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Author Topic: How to read and understand chord symbols  (Read 5327 times)

Offline T-Block

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How to read and understand chord symbols
« on: May 19, 2011, 10:26:01 AM »
Some of you out there look and things like Cm7, EbM9, Fm7 (b5), and A13 and cringe because it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever that this is music. In this thread, the "mystery" will be solved. These are chord symbols, which is nothing more than a shorthand way of representing a chord. Using chord symbols gives the musician freedom to use whatever voicing he/she desires for a chord to make the song their own interpretation. It's also the fastest way to post a song. First, I will show to how read the symbols. Then, I will explain how to get from the symbol to the notes that make it up. Before getting into this, you must have an understanding of:

1. major scales: http://www.learngospelmusic.com/forums/index.php/topic,17060.0.html
2. scale degrees: http://www.learngospelmusic.com/forums/index.php/topic,42672.0.html
3. chords (scale degrees that make up each chord): http://www.learngospelmusic.com/forums/index.php/topic,43117.0.html


How to read chord symbols

M, maj, upper case note: represents a major chord; CM, Cmaj, C = C major chord


m, min, lower case note: represents a minor chord; Cm, Cmin, c = C minor chord


+ : represents an augmented chord; C+ =  C augmented chord


M7: represents a major 7th chord, a major chord with an added major 7th; CM7 = C major 7th chord


M9, M11, M13: represents a major 7th chord with an added major 9th, 11th, or 13th; CM9 = C major 9th chord, CM11 = C major 11th chord, CM13 = C major 13th chord


m7: represents a minor 7th chord, a minor chord with an added minor 7th; Cm7 = C minor 7th chord


dom7, 7: represents a dominant 7th chord, the added 7th is a minor 7th; Cdom7 or C7 = C dominant 7th chord, a C major chord with an added minor 7th


9, 11, 13: represents the addition of the scale degree mentioned to the dominant 7th chord; C9 = C dominant 9th chord, a C dominant 7th chord with an added 9th


m9, m11, m13: represents a minor 7th chord with an added major 9th, 11th, or 13th; Cm9 = C minor 9th chord, Cm11 = C minor 11th chord, Cm13 = C minor 13th chord


add6, add9, etc.: represents the addition of the scale degree with no 7th present; Cadd6 = C major chord plus the 6th, Cadd9 = C major chord plus the 9th,


sus2, sus4, etc.: represents a chord where the 3rd is temporarily replaced by the scale degree mentioned, the sus means suspended; Csus2 = C suspended 2 chord, C major chord where the 3rd becomes a 2nd,  Csus4 = Csuspended 4 chord, C major chord where the 3rd becomes a 4th,


#5/+, #9/+9, etc.: represents the mentioned scale degree being raised by ˝ step: C7 #5/#9 = C dominant 7 chord with a raised 5th and a raised 9th


b5/-5, b9/-9, etc.: represents the mentioned scale degree being lowered by ˝ step: Cm7 b5 = C minor 7 chord with the 5th lowered ˝ step, C7 b9 = C dominant 7 chord with an added 9th that is lowered ˝ step


/: represents any chord where the root is not on the bottom, everything to the left of the slash is played in the right hand, everything to the right of the slash is played in the LH/bass: C/E = C major chord with E in the LH/bass
Real musicians play in every key!!!
Music Theory, da numbers work!

Offline T-Block

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Re: How to read and understand chord symbols
« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2011, 10:34:31 AM »
From symbols to notes

M, maj, upper case note: a major chord where the root is on the bottom in the LH;
   
CM, Cmaj, C = C major chord --> C / C-E-G


m, min, lower case note: a minor chord where the root is on the bottom in the LH;

Cm, Cmin, c = C minor chord --> C / C-Eb-G


+: an augmented chord where the root is on the bottom in the LH;;

C+ =  C augmented chord --> C / C-E-G#


M7: a major 7th chord where the root is on the bottom in the LH;

