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Author Topic: Confusing Chord Symbols -- Finding the "Correct" Harmony  (Read 3906 times)

Offline rspindy

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Confusing Chord Symbols -- Finding the "Correct" Harmony
« on: July 20, 2007, 12:50:48 PM »
Part I  the Diminished 7th chord

Four types of chords are often notated incorrectly in Chord charts, lead sheets, and sheet music.  Because of this, the actual harmonic pattern may be obscured and it can affect your decision on chord substitutions and extensions.

These are: 1.) Diminished Chords, 2.) Augmented Chords, 3.) Major added 6 chords (major triad with the 6 added as in C6, 4.) Minor added 6 chords (minor triad with the added 6 as in Cmin6).


Music, as an art has few hard and fast rules, there are some guidelines that can solve a number of issues of understanding.  The following I hope will help you to identify some of these problems and give you some "Rules of Thumb" to address them.

Diminished 7 and Augmented Chords suffer from two problems.  First, enharmonic names (F# dim7 = Gb dim7 or G# aug = Ab aug).  Enharmonic basically means “same sound.” A part of that problem, concerning the diminished chord, is addressed on this board with Ladyn’s post -- Enharmonic names.

The second is the fact that both “dim7” and “aug” chords can be named for any member of the chord.  Each diminished chord has four “Alternate Roots” and each augmented has three “Alternate Roots.”  A C dim7 = Eb dim7 = Gb dim7 (same as F# dim7) = Bbb dim7 (same as A dim7).  A C aug = E aug = G# aug (same as Ab aug).  Chord charts will often somewhat randomly choose one name over another partly because of the guitar background of chord charts and partly because of ease of notation for sight-reading.  The strangest case above would be the Bbb dim7, which I doubt that you would ever see.

Diminished 7th Chords -- Movement by minor 2nd
For the diminished chord, both enharmonic and alternate name problems can be generally solved by a simple rule of thumb.  In all but one case, the root (name) of a diminished chord resolves up or down by a minor 2nd.  A minor 2nd is a half step, but the letter part of the name is either the letter before or after:  if we are heading to “D” then the note before will be some type of “C” (C# - D) or some type of “E” (Eb – D).  It would not be “Db” or “D#”

In the pattern of C maj – C dim 7 – D min7 – G7 – C maj, the root “C” of the C dim7 resolves up by a Major 2nd (Whole step) – not our rule of thumb.  If we look at the notes in C dim7 we see that they are “C – Eb – Gb – Bbb(=A)”.  The “Eb” IS 1/2 step above the “D” of the D min7.  Therefore the pattern should read C maj – Eb dim7 – D min7 – G7 – C maj.

So why is this important.  First, C maj – C dim 7 – D min7 – G7 – C maj would translate to I maj – I dim7 – II min7 – V7 – I maj.  This is not a common progression in music and creates a rather static bass line.  The pattern, C maj – Eb dim7 – D min7 – G7 – C maj is I maj – bIII dim7 – I min7 – V7 – I maj.  This is a very common progression, the Eb resolves down a minor 2nd to D and the bass movement is active.  If you were to see C maj – A dim7 – D min7 ….  or C maj – F# dim7 – D min7 …. , you would change it to C maj – Eb dim7 – D min7….

Another common error is the equivalent of C maj – E dim7 – D min7 etc (I – III dim7 – II dim7).  This time the E dim7 is resolving down by a Major 2nd.  E dim7 is spelled “E G Bb Dbb(=C#)”  “C#” is our minor 2nd that we need here.  The correct form is C maj – C# dim7 – D min7 etc. which gives us I – #I dim7 – II min7 etc. a very common progression.  As you can see, this is both an alternate root and an enharmonic naming problem.

In fact, books teaching jazz progressions will almost always present these two progressions as I – bIII dim7 – II min7 – V7 – I or I – #I dim7 – II min7 – V7 – I and not in any of the alternatives (if it doesn’t, suspect the book).

Embellishing Diminished 7th
In one instance, the root remains the same.  This is the sometimes referred to “embellishing diminished 7th..”  In this case, the diminished 7th is just a decoration of the main chord (usually major) as in C maj – C dim7 – C maj.  This represents I – I dim7 – I.  Here the rule of thumb is that if a dim7 falls between two chords of the same root name and usually same type, it will be of this sort.

In the case of C maj - Eb dim7 - C maj (I - bIII - I) -- Eb dim7 = Eb - Gb - Bbb(A) - Dbb(C).  In this case none of the members resolves by a minor 2nd to the "C".  In fact, one of the members is "C".

This progression is simply an embellishing movement with a static root.

Thus we end the saga of the Diminished 7th.  Stay tuned for the others.

Offline sjonathan02

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Re: Confusing Chord Symbols -- Finding the "Correct" Harmony
« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2007, 01:40:33 PM »
This is really great info, RS. Thanks for sharing, dude.
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Offline rspindy

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Re: Confusing Chord Symbols -- Finding the "Correct" Harmony
« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2007, 02:56:32 PM »
Part II – The Major added6 chord and the Minor added6 chord.

