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theory-lesson2Note: this post requires a basic knowledge of intervals.


To understand why some chords have intervals of 9, 11, and 13, read our explanation of tensions.


This post will give you abbreviations for the most common chords we’ll be dealing with in our Compositional Analysis series. While some of the naming conventions and rules are confusing, this list should get you started. Also note that our analyses usually use Roman numerals instead of note names (e.g. C minor 7 in the key of C would be written I-7). This is called ‘functional analysis.’


Sample:

  • How the chord is written … Full chord name … Notes in the chord, listed by intervallic relationship with the root of the chord. These notes can be in any order.*

*See inversions below.


Triads (three notes):

  • G … G major … 1, 3, 5 (i.e. G, B, D)
  • G- … G minor … 1, b3, 5
  • or Gdim … G diminished … 1, b3, b5
  • G+ or Gaug … G augmented … 1, 3, #5
  • Gsus2 … G suspended 2 … 1, 2, 5
  • Gsus4 … G suspended 4 … 1, 4, 5


Seventh Chords:

  • Gmaj7 … G major 7 … 1, 3, 5, 7
  • G-7 … G minor 7 … 1, b3, 5, b7
  • G7 … G dominant 7 … 1, 3, 5, b7
  • Gø7 … G half diminished 7 … 1, b3, b5, b7
  • Gº7 … G fully diminished 7 … 1, b3, b5, 6


Extended Chords (seventh chords+tensions):

  • Gmaj9 … G major 9 … 1, 2, 3, 5, 7
  • Gmaj9/13 … G major 9 with 13 … 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7
  • G9 … G dominant 9 … 1, 2, 3, 5, b7
  • G-9 … G minor 9 … 1, 2, b3, 5, b7
  • G-11 … G minor 11 … 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b7,
  • G-13 … G minor 13 … 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, b7


Other Common Chords:

  • G5 … G with no third (guitarists: a power chord) … 1, 5
  • Gmaj7(no3) … G major 7 no third … 1, 5, 7
  • Gadd9 or G2 … G add 9 … 1, 2, 3, 5
  • G6 … G major 6 … 1, 3, 5, 6
  • G69 … G69 … 1, 2, 3, 5, 6


Inversions:

  • G/3 or G/B … G major first inversion … 1, 3, 5 – 3rd must be the lowest note, others can be in any order
  • G/b3 or G/Bb … G minor first inversion … 1, b3, 5 – 3rd must be the lowest note, others can be in any order
  • G/5 or G/D … G major second inversion … 1, 3, 5 – 3rd must be the lowest note, others can be in any order


Things To Know…

  • When referring to a note or Roman numeral, the sharp (#) and flat (b) symbols come after the note or Roman numeral they are modifying.
  • When referring to a pitch interval, the sharp (#) and flat (b) symbols come after the number they are modifying.
  • These chord symbols are used by musicians and scholars trained in Jazz (and Pop). The Traditional/Classical school of thought uses a different nomenclature.
  • If you find a chord that is written (chord)/(note other than a chord tone), it’s not an inversion, it’s a polychord, which means you should play both chords simultaneously, with the top chord above the bottom chord. For example, a C/F chord is a C major chord with the note F in the bass.
  • For chords with perfect 5th intervals above the root, these 5ths can generally be omitted and it will still be considered the same chord.


For a more extensive list of chords, check Wikipedia: Types of Chords (they actually did a pretty good job with this one).


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2 Responses to “Keith’s Guide To Chord Symbols & Shorthand”

  1. kurt schaller says:

    I wantd to ask you if you could point me in the direction regarding guiter pertaining to chords which I am well knowlegable. My problem is I need to learn the cord abreviation to the chord I am working with. I understand hot to acuire a magor minor (7) or augmented or diminished, dominant, minor seventh flat five. along with susp2 and susp4 and also 9ths and susp 7ths as I know how to pruduce the sound I just cant undersand the chord abbreviation and need to find a bood that will help me learn these chord abbreviations. I am sorry to bother you and due to current colled carreer I dont have resources to take lesson online or traditianal measeure. I was hoping you would be able to point me to a specific book that focus’s on learning chord abreviation such as maj 7 or anything else to broaden my skill as I believe this is vital. unfortanitly school requires much of my time and have had no luck finding a textbook that would teach me these abbrevieation so that I may apply knowledge gained to future indeavers. please excuse my presentation and I look forward to hearing any info you hopefully you may know of an autor and book that focus’s on understanding guitar chord abbreviations and I apologize for any inconvenience my letter may cause if any. I have spent many hours seaching online for this info and have come to you to see. I would be very greatful If you could look into this amd perhaps demonstrate my skills as an

  2. Keith says:

    Sorry Kurt, I don’t know of any offhand, but it was a part of several music theory books I owned at one point years ago. I recommend checking out the table of contents of some jazz theory books at a book store.

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