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Mike Rosen
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   Posted 8/4/2015 10:20 AM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Chords and their suffices are a pretty common topic here. There is a new entry on the Finale blog site detailing the thoughts behind Finale's chord setup.

It might he interesting reading for some.

www.finalemusic.com/blog



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Christopher Smith
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   Posted 8/4/2015 10:42 AM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Yup, I already have a long comment pending moderation on that entry. By and large, it's a pretty good overview of American practice, but nothing at all about European practice.


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Peter F
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   Posted 8/4/2015 2:09 PM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Thanks Mike!

I hope the article can help spread a discussion here and on the blog as well - If there's one thing I learned in my research while writing this, it's that there really aren't many established rules that everyone agrees on. As Christopher pointed out I was only looking at methods used in the US, but in Europe the differences become even greater. Seemingly, everyone writes their chords just a little bit differently, and while I've had success using the Clinton Roemer system, I'd be very interested to hear what has worked for others!

I probably should also clarify that my research is based on a) mostly academic resources like textbooks from popular jazz colleges and b) jazz and pop charts commonly found in the 60's and early 70's. Of course, nowadays people move all over the place and can share sheet music more easily, so it's entirely possible for folks on the east coast to use the "west coast" system I describe in the article and vice versa. I don't aim to dictate right and wrong here, but I'd love to hear how others differ from what I've reported.


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Fred G. Unn
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   Posted 8/5/2015 10:04 PM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
I'm pretty much "East Coast" except I usually use + and - for alterations instead of # and b. One advantage of this is it avoids any potential ambiguity of a chord like C#9 and allows me to save horizontal space by mostly avoiding parentheses. I would use C7+9, Gm11-5, etc. Keeping everything on a level baseline draws the eye from left to right, and not up and away from the next symbol. M for major and m for minor in combination is terrible because in many typefaces (like Jazz Font) they are hard to distinguish from one another. I use maj for major as the descender "j" makes it immediately recognizable, and just m for minor. The delta triangle also is not good IMO, as at smaller sizes it is tough to distinguish from the diminished degree symbol, especially in gig situations. (Bad lighting, subs, whisky)
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Bill Stevens
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   Posted 8/6/2015 7:24 AM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Here's a question I've wondered about for a while for you guys who use chord symbols. How do you write a chord that has both a major and minor third in it?

Here is a guitar chord that you hear often. From the bottom:

E open / E / G# / D / Gnat / E open

So what do you call that G natural? Is it a #9, so it's really an F double sharp?

Bill


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Peter Thomsen
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   Posted 8/6/2015 7:50 AM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Bill Stevens said...
…Here is a guitar chord that you hear often. From the bottom:

E open / E / G# / D / Gnat / E open

So what do you call that G natural? Is it a #9, so it's really an F double sharp?…

1) You do not have to notate F double sharp.
In chord notation the enharmonic spelling does not have to follow the “theoretically correct” spelling according to the chord symbol - a G natural is perfectly OK.
Another example: An Adim chord might be spelled A / C / Eb / F# - even if the “theoretically correct” spelling would require Gb instead of F#.

2) I have seen the G natural called a #9, but I have also seen it called a b10.

I would ask the performers who are supposed to read the chord symbol, and notate it in the way they are used to - in order to avoid wasting rehearsal time.

Peter


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Christopher Smith
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   Posted 8/6/2015 8:45 AM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Peter Thomsen said...
Bill Stevens said...
…Here is a guitar chord that you hear often. From the bottom:

E open / E / G# / D / Gnat / E open

So what do you call that G natural? Is it a #9, so it's really an F double sharp?…

1) You do not have to notate F double sharp.
In chord notation the enharmonic spelling does not have to follow the “theoretically correct” spelling according to the chord symbol - a G natural is perfectly OK.
Another example: An Adim chord might be spelled A / C / Eb / F# - even if the “theoretically correct” spelling would require Gb instead of F#.