In the first part of the post, I listed these as two types of chords but they both share the same basic problem.

A Major added6 chord is a Major triad with the 6th degree of the scale added – Cadd6 or C6 (sometimes C+6) spelled C-E-G-A.  C-E-G is the C maj triad and A is the 6th degree of the scale.

A Minor added6 chord is a Minor triad with the 6th degree of the Major Scale added.  The chord is actually derived from the Dorian mode or the Melodic minor.  C min6 is C-Eb-G-A.  C-Eb-G is the C min triad and A is the 6th degree of the Major or Melodic Minor scale.

The primary problem with these two is that of “Alternate Roots” (though you may occasionally run into an “enharmonic” problem in some of the wilder keys).  In both instances either the “C” can be the root or the “A” can be the root.  So, which one when?

First, note that if we respell the C6 (C-E-G-A) with “A” as the root (A-C-E-G) we have an A min7 chord.  Similarly, if we respell the Cmin6(C-Eb-G-A) with “A” as the root (A-C-Eb-G) we have what is referred to as an A min7(b5) or an A half-diminished chord (symbolized with a little circle with a line through it).

*When the add6 is “correct”

Generally, there are only two instances where the chord is really an added 6 chord:  1.) when it is the I chord or a temporary I chord (which occurs when we have modulated to another key for a moment) and generally begins a progression or is the final chord of a full cadence (V – I).  There may be some instances where it will find its way in the middle of a progression.  If it is followed by II within a progression, it should not be a I add6.  Unless the key is in minor, a min6 would almost always be incorrect.

2.) as a non-cadential IV chord – in other words it is not leading to the V as in the classical cadence IV – V – I. 

In both cases, the added 6 acts a substitution for the 7th (Maj 7 on Major Chords: C6 substitutes for C Maj 7; Maj 7 or Min 7 on minor chords:  C min6 substitutes for C min-maj7 or C min7 it never substitutes for the 7th of a dominant 7 chord; C6 is NEVER used instead of C7).

These are legitimate added 6 chords (I’m using the “+6” format with the roman numerals.  Just note that in this case the “+” DOES NOT mean “augmented” : 
1.) I+6 – IV+6 – I+6  (C6 F6 C6)
2.) I+6 – I7 – IV+6 – IV min+6 – I+6 (C6 C7 F6 Fmin6 C6)
3.) I+6 (or Maj7) – VI min7 – II min7 – V7 – I+6 (or Maj7).  (C6 Amin7 Dmin7 G7 C6).

In 1 and 2 above, the IV+6 (and IV min+6) is non-cadential (not leading to the V), it is just beginning motion away from the I.  Also, in both 1 and 2, the second I+6 would be in the middle of a progression that would continue.

In all 3, the I6 begins the progression and ends the progression at a cadence.

The following would not be an added6 situation:

1.) I Maj7 – I+6 – II min7 – V7 – I (C Maj7 C6 D min7 G7 C)
2.) I+6 – IV+6 – V7 – I+6 (C6 F6 G7 C6)

In 1 the bass movement remains static from I Maj7 and I+6 (and not in an interesting way – more on static bass movement later) and the added6 is followed by a IImin7.  In 2, the IV+6 is beginning a cadential formula.

*When the add6 should be a min7 or min7(b5) (half-diminished).

In most other instances, an add6  chord is actually the min7 or min7(b5) (half-diminished) chord with the note that is the 6th as root.  C6 = A min7; Cmin6 = Amin7(b5)
In Roman Numerals I+6 = VImin7; Imin+6 = VI min7(b5);  II+6 = VII min7; III+6 = #I min7 etc., etc.

Most publishers get the min7 correct nowadays – particularly on contemporary songs – and they are getting better with the min7(b5), but there are still some older editions of some older standards still in reprint that use the add6 or min6.

I Maj7 – I+6 – II min7 – V7 – I (C Maj7 C6 D min7 G7 C)

If you change the I+6 to a VI min7 we get: I Maj7 – VI min7 – II min7 – V7 – I (one of the most standard progressions in musicdom.

Similarly in IV+6 – V7 – I, changing the IV+6 to II min7 gives us the standard contemporary cadence of II min7 – V7 – I.

One older progression that you might run into is C G6 C6 F6 G7 C etc.  or I – V+6 – I+6 – IV+6 – V7 – I.  First of all, the V will never have an added 6.  The added 6 is never a replacement for the dominant 7.  The correct would be C Emin7 Amin7 Dmin7 G7 C.

Again, the knowing the correct chord has an effect upon chord substitutions, alterations, and extensions that you might choose later.  If you understand this usage with triads and 7th chords now, it will make learning more advanced harmony much easier.

Even though I used a “NEVER” above, music is an art and you might just find a situation that belies any “Nevers” or “Alwayses” given here or in any theory book.  Realize that these  “rules of thumb” will work most of the time and can help to illuminate a pattern or progression that otherwise does not make sense.

