Beginner Chord Symbols

Pegwill

Member
Messages
56
Hi Guys

I'm trying to sort out a backing track, the keyboard part uses chord symbols that I cant seem to fathom. I've looked at Pete's page and googled a bit, but I'm still none the wiser and some of the statements go way over my head. Perhaps somebody could help me please. The symbols are:

A- (there is also a D-)
A triangle
B circle with a slash (also E circle with a slash and F# Circle with a slash)

Many thanks

Regards
Bill
 

AdamBradley

Member
Messages
134
Those are American notations I think.

The - means minor, so A- is Am etc
The delta triangle means major, usually seen for maj 7 chords, so A(triangle)7 = Amaj7. I think Americans leave a plain major as just the letter too, but if you're seeing the triangle without added notes after then someone else might know better!
Circle with a line through is a half diminished chord. I can't remember off the top of my head what the 'normal' notation for that is hehe.
If you see just a plain circle, that's a full dimished chord.

I THINK ! :)
 

half diminished

Senior Member
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Buckinghamshire
Hi Guys

I'm trying to sort out a backing track, the keyboard part uses chord symbols that I cant seem to fathom. I've looked at Pete's page and googled a bit, but I'm still none the wiser and some of the statements go way over my head. Perhaps somebody could help me please. The symbols are:

A- (there is also a D-)
A triangle
B circle with a slash (also E circle with a slash and F# Circle with a slash)

Many thanks

Regards
Bill
It's a big subject. :w00t:


  • A- in jazz refers to a minor scale built on the second degree of a major cord. So A- minor is based on G (D- on C). A- contains all the same notes as the G scale but the root of the A- scale is A and not G ... and so on. It's also known as a dorian minor scale and has a flattened 3rd and 7th note (in C- as compared to C∆)
  • ∆ is the symbol that signifies a major scale - as in C∆
  • ø signifies a half diminished scale - Eø which is based on the 7th degree of a major scale but starting on that note - ie Bø (same notes as C∆ but starting on B). The half diminished scale has a flattened 3rd, 5th and 7th note compared to a the major scale (so C∆ has no sharps of flats but Cø, has Eb, Gb and Bb).

Hope this helps a bit :)
 

Pete Thomas

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It's a big subject. :w00t:
Yes it is. But I would disagree with you in that those symbols don't mean scales, they mean chords.

People sometimes associate certain scales with chords, and although the scales you mention are the most obvious ones for those chords, they aren't the only ons so I don't think it's necessarily a good idea to use the symbols for those scales.

The scales are more of a Jamey Aebersold "serving suggestion" for the chords.


I do have those symbols on my site:

http://tamingthesaxophone.com/jazz-chord-symbols.html


Using - or ∆ on its own could mean the triad or it could be a lazy way of meaning there should be a 7th

so C- could be C Eb G or C Eb G Bb

C∆ could be C E G or C E G B

Cø is half diminished = C Eb Gb Bb
 

kevgermany

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Given the notation is ambiguous, how do you know which way to interpret it? Try it both ways and see which sounds better? Or is there a better way?
 

Pete Thomas

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Given the notation is ambiguous, how do you know which way to interpret it?
You don't. I advise against ambiguous notation. This kind of shorthand is best for your own notes, or when working with close associates who understand the shorthand.

If people use this kind of symbol for general publication, and it's misinterpreted, they only have themselves to blame IMO!
 

Linky Lee

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Salisbury, UK
I think you're right. Try it and see which sounds better.

From a theory view, you could pick your way through it and come up with hundreds of variations on the chord progression but they wouldn't all 'work'.

An undeveloped ear can recognise when somethings not right. It's just a lot harder to know how to make something right!

In jazz if you're given an ambiguous chord notation it doesn't really matter for the soloist. We go and expand upon the chords anyway and the best improvisers improvise over progressions and not the individual chords. It's what gives the flow, smoothness and predictability to improvisations.

A good rhythm section will follow your lead, and if they choose not to and play the basic triad it doesn't matter either as you add in the extensions.
It's only really if they interpret something one way and you another then you can encounter problems but that only really happens in bands and rehearsals. With a play-a-long or something you'll be pretty much safe whatever.
 
OP
P

Pegwill

Member
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56
HI Guys

I can see I started a complicated subject here, most of which goes right over my head. I guess I'll find an easyer piece of music to try and develope the backing for. It did come from an aebersold book, but it appears the symbols could mean different chords to different people which is a bit to complicated for me at present, and judging by the discussions will be for a long time.

Many thanks

Bill
 

kevgermany

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Bill, good thing you raised it. I joined in because we've come across the same problem. Some accompaniments for sax arrangements use these symbols and my wife said she couldn't accompany me until we found out what they mean. No we know.... Maybe... :confused:

Must say I prefer unambiguous notation, and seeing ambiguous notation coming from major publishers, this isn't really a good thing - however if you look at the examples on the link from Pete, it seems to boil down to whether or not to add a not to a chord in many cases. So it's easy to experiment.
 

Pete Thomas

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Hmmm, those may have done a lot of damage. I had no idea somebody such as Aebersold had published something which gave chord symbols for scales.

This is a very bad thing to teach IMO, but looks like we are stuck with it.
 
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