2) I have seen the G natural called a #9, but I have also seen it called a b10.

I would ask the performers who are supposed to read the chord symbol, and notate it in the way they are used to - in order to avoid wasting rehearsal time.

Peter


I have been on a quest to make chord nomenclature consistent with the theory behind it for 30 years now. In one case, nomenclature HAS shifted to the correct name, that being the former #5 on a dominant chord is now more commonly called by its correct name, the b13, since it is almost always the 6th scale degree.

The #9 is indeed theoretically a b10 and should be spelled that way in most cases. It came about historically as a result of an appoggiatura to the b9, so go ahead and spell it as a minor 3rd. As for the name, I have given up trying to make people write "b10" in their chord symbols, since the technically incorrect "#9" is virtually 100% of the usage now.

Diminished chords have three different common usages (root moves up a semitone like a viio7 of the next chord, root moves down a semitone usually to a minor chord, root stays on the same note as the next chord) so the theoretically correct spelling may not always be stacked minor thirds, as Peter points out. I would still maintain that the spelling gives the player an important cue as to function, and thus tuning, so I encourage any passages moving slower than quarter notes to use the "theoretically correct" spelling as much as can be managed. Fast running passages would benefit more from being spelled melodically, though (meaning they should look like scale fragments as much as possible while notes chromatically altered up move up and notes chromatically altered down move down.)


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Bill Spencer
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   Posted 8/6/2015 11:19 AM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
OK, I'm gonna touch the tar baby...

I'm not sure why one would think that "b10" is theoretically correct. In chord notation, extensions are odd numbers, I've never seen a 10th, 12th, 14th, etc. notated. That chord is a #9. It's not "a major third and minor third", it's a major third, and (in the primary 'first inversion' voicing) a #9 above the (flatted) seventh.

The only time I use "b13" is if there is definitely a natural fifth in the voicing as well as the raised fifth/flatted sixth. The "13" implies that it is higher in the voicing than the fifth; thus, a chord notated as #5 would have that note regardless of where it appears in the voicing.

This is certainly an area where some standardization would help simplify things.

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jim dukey
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   Posted 8/6/2015 11:44 AM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Play a C9.
Raise the 9th 1/2 step.
How is that a flat 10th?
An E Triad with a G is-
E ( add G )


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Post Edited (jim dukey) : 8/6/2015 10:47:26 AM (GMT-5)

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Peter F
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   Posted 8/6/2015 1:05 PM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
(Disclaimer: I'm not speaking on behalf of MakeMusic in this message.)

In my studies of jazz harmony, there are three types of notes in any given chord-scale: Chord Tones, Tensions, and Avoid Notes. Chord tones include the root, third, fifth and seventh. All of the notes in between are either tensions or avoid notes, based on their relation to the chord tones. To speak VERY generally, a tension occurs when a note is one wholestep above a chord tone, and an avoid note occurs when a note is one halfstep above a chord tone. Avoid notes are expressed in a lower octave (2nd, 4th, 6th), while tensions are expressed as intervals above the highest tension in the chord (9th, 11th, 13th). I'm ignoring a lot of exceptions here, but most basic jazz harmony follows this structure.

For example, in the key of C major, a Cmaj7 chord uses C, E, G, and B as chord tones. An F is a half-step above E, so it is considered an avoid note and is called a "4th" - it is generally recommended not to use this note in a chord voicing. However, in the key of G major, a Cmaj7 chord still uses C, E, G, and B again, but this time you're dealing with an F-sharp instead of an F-natural. The F-sharp is a wholestep above the Chord tone (E), so it is considered a tension and is called a "#11" instead. The idea behind (basic, traditional, academic) jazz harmony is that it is created by stacking intervals of thirds, and this is why tensions are expressed above the seventh of a chord - they are a continuation of the chord's quality after the seventh. I've heard that this is also why tensions are sometimes referred to as "extensions" as well, but I don't have any sources to back that up as that term wasn't used in my study.

