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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!! :protest:

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

Olivier Messaien too!!!
:beamup: :angel:

Dave.
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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?


EmGee ;)
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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! :bouncy:

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

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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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby Wurlitzer » Tue Sep 05, 2006 10:32 pm

feline1 wrote: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!

I disagree.

The point about using the correct note-names for a chord rather than their enharmonic equivalents is not just that they sound different (in which respect you're right - on equal tempered instruments they don't). It's that they make more sense, making the tonal and harmonic structure of the music clear to the person reading it.

This operates firstly in respect of individual chords. In most kinds of harmony in western music these are built up in 3rds. If you're using that kind of harmony, and you keep returning to say a dominant 7th chord G-B-D-F, then on one occasion you want to alter it by flattening the fifth, it makes sense to write it G-B-Db-F. The eye immediately sees that it is the same chord, but with a flat in front of it - the immediate visual impression matches the aural impression. If on the other hand you were to write G-B-C#-F, then the eye would be immediately thrown by the second from B-C# and the fourth from C#-F, and think it's some kind of inversion of something else.

Secondly, the correct spelling of accidentals gives a clearer impression of the sense of voice leading and progession from one chord to the next. Say in the example above, one wanted to resolve the chromatic note onto the diatonic one, rather than sustaining it for the full duration of the chord, then it WOULD make sense to use the C#, thus:

F.........
C#...D....
B.........
G.........

A musician's eye tend to read in "chunks", so would still see the overall sense of a G7 chord, and the visual upward movement from the C# to the D would, again, reflect what the ear hears. It's also important that in this case the D belongs to the chord whereas the C# is foreign to it - so it makes sense that the "look" of the chord is made to add up only at the resolution.

You may think this is pedantry, but I can tell you that these things make a difference for example to a pianist or keyboard player sight reading a piece in a session or trying to learn and understand a piece in depth (or even to players of purely melodic instruments, in some cases). For an orchestral score, they are absolutely essential to allow the conductor to follow and internally hear the harmony easily.

One can always say that technically it doesn't make any difference, but music is not an abstract technical science. It's something that interacts with human psychology, in real time. In this respect it certainly does make a difference.

Finally, if someone is composing music in the classical way, actually writing it down and giving it to musicians to play, then I'd say there's a real problem from the composer's OWN pont of view if they don't see any difference in writing a C# or a Db. It means they don't have sufficient awareness of what that note is doing in relation to the other notes of the composition - what function it serves within its chord, and where it is going in the voice leading. Answering those questions and answering how to spell the note go hand in hand.
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby windbag » Thu Sep 07, 2006 9:14 am

Sure, there are rules, but as in music engraving, the 'rules' can profitably be considered 'guidelines' on occasion. The acid test is making it clear to the musician so you get the result you want. For example, in music notation, extremely chromatic passages are often better notated in sharps going up and flats going down. Nothing to do with enharmonics, simply it's quicker to read, say, G, G sharp, A rather than G, A flat, A natural. But a 'genuine' scale should be notated so that you get seven different note names, even if it means double flats or sharps. By my reckoning, G harmonic minor would be G, A, Bb, C, D, Eb, F#, G. Liekwise, some chords look much clearer one way than another, which may or may not be theoretically correct. There are times when Eb and F# look right, others when Eb and Gb look better. Usually it turns out that the theory is 'better', but not invariably. Judgment is needed.
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby Daniel Davis » Wed Sep 05, 2007 11:30 am

Just to clarify - inversions are decided by the lowest sounding note - and any other repositioning of notes are referred to as voicings.
If you play in a group with say a guitar and a bass guitar then any "inversion" the guitarist plays is just a voicing. the real inversion is decided by the bass player.
Equally the guitarist can play simpler(or just other) chords where required. e.g if the guitarist plays Em and the bass plays a C# it is a C#m7. Assuming there are other part to cover the gaps you can often get away (or even improve) your voicings by leaving out notes. The power chord is just one example of this.
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby Daniel Davis » Wed Sep 05, 2007 11:47 am

David Etheridge wrote: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 :D)
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! :headbang:

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

Best wishes,
Dave

Well a funny thing happens when you move beyond triads - the same set of notes can be interpreted in more ways. e.g. take the notes CEGA you have either a C6 or an Am7 chord.
From an ensemble player's point of view this means you can choose other possibilities to play (often simplifying your parts or adding variety).
As you add more notes the possibilities increase, until with 7 note chords they can be anything - so-called pan diatonic harmony. Holst uses this in the Planets suite - but never wrote another decent piece. perhaps because...
From a harmonic point of view the strength of chords with more than 3 notes is that they gain flexibility and can perform more than one harmonic role. This is particulary good when you repeat a section using the same chord to take you in a different harmonic direction. On the down side as you add roles each is weakened , predictability dissappears, and functional harmony distroyed.
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby Knut Skaarberg » Fri Aug 22, 2008 2:14 pm

Daniel Davis wrote:Just to clarify - inversions are decided by the lowest sounding note - and any other repositioning of notes are referred to as voicings.
If you play in a group with say a guitar and a bass guitar then any "inversion" the guitarist plays is just a voicing. the real inversion is decided by the bass player.
Equally the guitarist can play simpler(or just other) chords where required. e.g if the guitarist plays Em and the bass plays a C# it is a C#m7. Assuming there are other part to cover the gaps you can often get away (or even improve) your voicings by leaving out notes. The power chord is just one example of this.
An Em with C# bass would be a C#m7(b5), wouldn't it?