CM7 = C major 7th chord --> C / C-E-G-B


M9, M11, M13: a major 7th chord with an added major 9th, 11th, or 13th where the root is on the bottom in the LH;

CM9 = C major 9th chord --> C / C-E-G-B-D
CM11 = C major 11th chord --> C / C-E-G-B-D-F  or  C / C-E-G-B-F  or  C / C-E-B-F
CM13 = C major 13th chord --> C / C-E-G-B-D-F-A  or  C / C-E-G-B-A  or  C / E-B-A


m7: a minor 7th  chord where the root is on the bottom in the LH;

Cm7 = C minor 7th chord --> C / C-Eb-G-Bb


dom7, 7: a dominant 7th chord where the root is on the bottom in the LH;

Cdom7 or C7 = C dominant 7th chord --> C / C-E-G-Bb


9, 11, 13: a dominant 9th, 11th, or 13th chord where the root is on the bottom in the LH;

C9 = C dominant 9th chord --> C / C-E-G-Bb-D  or  C / C-E-Bb-D
C11 = C dominant 11th chord --> C / C-E-G-Bb-D-F  or  C / C-E-G-Bb-F  or  C / C-E-Bb-F
C13 = C dominant 13th chord --> C / C-E-G-Bb-D-F-A  or  C / E-G-Bb-A  or  C / C-E-Bb-A


m9, m11, m13: a minor 9th, 11th or 13th  chord where the root is on the bottom in the LH;

Cm9 = C minor 9th chord --> C / C-Eb-G-Bb-D  or  C / C-Eb-Bb-D
Cm11 = C minor 11th chord --> C / C-Eb-G-Bb-D-F  or  C / C-Eb-Bb-F
Cm13 = C minor 13th chord -->  C / C-Eb-G-Bb-D-F-A  or  C / C-Eb-Bb-A


add6, add9, etc.: a chord with the addition of the mentioned scale degree, with no 7th present, where the root is on the bottom in the LH;

Cadd6 = C major chord plus the 6th --> C / C-E-G-A
Cadd9 = C major chord plus the 9th --> C / C-E-G-D  or  C / C-D-E-G


sus2, sus4, etc.: a chord where the 3rd is temporarily replaced by the scale degree mentioned, where the root is on the bottom in the LH;

Csus2 = C suspended 2 chord, C major chord where the 3rd becomes a 2nd --> C / C-D-G
Csus4 = C suspended 4 chord, C major chord where the 3rd becomes a 4th --> C / C-F-G


#5/+, #9/+9, etc.: a chord with the mentioned scale degree being raised by ˝ step, where the root is on the bottom in the LH;

C7 #5/#9 = C dominant 7 chord with a raised 5th and a raised 9th --> C / C-E-G#-Bb-D#


b5/-5, b9/-9, etc.: a chord with the mentioned scale degree being lowered by ˝ step, where the root is on the bottom in the LH;

Cm7 b5 = C minor 7 chord with the 5th lowered ˝ step --> C / C-Eb-Gb-Bb
C7 b9 = C dominant 7 chord with an added 9th that is lowered ˝ step --> C / C-E-G-Bb-Db


/: any chord where the root is not in the bass, everything to the left of the slash is played in the right hand, everything to the right of the slash is played in the LH/bass:

C/E = C major chord with E in the LH/bass --> E / C-E-G
C7/G = C dominant 7th chord with G in the LH/bass --> G / C-E-G-Bb
D/A = D major chord with A in the LH/bass --> A / D-F#-A
Bb/Ab = Bb mahor chord with Ab in the LH/bass --> Ab / Bb-D-F


Now, the way you voice or chord out the symbols is up to you. You can either figure out the voicing from the recording you’re listening to, or you can voice it the way you want to.
Real musicians play in every key!!!
Music Theory, da numbers work!