@Bill Stevens: The chord you've outlined is the archetype "Jimi" chord, used in the song Purple Haze. Even though the voicing you mentioned (1 / 1 / 3 / b7 / #9 / 1) isn't in the same order as the basic or "block" voicing of the chord, the G-natural is still referred to as a #9. This is because in any E chord, the 9 tension is an F-sharp, as F-sharp is a whole-step above the E chord tone. The # in #9 implies that you must raise this tension up a half-step, from F-sharp to G-natural (or, perhaps more accurately, F-double-sharp). When spelling out this chord in regular staff notation, it is common to write G-natural instead of F-double-sharp because G-natural is significantly easier to read.

I don't know if that clears anything up or not, but that's what I was always taught. Educators still disagree to this day on how to best express this kind chord... and for that matter, nearly every other chord as well! Still, #9 is how this kind of tension is expressed in The Real Books, and many jazz harmony texts including "The Jazz Language" by Dan Haerle, all materials from the Berklee College of Music, Clinton Roemer's "The Art of Music Copying" and Mark McGrain's "Music Notation."

It's starting to become my catch-phrase lately, but at the end of the day you should always write whatever is easiest for your musicians to understand. In my experience in the big bands and smaller combos that I've played in, most (American) jazz musicians want to see #9 - b10 will only confuse them and thus you risk hearing the wrong chord during the gig.


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jdpmus
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   Posted 8/6/2015 2:11 PM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
As a guy who used to play shows for name acts, let me toss my 2c in here.

I've long advocated that there needs to be another Geneva Convention just to clear up the confusion about chord symbols. Whoever would violate the terms of the treaty would be required to write harp pedalings as punishment :p

A good example is using the circle symbol to indicate a diminished chord. So far, so good. Then some guy writes a chart out by hand and uses a triangle to indicate a major seventh chord (I'm looking at you guys from UNT). So the guy's doing this by hand and in a hurry and the triangle is not quite equilateral but more like an oval sort of thing. What do I do? Rehearsal time is expensive and the conductor wants the show to gel quickly. Try playing a diminished chord against a major seventh and it will make the fillings in your teeth hurt.

I realize that I have seen this more often in handwritten parts than those done in Finale or other notation programs. Still, anything that causes a moment's hesitation to the player is not a good thing. Perhaps the music schools with strong jazz programs could get together and decide on a preferred way of notating chords. I'm basically past playing piano on shows, but the young guys that follow me would have an easier time of it.

A final illustration. Rehearsing a show for a country act we ran into a problem in a chart. Their guitar player came over to me and said, "oh, you're playing one of them demolished chords there".

I rest my case.


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Christopher Smith
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   Posted 8/6/2015 4:08 PM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Bill Spencer said...
OK, I'm gonna touch the tar baby...

I'm not sure why one would think that "b10" is theoretically correct. In chord notation, extensions are odd numbers, I've never seen a 10th, 12th, 14th, etc. notated. That chord is a #9. It's not "a major third and minor third", it's a major third, and (in the primary 'first inversion' voicing) a #9 above the (flatted) seventh.

The only time I use "b13" is if there is definitely a natural fifth in the voicing as well as the raised fifth/flatted sixth. The "13" implies that it is higher in the voicing than the fifth; thus, a chord notated as #5 would have that note regardless of where it appears in the voicing.

This is certainly an area where some standardization would help simplify things.

Spence


6th. Even number. But I would attribute the fact that you haven't seen b10ths IN CHORD SYMBOLS to two things: 1. They are not very common, as I pointed out, despite being theoretically correct. and 2. Possibly the people who DO write them aren't in your area. Around here, there is a small contingent eager to spread the gospel of "correct" nomenclature, but I have left their ranks, preferring widely-accepted convention over being "correct." But I, and almost everyone I know, SPELLS it out as a b10 virtually all the time. (Again, there is a small contingent apparently allergic to things like C flats, who would put a B natural on an Ab7(#9) chord.)

