - C||G - C - E||B♭ - C - E - G|
|Written as: C||Written as: C/E||Written as: C/G||Written as: C7/B♭|
The notation C/E indicates that you are playing a C major chord, but with an E in the Bass, likewise the notation C/G indicates that a C major chord is played with a G in the bass.