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Standard chord notation

Postby David Etheridge » Thu Nov 03, 2005 8:32 pm

Hi folks,
here's a standard system of chord notation taken from Sammy Nestico's book 'The Complete Arranger'. Having a standardised version of chord shorthand means less chance of confusion on sessions and gigs. I beleive that this version is the standard form used by all the top arrangers (Mr. Nestico is currently one of the major guys), so it's useful to know this. He got it from 'Standardised Chord Symbol Notation' by Cark Brandt and Clinton Roemer (pub. Roerick Music co, USA)

Here we go:
Major chords will be indicated thus: C (and not Cmaj or ma).
Sixth chords: C6 (not C (A) (addA) or similar).
Seventh chords with the flattened seventh: C7 (not C add Bb).
Minor chords: Cm (rather than Cmin, C- or similar).
Minor 7ths: Cm7 (not C-7, min7th or similar)
Major 7ths: Cmaj7 or Cma7 (not CM7, or C with a triangle, although some people use the latter).
9ths work in the same way as 7ths (not Cmaj7+9, add D or other confusing stuff).
Aug 7ths with a #5: C+7 (not C7+, C7 (#5) or C7+5).
Aug 9ths : C+9 as for aug 7ths.
Thirteenths: C13 (and not C7 (13), C7+6, C9 add A, etc).
Diminished chords: Co; the o is a superscript placed next to the top half of the C but I can't do that on this computer! (not C-, Cdim, C7o, etc).
Six nine chords: C6/9 (not C2/6, C13 (no7) or C6 add D).
Seventh with a flat 5 chord: C7(b5) (not C7-5, C7#4, C7(5b)).
Half diminished chords-a minor 7ths with a flat 5: Cmi7(b5), although you'll find some folks use a o with a line through it, like the phase reverse sign on your mixing desk (but avoid things like Cmi7-5 and Cmi7 5b).
Seventh with a flat ninth: C7(b9). (Avoid C9b, Cb9, C9-, C(add Db)).
Minor with a major 7th: Cmi(ma7). (Not Cmi add B, Cmi+B, C-7.
Raised ninths: C7(#9) (rather than C7(+9), C+9, C7(b3) or C9+).
Sus chords: C7sus (not C7(sus4), C7 (add F), C7 (alt 4th), C7 (+4) or C7 #3)).
Augmented 11th chords can be C9(#11), (not C+11, C11+, C11#, C9+11, or C9 (b12)).
Note that the + sign is used to indicate augmented, rather than a substitute for a #. Some musos use the dash (-) to mean minor, dim, or even a flat. No wonder you can get confused
Try not to use lower case letters on your parts for other players: a badly written 'mi' could be read as 'mj': is it major or minor? Is it real or is it Memorex (hands up all those who remember that advert )
MA is never used by itself, only in Ma7 or Ma9. Just write the chord name alone for the major chord (eg: Cm/ C). I once had a fine time on a gig with a rhythm guitarist who couldn't work out major and minor chords, to chaotic effect on some tunes!

So that's it for the present. Even with this shorthand, sometimes you've got no option than to write C13 #11 b9 b5!


Best wishes,
Dave
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby DavidW » Thu Nov 03, 2005 9:24 pm

Thats very helpful!

Simple Roman Numerals (all examples are in C major)

I - Tonic. (C Major)
II - Supertonic (D Minor)
III - Mediant (E Minor)
IV - Sub Dominant (F Major)
V - Dominant (G Major)
VI - Sub-mediant (A Minor)
VII - Sub-tonic (B-Diminished)

The triad is made up of a root, third and fifth. The Root always stays the same. The fifth and third move accordingly

Triads come in different versions, according to which note is in the base

a - root - CEG
b - 1st inversion - EGC
c - 2nd inversion - GEC
d - 3rd inversion (in a dominant 7th where the 7th is flattened,) Bb-C-E-G

a flat or sharp sign before the chord indicates that the root of the chord is sharpened/flattened accordingly
i.e
bIIb - first inversion of the flattened supertonic
F - Ab - Db (the root is Db) known as the now-infamous n6th!

Alternatively, type music theory into Wikipedia
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby David Etheridge » Thu Nov 03, 2005 9:56 pm

I've been looking at Dave Stewart's (the keyboard player, not the Eurhtyhmics axeman) mighty tome 'The Musician's Guide to Reading and Writing Music' and he has a more simplified version which seems to be easier to grasp.
Here's the gist:

C : major chord.
Cm: minor chord.
C7: seventh chord.
Cm7: minor 7th chord.
C6: sixth chord.
Cm6: minor sixth.
Cdim: diminished.
Caug: augmented.
C7/9: ninth.
Cm7/9. Minor ninth.
Cmaj7: Major seventh.