But regardless, the whole stacking of chords as 3rds thing is just a convention. It isn't REALLY how the "higher" extensions came into use. In fact, I can certainly see the case for #9 as being just one more kind of 3rd stacked up from the 7th, as it makes it easy to explain to students. But in use, it first came about as an appoggiatura (approach tone) to the b9, NOT as an alteration of the natural 9. It only ended up being considered as consonant much later, yet we still get a LOT of lines where the #9 resolves immediately to a b9. In that case, would you rather see a D# moving to Db, or an Eb moving to Db? It's a melodic interval of a major second, not a diminished 3rd [edit] double-augmented unison, and in my opinion the name should reflect the function.

I would challenge your contention that "13" means it is voiced higher; as chord symbols are only naming conventions, not voicing instructions. In fact, the usual reason 5ths are left out of voicings that also contain 13ths is that it is unusual in common-practice jazz to include the resolution note along with the tension note. The 13th takes the place of the 5th in the same way that the #9 takes the place of the b9. Of course, in modern jazz, where such old-fashioned notions are disregarded, the two coexist happily, along with suspended 4ths and major 3rds together and other such things.


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Post Edited (Christopher Smith) : 8/6/2015 4:27:40 PM (GMT-5)

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Charles Lawrence
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   Posted 8/6/2015 4:23 PM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
freaked It looks like the Chord War has started!  All but the simplest chords are beyond my comprehension.  I play horn, so I only need one note at a time.  I'm no Tuckwell, who can hum a harmony part while played the melody!


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John Ruggero
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   Posted 8/7/2015 12:06 PM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
I am only a non-jazzer with an East Coast chord vocabulary garnered from my father's old fake books, but I find the whole subject fascinating as it evolves and morphs. It is obvious that a book needs to be written on the systems of chord abbreviation, starting with Figured Bass. Perhaps Christopher Smith is already working on it.

I had never heard of the Nashville system, which would seem to be present-day chord analysis with the Roman numerals replaced by Arabic ones. What an advantage for transposing!


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Christopher Smith
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   Posted 8/7/2015 4:19 PM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
John Ruggero said...
It is obvious that a book needs to be written on the systems of chord abbreviation, starting with Figured Bass. Perhaps Christopher Smith is already working on it.

I had never heard of the Nashville system, which would seem to be present-day chord analysis with the Roman numerals replaced by Arabic ones. What an advantage for transposing!


Ha! I don't think anyone really wants me to go on more than I already have. Thanks for the vote of confidence, though!

The Nashville system is quite amazing in its simplicity, yet able to communicate complex arrangements. There are a collections of marks that go above the line (I can't say "staff, as there isn't one) for the guitar or below the line for the bass to indicate fills, walkups, and the like. I am no expert, but people who play these kinds of charts on actual gigs say that everything of importance gets communicated somehow, while unimportant things are left off. The players, too, get to understand the harmony by its relationship according to the key, rather than memorizing chords. And you are right, John, that transposition IS a snap!


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John Ruggero
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   Posted 8/7/2015 5:16 PM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
As I recall, the John Mehegan books on jazz improv used Roman numerals for chord charts rather than the standard letter names, perhaps because of copyright issues. These books were practically the only serious books on jazz harmony at the time (50s-60s), and I wonder if this influenced the Nashville system.


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Bill Stevens
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   Posted 8/7/2015 6:08 PM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
John,

Wow. When you mentioned the Mehegan book it brought back a flood of memories from the 60's when I would write songs for girls and put random chord symbols from the Mehegan above the lines to impress them. This was back when you could actually impress girls with music and fake chord symbols. By the 70's you needed a car and you had to smoke cigarettes and be able to dance, so that was it for me.

As a complete outsider to the chord symbol world it has been enlightening to follow this thread generated by my question about Jimi's Purple Haze chord. Thanks to all who offered wisdom and opinion.

