Understanding Chord Symbols?
A chord's name is comprised of it's letter name, either A, B, C, D, E, F, or G and its chord type information symbol which encapsulates the instructions for building a chord.
C, C-, C°b9#5, CmL7
The names of chords that we encounter today are a modern construct and based chords built using intervals of thirds and their inversions. What follows in this lesson is the common and not so common names.
With a foundation of how these chords are used, harmonically, one should be able to figure out any name or names not found on this list.
- The capital letter A, B, C, D, E, F or G is the Root or letter name of the chord.
- The chord designation, chord type follows based on its basic triad type: Major, Minor, Diminished or Augmented. A major designation is not required for triads as this is the default chord type and the most common chord type. 4-part chords require a 7th (seventh) designation or the highest upper partial or extension ( 9, 11, 13 ) above the seventh. maj7, m7, °7, +7, maj9, m9, 11, 15, etc...
- Followed by any alterations ( b5, #5, b9, #9, #11, b13 ) or added pitches. These can be in parentheses 9(#5) 13(b5), ...
Common Chord Symbols using a C root as examples.
CM, Cmaj, CMAJ, CΔ
Major is the most common chord and by default the maj or major part of the chord is rarely written or even pronounced.
The capital “M” should be avoided. Especially in its handwritten form as it is hard to distinguish between an uppercase
M and the lowercase
m for a minor chord.
When a major seventh interval is used with a minor triad the designation maj7 or L7 is added" Cmmaj7, CmL7. The
L indicates a large seventh, i.e., major seventh. Simply a not so common but very useful shorthand when writing chords.
Cm, Cmin, C-
C add2, Cadd9
add refers to adding a note to the base chord. The add is typically used with major and minor chords and represented as a number referring to the interval of the note from the chord’s corresponding scale to add to the chord.
The most common add note is a
Csus, Csus4, C7sus4
sus implies the suspension of the third of a major, minor or seventh chord.
sus2 implies to substitute a second for the thirds. Traditionally NOT a true suspensions or sus but a of a 5add2 chord (see Power 5 below).
Technically not a true chord in the traditional sense which is defined as a three or more notes played together or almost together. It's more a dyad or interval with and added note.
sus2 implies to substitute a second for the thirds. Traditionally NOT a true suspension or sus but an add2 chord or add2no3.
For a really through chart on building chords and the chord symbols used visit the A Guide to Advanced Chord Series - Chord Building Chart book/chart page.
End of Lesson - Thanks, Hope You Enjoyed It!
Related Lessons for Understanding Chord Symbols?.
Reading Music on `Ukulele Series - Reading in Open Position • Updated: 29 May 2021
This series of lessons will allow you finally, to check that Reading item off your music To Do list. Learning to read standard music notation opens a world of music to you. Music notation is the Lingua franca of amateur and professional musicians alike.
Upper Partials and Chord Extensions • Updated: 15 May 2019
A chord extension or upper partial are the chord tones above the octave and not one of the fundamental 4-part chord tones. These are the ninths, elevenths and thirteenths of chords.
All chord extensions on ukulele will displace a fundamental chord tone. This is even true for guitar with the ability to add the extension to another string.
Related Books for Understanding Chord Symbols?.
Harmonic Analysis for Scale Selection and Chord Substitution
Updated: Jun 10, 2021
Harmonic Analysis is the understanding of the functional sequence of chords. It is the process used to analyze the harmonic structure of a progression, song or composition. This analysis is then used to make scale selections for improvisation and chord substitution.
A Guide to Advanced Ukulele Chords - Volume I
Updated: Feb 13, 2020
Beyond learning basic Ukulele chords, most players struggle with advanced chords. Commonly called "jazz" chords, these more sophisticated voicings find a wide use in all forms of music. A Guide to Advanced Chords for Ukulele - presents a highly organized and efficient approach to the mysterious subject of advanced chords. Chord dictionaries are not the answer.
Exploring Jazz Chords on Ukulele
Updated: Apr 20, 2022
Exploring jazz chords using a variety of common chord progressions based on songs from the standard jazz repertoire. Core Chords are the basic set of chords needed to play a wide range of music, in a variety of styles. This set of chords includes basic open position chords, basic movable form chords and the core 4-part "jazz" chords.
The Advanced Guide to Guitar Chords - Volume I
Updated: Jun 23, 2006
Commonly referred to as jazz chords, this book provides detailed information on voicing 4-part chords. Covers common string families. Beyond learning open and barre chords, most guitarists struggle with advanced chords. Commonly called "Jazz" chords, these more sophisticated voicings find a wide use in all forms of music.
Related Songs for Understanding Chord Symbols?.
Related Lesson Series
Related Lessons Series for Understanding Chord Symbols?.
Core “Jazz” Ukulele Chords - The Big Six Updated: 01 Jan 2003
Core Chords for Ukulele, The Big Six - From four F7 chord voicings or shapes, your can build your massive 4-part, a.k.a., “jazz” chord vocabulary. Beyond basic open position chords, basic movable form chords and a core set of 4-part chords. There are just too many chords shapes too memorize.
Related Lesson Files, Resources and Assets
Related Assets for Understanding Chord Symbols?.