And he also adds a system of inversion notation:
C1: C/E, 1st inversion.
C2: C/G, 2nd inversion,
C3: C/Bb, 3rd or last inversion.

Which should keep you going for a while!

Best wishes,
Dave.
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby Mike Senior » Fri Nov 04, 2005 11:12 am

David E.: Is there any chance that you can add examples for each of the chord symbols you list, listing the notes in the chord and indicating which is in the bass. I know this might seem a little like overkill, but it's probably worth it all being completely cut and dried for those who might not know what a given bunch of notes is even called in the first place.
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby DavidW » Fri Nov 04, 2005 1:42 pm

David Etheridge wrote:I've been looking at Dave Stewart's (the keyboard player, not the Eurhtyhmics axeman) mighty tome 'The Musician's Guide to Reading and Writing Music' and he has a more simplified version which seems to be easier to grasp.
Here's the gist:



C : major chord. (C-E-G-C)
Cm: minor chord. (C-Eb-G-C)
C7: seventh chord.(C-E-G-Bb-C)
Cm7: minor 7th chord. (C-Eb-G-Bb-C)
C6: sixth chord. (C-E-(G)-A-C)
Cm6: minor sixth (C-Eb-(G)-A-C)
Cdim: diminished.(C-Eb-F#-A-C)
Caug: augmented. (C-E-G#-C)
C7/9: ninth.(C-E-G-Bb-(C)-D)
Cm7/9. Minor ninth. (C-Eb-G-Bb-(C)-D)
Cmaj7: Major seventh.(C-E-G-B-C)

I've copied Dave's chart and added notation. Hope it helps and is right!
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby EmGee » Fri Nov 04, 2005 4:42 pm

I know you're gonna hate me for being pedantic, but...

I think that's a Gb, not an F# in the C dim chord.



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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby Mike Senior » Fri Nov 04, 2005 5:02 pm

EmGee wrote:I think that's a Gb, not an F# in the C dim chord.

On a slightly less humorous note, is there a way in this simpler system of distinguishing between the diminished triad on C (C, Eb, Gb) and the diminished-seventh chord on C (C, Eb, Gb, Bbb [or A, or whatever the hell you want to call it!])?
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby DavidW » Fri Nov 04, 2005 10:13 pm

Although, F# is more closely related to the key of C than Gb, that was my justification, and that more people would probably know what F# was than Gb. (Yes, I know its not strictly a minor 3rd)

Yours enharmonically,
David
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby David Etheridge » Sat Nov 05, 2005 9:00 am

Mike Senior wrote:
EmGee wrote:I think that's a Gb, not an F# in the C dim chord.


On a slightly less humorous note, is there a way in this simpler system of distinguishing between the diminished triad on C (C, Eb, Gb) and the diminished-seventh chord on C (C, Eb, Gb, Bbb [or A, or whatever the hell you want to call it!])?


Hi MG,
actually when notating dim chords, I've found it common practice in printed charts for Eb and F# to be in there together. A thought has just struck me that this form of notation may be related to key signatures, as the #F is the first sharp in a key signature, while Gb occurs a few flats in, if you get my drift!
Of course may be wrong but it's as good an excuse as any!

Mike, as far as I know, the only way to distinguish between the triad and the chord is in the number of notes written down? I'm guessing that the triad will have an inherent quality that's subtly different from a full blown four note chord. At least that's the way it seems to me.

In fact I find that all chords even up to 13 and #11s have their own 'flavour' (if that's the word). When composing my '800 chords in a piece' music I find I get a physical 'churn' in the solar plexus whwn I've found the right one, however arcane a chord irt might be!

Dave
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby David Etheridge » Sat Nov 05, 2005 9:02 am

DavidW wrote:

I've copied Dave's chart and added notation. Hope it helps and is right!


Hi Dave W,
yes, it is right, but in Dave Stewart's book he omitted the top C in each case, presumbaly to show how each extra degree of the chord relates to the previous ones.
Thus C9 is C-E-G-Bb-D, etc.
I hope that's clear.

Dave.
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby DavidW » Sat Nov 05, 2005 11:12 am

Hi Dave,

I thought that was probably the case, so I parenthesised the octave C.

Thanks for your help,
David
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby Gethin Webster » Sat Nov 05, 2005 1:40 pm

Mike Senior wrote:
EmGee wrote:I think that's a Gb, not an F# in the C dim chord.

On a slightly less humorous note, is there a way in this simpler system of distinguishing between the diminished triad on C (C, Eb, Gb) and the diminished-seventh chord on C (C, Eb, Gb, Bbb [or A, or whatever the hell you want to call it!])?

