David Etheridge wrote:
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!