Common Chord Mnemonics
First, understand that chord nomenclature is a colloquialism of modern music, and there are occasional variances on how people use the symbols. I used the common forms below, which are a mixture of common pop music (such as the half-diminshed) and jazz influenced (such as minor major 7th) chord symbols. You will doubtless find people using the + symbol occasionally to mean "add" a specific note to a chord form (rather than augmented which is the more common form), and various other such renderings. In fact, the + is also sometimes used as a way to "sharp" a note in some circles. That said, I tend to revert to letters, instead of using symbols where possible, to avoid such confusion. Meaning, I would use C7aug rather than C7+ simply to avoid misunderstanding in some circles. Then again, if everyone simply used my chart below, there would be no confusion at all :). So there you go then- use this as gospel chord notation.
The use of "b" in this table symbolizes flat, and applies to the note that follows it in a chord form, or the chord name that proceeds it when contexted to the chord itself. The use of the "#" symbol indicates a sharp.
General chord theory has some "essentials" to remember:
- A basic chord is normally thought of as a triad (meaning 3) of notes. This means each simple chord is a combination of 3 distinct notes played simultaneously.
- Simple chords are named by the first note in their sequence. The first note in the chord sequence is also called the "root".
- The most basic form of a chord is a major chord. A major chord is the sequence of notes, beginning with the root as 1, moving up 2 positions to get the next note, and moving up two more positions to get the last note. The major chord includes notes in positions 1, 3 and 5 relative to the root.
|Form||Symbol||Alternate||2nd Alt||Example||Example 2||Notes|
|Major||Δ||M||maj||C||Cmaj||1 3 5|
|Minor||-||m||min||Cm||C-||1 b3 5|
|Suspended||sus||sus4||Csus||Csus4||1 4 5|
|2nd *||sus2||sus9||2||Csus2||C2||1 2 5|
|7 **||7||dom7||C7||Cdom7||1 3 5 b7|
|Minor 7||-7||m7||min7||Cm7||C-7||1 b3 5 b7|
|Major 7||Δ7||M7||maj7||CΔ7||Cmaj7||1 3 5 7|
|Diminished ***||°||dim||dim7||Cdim||C°||1 b3 b5 bb7 or 1 b3 b5 6|
|Half Diminished||ø||m7-5||m7(b5)||Cø||Cmin7(b5)||1 b3 b5 b7|
|Augmented||+||aug||+5||C+||Caug||1 3 #5|
|Augmented 7||7+||aug7||C7+||1 3 #5 b7|
|Sixth||6||C6||1 3 5 6|
|Ninth||9||C9||1 3 5 b7 9|
|Minor 9th||m9||min9||Cm9||Cmin9||1 b3 5 b7 9|
|Major 9th||M9||maj9||Cmaj9||CM9||1 3 5 7 9|
|Diminished 9th||dim9||Cdim9||1 3 5 b7 b9|
|Added 9||add9||(9)||Cadd9||C(9)||1 3 5 9|
|Fifth||5||(no 3rd)||(no 3)||C5||C(no 3)||1 5|
|Eleventh||11||C11||1 3 5 b7 9 11|
|Minor major 7th||m M7||mΔ7||m maj7||CmM7||C-Δ7||1 b3 5 7|
* also called suspended 2nd
** also called dominant 7th
*** also called diminished 7th
Alternate Bass Chords
Sometimes called "slash chords", these are chords that follow all the same conventions as listed above, except that they add a single low note as the "bass" note in the chord. This simply means that in a chord such as "X/Y", that this is an "X chord with a Y in the bass". For example, you might see:
- this would simply be a C chord with an E note played in the bass. In this case you would play the regular C major chord and add the E note below the low C of your regular major C chord.
Figuring out chord names
Occasionally, you may find that you play a chord, but don't know how to name it. If you play guitar, there is a nice applet that can help you figure out the name of that chord. Go to the website, use this "Finder" to build the finger positions to find the chord name.