Offline floaded27

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Re: How to read and understand chord symbols
« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2011, 10:47:52 AM »
i'll add:
(this is Gospel, how could u forget diminished chords??? lol)

dim - diminished chord - Cdim ---> C / C - Eb - Gb

full diminished (often noted with small raised circle) - also diminished 7 chord - diminished chord with a double flatted 7 - Cdim7 ---> C / C - Eb - Gb - A

half diminished (often shown with circle with slash) - also a min7b5 - diminished chord with a flatted 7 --- Cm7b5  ----> C / C - Eb - Gb - Bb  (remember this will often appear on charts with the circle with slash)



*** correction ****
the add6 is actually just a 6, since u havent passed the 7th degree - so you'll see a C6 ---> C / C - E - G - A  or a Cm6 ---> C / C - Eb - G - A

also in some sets, especially Jazz, you'll see minor denoted with a "-" so you may see a C- or C-7 rather than a Cmin or Cmin7

For my God... let "Golden Axe" prevail.

Offline T-Block

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Re: How to read and understand chord symbols
« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2011, 10:53:23 AM »
Crap, I knew there was something I was missing. And the sad thing is the dim7 is my favorite chord. :(

Good catch and additions bro.
Real musicians play in every key!!!
Music Theory, da numbers work!

blyempowered

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Re: How to read and understand chord symbols
« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2011, 10:58:50 AM »
When I'm playing the organ and the preacher is preaching and in F#/Gb I use the Full Cdim chord a lot....SHONDO!!!

Offline floaded27

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Re: How to read and understand chord symbols
« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2011, 11:00:00 AM »
Cool info T-Block. My teacher gave me this chart from Day 1 and made me learn it. And even though i switched to bass, i still studied it.

Very important to beginners (even if they dont think so). It helps you play and understand the music, while keeping to your level and progressing at the proper pace. Lets you know where and how you can substitute or change voicings that fit the chord structure. Its overwhelming for folks to try to play songs the way that others beyond their skill level play them. Listing out the notes to your 10 finger and 3 toe chords can be fruitless to many that arent even near that level.
For my God... let "Golden Axe" prevail.

blyempowered

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Re: How to read and understand chord symbols
« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2011, 11:14:35 AM »
I use add9 a lot!

Offline csedwards2

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Re: How to read and understand chord symbols
« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2011, 11:19:07 AM »
Major could also be denoted with the (triangle) shape
ie . CΔ7 is the same as CM7, or Cmaj7

C E G B

also

alt means to alter the 5th and 9th degree a half step. Usually used with dominant7th chords

so like C7alt would be either

C E G# Bb D# or C E Gb Bb Db or variation.


and for sus it means suspend the 4th unless it tells you suspend the 2. sus4s are very common, but 2's not so much.

because you might see a symbol that say Csus11 or Csus7 or Csus13, and all of those chord symbols refer to a suspended 4th degree.

Offline T-Block

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Re: How to read and understand chord symbols
« Reply #8 on: May 19, 2011, 01:07:20 PM »
Very important to beginners (even if they dont think so). It helps you play and understand the music, while keeping to your level and progressing at the proper pace. Lets you know where and how you can substitute or change voicings that fit the chord structure. Its overwhelming for folks to try to play songs the way that others beyond their skill level play them. Listing out the notes to your 10 finger and 3 toe chords can be fruitless to many that arent even near that level.

So true man. I posted this information somewhere before, but the link doesn't work anymore, so I decided to redo it.

Thanks for the additions CS. You all are making so happy right now pitching in. I love LGM!!! :D
Real musicians play in every key!!!
Music Theory, da numbers work!

Offline Blessingss

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Re: How to read and understand chord symbols
« Reply #9 on: July 05, 2011, 09:17:29 AM »
Yah, seems like there are so many treasure rooms that I've always been afraid to open around here, this is really great info-and I think some things go with the musical age ;D so it wasn't that much of mistake. I believe this is the right time :)
Worship

Offline Trayvonta

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Re: How to read and understand chord symbols
« Reply #10 on: July 17, 2011, 10:31:43 AM »
thanks it really help me alot :)

Offline phbrown

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Re: How to read and understand chord symbols
« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2011, 11:14:24 AM »
making me some flash cards to study this today!

Thank you all!
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