Afterthoughts

I originally thought that the added6 / min7 problem would be easier than the diminished one.  Now as I look back, it seems more difficult to explain.  If the above gets a little convoluted at times, I apologize and I will be happy to try to clarify anything.  As the saying goes, a picture (or a sound) is worth a thousand words. ::)

In the next day or so, we will discover the augmented chord problems, which is now looking like a piece of cake compared to this one.  Till next time

Offline Ladyn

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Re: Confusing Chord Symbols -- Finding the "Correct" Harmony
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2007, 05:46:46 PM »
Wow! Thanks a lot! This is good stuff!

Thanks,

Nichole

Offline T-Block

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Re: Confusing Chord Symbols -- Finding the "Correct" Harmony
« Reply #4 on: July 21, 2007, 05:12:56 PM »
I'm really, really, really loving this topic.  Theory talk just gets me so excited about music, i love theory more than playing.  Is that wierd?
Real musicians play in every key!!!
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Offline rspindy

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Re: Confusing Chord Symbols -- Finding the "Correct" Harmony
« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2007, 07:57:55 PM »
I'm really, really, really loving this topic.  Theory talk just gets me so excited about music, i love theory more than playing.  Is that wierd?

Hey T,

On one level it is not weird but on another it is  ;D.

I love delving into the stuff that makes things, including music.  But I do have to be careful to remember that until a sound is made, there is no music.

We must always remember that theory is just another way to help us express the music.

Offline Ladyn

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Re: Confusing Chord Symbols -- Finding the "Correct" Harmony
« Reply #6 on: July 24, 2007, 06:30:21 PM »
I think that this thread needs to become a sticky! This is good information for all who come to this site seeking to become a better player.  Thank you again Rspindy!

Offline T-Block

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Re: Confusing Chord Symbols -- Finding the "Correct" Harmony
« Reply #7 on: July 25, 2007, 10:40:25 AM »
I think that this thread needs to become a sticky! This is good information for all who come to this site seeking to become a better player.  Thank you again Rspindy!

I have added this thread to the sticky topics.  It is called Chord Symbols #2.
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Offline rspindy

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Re: Confusing Chord Symbols -- Finding the "Correct" Harmony
« Reply #8 on: July 25, 2007, 01:11:22 PM »
Part III - The Augmented Chord

The augmented chord, like the diminished chord, suffers from the fact that each note of the chord can be the root.  C aug = E aug = G# aug/Ab aug.  Often when translating music into chord symbols, people will often choose the version that is easier to read than the one with the correct root movement.  This, like the diminished chord, is particularly common when the chords are chosen for guitar players.  This is due to the fact that on the guitar, each possibility often use the exact same fingering.

The Augmented Clichι
The first instance happens in a common musical clichι:  C maj – C aug – Amin/C (or C6) – C aug – C maj.  (Note: the Amin/C means to play an A minor chord with a C bass, which is the first inversion of A minor)  I have seen this written C maj – E aug – Amin – E aug – C maj.  In this instance, the static bass is desirable – it is acting as a pedal point with one note changing above it.  The equivalent in minor is E min – C maj/E – E dim – C maj/E – E min:  Can anyone say “Bond, James Bond?”  If you see a string of chords involving an augmented chord and that starts and ends on the same major chord, you should check if this musical clichι is what was intended.

A similar instance to maintain the “C” would be C maj – C aug – Amin/C – C7 – F.  Here we are building tension on the dominant of the F chord.

As a Dominant Harmony
In most other instances, an augmented chord is actually acting as a dominant 7th, or temporary dominant 7th.  In this instance, the chord following can help to determine the true root.  Thus, a C aug can usually be conceived as a C7 #5, and E aug as an E7 #5, and an Ab aug as an Ab 7 #5.  Determining the true root has an effect on the 7th to be added as well as any other extensions or substitutions.

This is similar to the above.  C maj – C aug – Amin(or A7) – D – G – C.  In this case, the C aug should probably be an E aug since E is the dominant (V) of the A.  If it were C maj – C aug – F maj, the C aug would be correct since it is the dominant (V) of F.

In other instances, you may need to experiment with the bass that would work best. Just realize that any augmented chord symbol represents three possible roots and that chord charts and lead sheet writers do not always print the intended root.

Offline cas10a

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Re: Confusing Chord Symbols -- Finding the "Correct" Harmony
« Reply #9 on: July 25, 2007, 01:34:41 PM »
Great info rspindy...your doing an excellent job explaining.

Offline T-Block

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Re: Confusing Chord Symbols -- Finding the "Correct" Harmony
« Reply #10 on: July 25, 2007, 01:38:38 PM »
I use that augmented chord as a dominant when going to 4 all the time.  Great explanation!!! :D
Real musicians play in every key!!!
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Offline Ladyn

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Re: Confusing Chord Symbols -- Finding the "Correct" Harmony
« Reply #11 on: July 26, 2007, 08:37:31 PM »
Quote
I have added this thread to the sticky topics.  It is called Chord Symbols #2.

Thank you very much!!!

Great info rspindy! I really appreciate your hard work posting this for us!

Nichole
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