Bill


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Peter F
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   Posted 8/7/2015 7:31 PM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
(FYI: I'm still not speaking on behalf of MakeMusic in this message)

@John Ruggero: I share your sentiment on the need for a textbook on chord suffixes and their history - believe it or not, someone actually DID write a book for the Nashville system! Chas Williams' aptly titled "The Nashville Number System" is an excellent overview. To be fair, I probably should have mentioned in my article that the Nashville system is considered less "academic," and incorporates a wealth of arrangement information compared to other chord systems. In a way, the Nashville system is as much a system of notation as it is a chord system. Session players in Nashville (the people who use this system the most) are amazingly good at improvising an arrangement with each other, so specific or traditional notation isn't always needed in the heat of a recording session. There's also a lot of shorthand involved - the best example I can think of is that chords held for a whole note are referred to as "footballs." But I could talk for months about how cool Nashville players are, so I won't bore you.

One other interesting fact is that due to both Chas' book and the amount of professionals who use the system, the Nashville System is significantly more standardized than any of the other systems I've been exploring!

You're right about the ease of transposition as well, as that was the point of the system in the first place - I've heard the story told in a few different ways, but essentially the reason the Nashville Number System was developed was that in the 1950's, Neal Matthews Jr. and his band, The Joranaires, needed to quickly re-write one of their tunes in a different key. The only problem was that they weren't sure which one! So they borrowed from roman-numeral analysis methods to write a "keyless" chord chart that was easy to understand and quick to write. They continued to use this when writing backup vocal parts for their work with Elvis Presley, where the system caught the attention of Charlie McCoy. He continued to develop the system further until it became a standard amongst Nashville producers and session players alike.

I don't know if all of this is tied to John Mehegan or not, but I can confirm that even nowadays, fake chord symbols still don't help to impress girls. However, Roman numeral analysis has been around for a long time - I think the first book credited with using it was Gottfried Weber's "Theory of Musical Composition," which was published in the early 1800's. This book actually codifies a lot of the methods of music analysis that are still used to this day.


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John Ruggero
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   Posted 8/8/2015 9:40 AM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Dear Peter F,

Thanks so much for your very informative post concerning the Nashville system. I had suspected that it was transposition for singers that instigated the system, but not that Elvis was one of the first of those! I will definitely check out Williams' book, which will probably be consulted by musicologists in the next century in the way that 18th and 19th century theory texts are today.

I find it very interesting that with the Nashville system, many pop musicians have intuitively found their way out of chord boxes and back into functional harmony. It illustrates how music notation continues to evolve until musicians, not music theorists, find the best and most musical solution to a particular problem.


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SmartScore X Pro
JW Plug-ins
Audacity 2.0.5
www.cantilenapress.com

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John Ruggero
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Date Joined Mar 2000
Total Posts : 820
 
   Posted 8/8/2015 9:54 AM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Dear Bill Stevens,

I hope I stirred up some nice memories, but sorry about the girls. Maybe if you had used the right chord symbols…?


Mac mini (OS 10.8.5) with dual monitors
Finale 2014d (Finale 2011 as a backup) with GPO 4
Kurzweil Mark 5 with M-Audio Midisport 2 x 2
Adobe InDesign CS4, Acrobat XI Pro, Photoshop Elements 11
SmartScore X Pro
JW Plug-ins
Audacity 2.0.5
www.cantilenapress.com

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Christopher Smith
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Date Joined Sep 2007
Total Posts : 2290
 
   Posted 8/8/2015 12:07 PM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Ha ha! Sounds like my misguided notion in high school that playing trombone would get me a girlfriend. Didn't work even once in forty years! (My wife liked me for other reasons!)


Christopher Smith

Mac 2 x 2 Ghz Dual-Core Intel Xeon
OSX 10.7.5
Finale 2012c r.13
or
Mac iBook G4 733 Mhz
OSX 10.4.11
Finale 2010b r.1

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