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chord symbol


A shorthand system for notating chords, chord symbols are commonly used in popular and jazz music as a guide for the performer to improvise the melody or accompaniment. This is an alternative to Roman Numeral notation indicating individual chords without regard to the chord progression

Each chord symbol has four basic components: chord root, chord quality, chord extension, and chord alteration.
Chord Root:
The chord symbol begins with a letter to indicate the root note of the basic triad. It is the only required component of a chord symbol.In this example, the letter “C” would indicate that the chord is a triad based on the pitchC”. 
Chord Quality :
The root is often followed by an indication of the quality of the chord (major, minor, diminished, or augmented). If there is no quality indicated, the chord is assumed to be major.
Major: For example, the chord symbolC” would indicate a C major triad with the notes CE and G. This can also be notated “Cmaj”, “Cma”, or “CM” (see table below).
Minor: The chord symbolCm” would indicate a C minor triad with the notes CE flat  and G. This can also be notated “Cmin”, “Cmi”, or “C-“. Occasionally, this may also be seen as a lower case letter. For example, “c” would indicate a C minor triad.
Diminished: The chord symbol “Cdim” would indicate a C diminished triad with the notes CE flat and G. This can also be notated “”.
Augmented: The chord symbolCaug” would indicate a C augmented triad with the notes CE and G sharp. This can also be notated “C+”.

Chord Extension:
The next component of the chord symbol is the extension, or a  number that indicates pitches that are added to the basic triad. The number represents the interval between the root and the highest additional note in the chord. The most common extension is the interval of a seventh. So “CM7” would indicate that the triad CEG would also include the seventh note above the root C or B flat.

Other common extensions include:
Sixth: A “C6chord would indicate that the note a sixth above the root (A) should be added creating the chord CEGA.
Ninth: A “C9chord would include the ninth note  (D) above the root.  As an aside, this chord would typically include the seventh (B flat) as well making the chord   –  –  – B flat  - D.
Eleventh: A "C11" chord would include the eleventh note above the root () along with the seventh , and ninth  notes  ( –  –  – B flat  –  – ). Note: it is common to omit the third  () of the chord .
Thirteenth: A "Cl3" chord would include the thirteenth () along with the seventh ninth  and eleventh  notes  ( –  –  – B flat  –  –  - ).

Chord Alterations: 
Any of  the added notes may be sharpened, indicated by sharp sign  or plus "+" sign, or flattened, indicated by a flat sign or minus "-" sign . alterations would typically be shown as a superscript, or slightly higher than the other components of the chord symbol. For example, "Cmaj13♯11" would indicate the chord C - E - B flat - F sharp, where the eleventh note F sharp has been raised one half step (one semitone

Another common alteration is the abbreviation 'sus ’ indicating a suspension . For example, "C sus " would indicate the third of a C triad would be raised to create a C - F - G triad where the F would resolve to the third (E) in the following chord.
Key to Chord Symbol Notation
major maj M
minor min m -
diminished dim   º
augmented aug   +
half-diminished     ø


Table of Common Chord Symbols
Chord Traditional Example Jazz Notation Example Chord Pitches Alternate Notation
Major maj Cmaj M CM C-E-G C
Minor min Cmin m Cm C-E♭-G C-
Diminished dim Cdim º C-E♭-G♭  
Augmented Aug Caug + C+ C-E-G♯ C+5
Major Seventh maj7 Cmaj7 M7 CM7 C-E-G-B C∆
Dominant Seventh 7 C7 7 C7 C-E-G-B♭  
Minor Seventh min7 Cmin7 m7 Cm7 C-E♭-G-B♭ C-7 or Cmi7
Half-Diminished Seventh m7(♭5) Cm7(♭5) ø Cø C-E♭-G♭-B♭  
Diminished Seventh dim7 Cdim7 º7 7 C-E♭-G♭-B♭♭  
Minor Major Seventh min(maj7) Cmin(maj)7 m7 Cm∆7 C-E♭-G-B C-∆7 or CM7
Augmented Seventh aug7 Caug7 +7 C+7 C-E-G♯-B♭ C+ or C7 (+5) or C7 (#5) or C7+5
Augmented Major Seventh maj7(♯5) Cmaj7(#5) +M7 C+M7 C-E-G♯-B C+∆7
Dominant Seventh with Flat Fifth     7♭5 C7♭5 C-E-G♭-B♭  
Major Ninth maj9 Cmaj9 9 C9 C-E-G-B-D  
Minor Ninth min9 Cmin9 ♭9 C♭9 C-E♭-G-B♭-D  
Major Eleventh maj11 Cmaj11 11 C11 C-(E)-G-B♭-D-F♯ * See note below
Minor Eleventh min11 Cmin11 ♭11 C♭11 C-E♭-G-B♭-D-F  
Major Thirteenth maj13 Cmaj13 13 C13 C-E-G-B-D-F-A ** See note below
Minor Thirteenth min13 Cmin13 ♭13 Cm13 C-E♭-G-B♭-D-F-A ** See note below

* Note: The third of the C11 chord is typically omitted due to the dissonance between the third and the ninth (G and F) and the 11th is almost always sharped.
** Note: Often the 5th, 9th and 11th are omitted.


Last Updated: 2016-05-21 12:50:57