Minneapolis Music Lessons – Chord Spelling September 6, 2010
Understanding Chord Symbols
Because of the increasing interest in Jazz along with other varieties of music, I find more and more people wanting to know about chord symbols and chord construction. While there are numerous books out there on the market, there’s extremely bit of explanation of how chords symbols are interpreted. I would like to share a bit of my insight with all you music aficionados. In numerous song sheets, chords are given for guitar or keyboard players. Functional names are not utilized for this purpose. Rather, the root and quality of the chord are given in what could be called lead-sheet notation (for instance, Amaj and F#dim7). Chord symbols are made up of 3 component parts: 1. The ROOT The alphabetical name of a chord. i.e. A, Bb, G F# etc. 2. The Chord Type Indicating either Major, minor, dominant, augmented or diminished. 3. The extension: Tones added to the basic 3 note chord (triad) that alters its sound although not its type. Extensions are showed by scale step numbers i.e. 9, 11, 13
Here are the basic chord types: MAJOR indicated by GMaj., GMa, GM or just G (Note: the capital “M” is made use of to designate Major chords.) Major chords are sometimes written without having chord type designation. Symbols are also utilized to designate Major chords.
Minor Indicated by Gmin., Gmi, Gm or G- (Note: The lower case “m” is utilized to designate minor chords)
Dominant 7 Indicated with just the root and extension numbers. Because a few major chords and all dominant 7 chords can be written without having chord type designations, the following will help you to distinguish among a major chord and a dominant chord:
If the First extension number following the root or letter name of the chord is 7 or higher, and it doesn’t specifically state major or minor then it is a dominant chord.
Example: C7b5, C13, C9 and C7sus4 are all dominant chords, but Cm11 is a minor chord and CMaj.9 is a major chord.
If the First extension number following the root or letter name of the chord is 6 or below, it is really a major chord.
Example: C6/9, C2, Csus4 are all major chords
Augmented These are 3 note chords indicated by G aug, G+, or G#5 EXCEPTION: G+7 is constantly a dominant chord as is G7#5
Diminished Indicated by G dim, Gdim7, or G�, or G�7