I generally use:
C Eb Gb = Cdim
C Eb Gb A = Cdim7
(and C Eb Gb Bb = Cm7b5 to distinguish between diminished and half-diminished 7ths)
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby Kayvon » Sun Nov 06, 2005 1:44 pm

DavidW wrote:Simple Roman Numerals (all examples are in C major)

I - Tonic. (C Major)
II - Supertonic (D Minor)
III - Mediant (E Minor)
IV - Sub Dominant (F Major)
V - Dominant (G Major)
VI - Sub-mediant (A Minor)
VII - Sub-tonic (B-Diminished)

I think it is good practice to notate the minors with small case numerals eg,

ii - Supertonic
iii - Mediant
vi - Sub mediant

And also call the seventh interval the leading note and notate it vii with a small circle on the top right.

At least that seems to be the way the ABRSM prefer it currently.
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby DavidW » Sun Nov 06, 2005 3:58 pm

Thanks for that Kayvon. I'd forgotten about the practice of notating minors. Its been a while since I did A'level, Grade 5 and all the rest of it. I'll think I'll look at the ABRSM stuff when I next go home. Didn't know about the 7th/leading note though.

Cheers,
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby EmGee » Mon Nov 07, 2005 11:28 am

David Etheridge wrote:
Mike Senior wrote:
EmGee wrote:I think that's a Gb, not an F# in the C dim chord.

On a slightly less humorous note, is there a way in this simpler system of distinguishing between the diminished triad on C (C, Eb, Gb) and the diminished-seventh chord on C (C, Eb, Gb, Bbb [or A, or whatever the hell you want to call it!])?

Hi MG,
actually when notating dim chords, I've found it common practice in printed charts for Eb and F# to be in there together. A thought has just struck me that this form of notation may be related to key signatures, as the #F is the first sharp in a key signature, while Gb occurs a few flats in, if you get my drift!
Of course may be wrong but it's as good an excuse as any!


I believe that as the diminished chord is a dischordant flattening of a triad, (that is a minor triad with a flattened fifth) it should be referred to as such - hence the Gb rather than F#. The other poster is incorrect, that the A is not technically a Bbb, even though it appears to be a 7th it is not.

As a rule it's considered poor form (by those Bach fans among us) to mix and match sharps and flats within a chord.
The consistancy of this approach alows for all dim 7 chords to be correctly recorded without ever mixing #s and bs, so, for instance, F#dim is F# A C (and i'd always write c natural), D#. Gbdim is, rather horribly Gb Bbb Dbb Fbb. Yuk!

Yours, pretensiously,


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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby Mike Senior » Mon Nov 07, 2005 12:57 pm

EmGee wrote:The other poster is incorrect, that the A is not technically a Bbb, even though it appears to be a 7th it is not.


Ouch! That's me put in my place...

And Walter Piston in his book 'Harmony'. And Schoenberg in his Harmonielehre. And R.O. Morris in 'The Oxford Harmony Volume One'.

Or, to put it another way: what's the seventh chord on the leading note in G minor? It has both sharps and flats in it, by my count.

Perhaps you were referring to a diminished seventh chord on Fsharp? It would be A in that one...
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby EmGee » Mon Nov 07, 2005 1:36 pm

Far be it for little ol' me to argue with Mr. Schoenberg!!

I'm yet to see J.C. Bach mix and match his bs and #s, although quite how he would contend with a diminished 7th augmented 9 chord is anyone's guess! I suppose there must be situations where it is necessary, however undesirable.

The question is, though, and I don't profess to have an answer to this one, is the diminished seventh chord simply a dischordant version of the 7b5, in which case a Cdim would indeed contain a Bbb, or should it be viewed as a chord in it's own right, in which case the A is not a double-diminished seventh, but a minor sixth above the root.

Hmm, wish I'd just shut up now. I'll get my coat.


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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby EmGee » Mon Nov 07, 2005 1:47 pm

Mike Senior wrote:
Or, to put it another way: what's the seventh chord on the leading note in G minor? It has both sharps and flats in it, by my count.

Perhaps you were referring to a diminished seventh chord on Fsharp? It would be A in that one...

Sorry, I've just re-read my message and I was unclear as to what I meant. In Gminor, the leading not diminised chord is indeed F#, which contains F# A C and Eb. What I MEANT to say is that if notating on a score, as you're in Gminor (two flats) there's only need to write a sharp by the F, hence it would read F# A C E.

How did I get involved in this? Mike - you're the man, I'll go away...
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby David Etheridge » Mon Nov 07, 2005 2:39 pm

EmGee wrote:

I believe that as the diminished chord is a dischordant flattening of a triad, (that is a minor triad with a flattened fifth) it should be referred to as such - hence the Gb rather than F#. The other poster is incorrect, that the A is not technically a Bbb, even though it appears to be a 7th it is not.

Yours, pretensiously,


EmGee

Hi MG,
not quite. If you count up in a dimished scale you get a 7th from C to A.
Remember the minor 3rd interval between each note of the chord, so:
C=1
d=2
Eb=3.
F=4
Gb/F#=5.
Ab/G#=6.
A=7 (Bbb?)
So even though C to A is a 6th, when you use a dimished scale it becomes a 7th!