Anyway, does anyone here know what's the standard notation for open voicings (no 3rd) such as C-D-G, C-G, C-G-Bb, C-D-F-G etc? What about quarter chords (4th, but no 3rd or 5th) such as C-F-Bb?

BTW, it's a great pleasure to meet all of you! ;)
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby onesecondglance » Fri Aug 22, 2008 2:25 pm

wouldn't C-D-G be Csus2? and similarly C-D-F-G Csus2/4? i'm sure i've seen these written this way in guitar scores.
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby Wurlitzer » Fri Aug 22, 2008 2:49 pm

Knut Skaarberg wrote:An Em with C# bass would be a C#m7(b5), wouldn't it?

Well spotted!

Anyway, does anyone here know what's the standard notation for open voicings (no 3rd) such as C-D-G, C-G, C-G-Bb, C-D-F-G etc? What about quarter chords (4th, but no 3rd or 5th) such as C-F-Bb?

One can't really say "standard" here, because the chords themselves are not standard. The open fifth I've sometimes seen notated as "5". Thus C-G alone = "C5"

C-G-Bb I'm not sure. I'd probably just write "C7(no 3rd)". Alternatively you could write Gm/C, if you felt relaxed about the player adding a D if he wants.

The others you describe are various combinations of 4ths/5ths and 2nds/7ths. As such, if you juggle the notes a bit you can usually reduce them to some kind of sus4, or 7sus4 chord, and then just use a slash to indicate the bass note. Thus:

C-D-G = Gsus4/C

C-D-F-G = G7sus4/C

C-F-Bb = Fsus4/C

But if you're really thinking in 4ths, as opposed to writing within a conventional framework of 3rds but in a "4thy" way - then you might be better off notating the part at least in guide tones. Write a chord voicing upwards in 4ths, in semibreves, and then just tell the player to use whatever rhythm feels right to it.

In modal jazz, it's quite common for pianists to gravitate towards 4ths and 2nds because they capture the harmonically "floating" sound better and don't push things in as clear a direction as 3rds. So you might write "Cm11", and depending on the feel and style, the player might voice it upwards: C-F-Bb-Eb, omitting the G and making 4ths out of everything else. Some of Bill Evans's playing on "Kind Of Blue", and similar music of the period, is a case in point.

But this is a very inexact science and it relies on people sharing a common set of unspoken understandings, or being able to walk over to the piano, stab a few 4ths and say "a bit more like that!" or whatever...
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby Knut Skaarberg » Fri Aug 22, 2008 3:22 pm

Thanks for the thorough reply!

I agree in principle on could write C-F-Bb as Fsus4/C, but that indicate it resolves to F/C, wouldn't it? As a piano player I would tend to play with diffent positions of the "double quarter" chords over a C bass, such as

G-C-F
A-D-G
C-F-Bb
D-G-C

and so on. Maybe that's a bit on the edge of what standard chord notation is useful for. :D
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby onesecondglance » Fri Aug 22, 2008 3:58 pm

Wurlitzer wrote:... if you juggle the notes a bit you can usually reduce them to some kind of sus4, or 7sus4 chord, and then just use a slash to indicate the bass note. Thus:

C-D-G = Gsus4/C


hi Wurlitzer, just out of interest, C-D-G can sound (in some contexts) more "C" to me than "G", hence i would say (as above) that that is Csus2 and not an inversion of Gsus4. is there a reason it should be Gsus4/C or is this just another way of seeing the "same" chord? just for my future reference... (i.e. is calling it "sus2" bad form, as technically you can only have sus4? or something?)
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Re: Standard chord notation

Postby Wurlitzer » Fri Aug 22, 2008 5:45 pm

Knut Skaarberg wrote:I agree in principle on could write C-F-Bb as Fsus4/C, but that indicate it resolves to F/C, wouldn't it?


Not really. Sus4 chords in jazz aren't presumed to "resolve" the way suspended 4ths are in classical harmony. The 4th is just a static entity that can go wherever it likes, usually.

That's kind of what I meant about unspoken assumptions.

As a piano player I would tend to play with diffent positions of the "double quarter" chords over a C bass, such as

G-C-F
A-D-G
C-F-Bb
D-G-C

and so on. Maybe that's a bit on the edge of what standard chord notation is useful for. :D


Indeed, and that's exactly the kind of thing I meant where it might make more sense just to write out the voicings.

Chord symbols were originally derived from tonal harmony, and were not purely a technical description of the chords in isolation. eg Dm7 - G7 - Cmaj7 doesn't ONLY tell you what notes to use above each root, it also tells you that it's a II - V - I in C.

As harmony becomes less and less functional in modern jazz, you can start to approach a point where the chord symbols might accurately describe each chord, but what they appear to be saying about the chord function is completely misleading. eg your progression above is basically a set of parallel 4ths within the mixolydian mode on C. The bass is C all the way through, and that bass is harmonically independent from the chords (apart from the fact that it generates the mode they belong to). As such, calling those chords F this or G that might be technically correct, but doesn't actually give one a very clear idea into what is going on.

But then in this kind of style the harmony is usually pretty freely improvised anyway (although sometimes within strict constraints of mode). Often the chord symbol only changes when the mode does, which might only be once every 8 bars or so. But within that period, you'll hear the piano and bass exploring the kinds of things you describe here.

Unfortunately there is not yet a settled and agreed language in which to describe things any more precisely than that!
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