I know, don't ask me, that's what I was told at Music College!

Best wishes,
Dave.
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby EmGee » Mon Nov 07, 2005 2:54 pm

Haha!

I stand (ahem, sit) corrected.

Back to writing songs...

G Em C D
(repeat)



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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby Mike Senior » Mon Nov 07, 2005 3:04 pm

EmGee wrote:What I MEANT to say is that if notating on a score, as you're in Gminor (two flats) there's only need to write a sharp by the F, hence it would read F# A C E.

I see what you mean -- it is a bit unusual to see opposite accidentals in the score.

EmGee wrote:I'll go away...

Not at all! Sorry, got carried away in front of my bookshelf there -- some kind of allergic reaction to the word 'incorrect'... As far as I'm concerned, the more Bach nuts on this forum the better!
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby David Etheridge » Mon Nov 07, 2005 3:25 pm

No Mr. Senior sir!!
Not more Bach!! Please!!

Let's have a few more Delius nuts on this forum; now there was a dude who really knew his norwegians

Olivier Messaien too!!!


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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby EmGee » Mon Nov 07, 2005 3:56 pm

So, my 'Penguin's first book of music theory' probably shouldn't be viewed as an authoritative resource then?


Bach, definately. Delius perhaps. Olivier Messaien, who are you kidding?


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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby David Etheridge » Mon Nov 07, 2005 10:11 pm

EmGee wrote: Olivier Messaien, who are you kidding?

EmGee

"Apparition de L'eglise Eternelle" (my first intro to Messaien): fabbo!

Some bits of the Turangalila symphony are brill, plus you get the Ondes Martenot as well (but other bits are a bit wearing )

Okay then: Arnold Bax, Vaughan Williams, Ravel, Richard Strauss (cont.p.94.........)

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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby DavidW » Mon Nov 07, 2005 10:18 pm

Richard Strauss..... wahey! My favourite piece of music is his Four Last Songs. Absolutely sublime.

I wish I hadn't chosen C major for dim chords. G-Bb-Db would have been easier!
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby EmGee » Tue Nov 08, 2005 9:42 am

Vaughan Williams never did it for me, although I heard one of his at the Proms this year and realised my prejudice was unfounded.

Ravel, oh yeah, and Strauss? what can I say - genius. But then he was influenced by the master, Wagner.

On a side note - went to hear LSO and Wynton Marsalis the other day. Incredible.


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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby Ian Stewart » Thu Dec 22, 2005 10:39 pm

Unfortunately some note combinations are difficult to notate in chord symbols such as C-D-G which comes out as C omit 3 add 2
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby feline1 » Fri Feb 17, 2006 4:48 pm

Auch you know most of this thread is pointless pedantic luncacy, you know

This is because all this stuff is getting played in equal temperament, so all those "enharmonic equivalents" are the same note (eg F# and Gb)

I'd dry your eyes until you're actually using an instrument which lets you escape equal temperament, in which case you can try both F# and Gb in your chord, they'll sound different, and you can choose which one SOUNDS BETTER.
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby David Etheridge » Sat Feb 18, 2006 1:49 pm

Hi Feline1,
now that's naughty; do you know of an instrument that can change tunings as you go? Actually, if memory serves, someone made a revved up piano many years ago with seperate half black keys for differing sharps and flats. Needless to say, it didn't catch on, so references to it now reside in the hallowed portals of Grove's dictionary.
So I'm guessing that if you dial up an alternate tuning on your synth (my Kurzweil modules have a few) you'll only be presented with F#s and not Gbs at the same time.
For the biz on alternate tunings, listen to Wendy Carlos, who's probably taken things as far as possible. Switched on Bach 2000 is the definitive classical version of this, and there's another album who's title currently escapes me where she took things even further.
http://www.wendycarlos.com gives all the info.
Alternate tunings are fab, but for chord notation we're trying here to get a mostly coherent method of labelling for yer everyday muso, rather than your alternate tuning geek.

Dave (pointless pedantic lunatic and proud of it)
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby feline1 » Sat Feb 18, 2006 6:06 pm

Well, if you are conducting or scoring for (say) a string section, they of course could be ordered not to play in equal temperament (although probably most of them would start crying).

Historically, a few nut-bags out there did build instruments with loads of extra keys on their keyboards (wasn't the Motorala Scalotron one such more recent attempt, back in the 70s?)

But in more practical terms, yeah, I was thinking about digitally controlled synths where you can set up alternate temparaments, then switch them at the press of a button to hear the difference.

But let's be clear: if you are using an instrument that's stuck in equal temperament, it really is meaningless to worry about which enharmonic equivalent note-name to use. In reality, you cannot have either of them!
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