Dobrian's list of jazz chord symbols


C, C- (Cm, Cmin), Co (Cdim), C+

7th chords:

C7, CΔ7 (CM7, Cmaj7), C-7 (Cm7, Cmin7), Cø7 (C-7b5, Cm7b5), Co7, CmΔ7 (C-Δ7, CminMaj7, C-maj7), C7b5, C+7 (C7#5), CΔ7b5, CΔ7#5, C-7#5 (or Abadd9/C, see Slash chords, below)

Jazz/pop-specific chords:

C6, Cadd9 (C(add9)), C69, C-add9 (C-(add9), Cmin add9), C-6 (Cmin6, Cm6), C-69 (Cmin69, Cm69), Csus (Csus4), C2 (Csus2), C5, C7sus

Ninth chords:

9th is major unless otherwise specified; 7th is almost always assumed to be present, and is minor unless otherwise specified; C9, C7b9, C7#9, CΔ9 (CM9, Cmaj9) (b9 and #9 rarely occur on M7 chord), C-9 (Cm9, Cmin9) (b9 rarely occurs, #9 is same as b3), C-Δ9 (CminMaj9, CminM9, etc.) (b9 rarely occurs, #9 is same as b3), C-9b5 (b9 rarely occurs, #9 is same as b3), any of the aforementioned 9th chords could have an altered 5th, such as C9b5, CΔ9#5, etc., Co9 (fairly rarely seen but quite possible, might equally be notated D7b9/C--see Slash chords, below), (Co7b9 is rarely used, #9 would be same as b3)

Eleventh chords:

11th is assumed to be perfect unless explicitly sharped; 7th and 9th are almost always assumed to be present, 7th is assumed minor unless otherwise specified, 9th is assumed major unless otherwise specified; C11 (usually no 3rd, considered same as C9sus), C-11 (3rd is present, distinguishing it from C9sus or C11), CΔ11 (rarely used, but possible), C7#11 (C9#11), CΔ7#11 (CΔ9#11), C-7#11 (C-9#11), Cø11 or C-11b5 (C-7#11b5 is redundant and is not used; #11 implies that the perfect 5th is present), indeed any of the aforementioned 11th chords could have an altered 5th and/or and altered 9th, such as C11b5b9, CΔ9#11#5, etc., but redundant spellings should be avoided (so not C7#11b5, and not C-11#9), Co11 is theoretically possible but might more likely be written F13b9/C (see Slash chords, below)

Thirteenth chords:

13th is assumed to be major unless explicitly flatted; 7th and 9th are assumed to be present, minor 7th and major 9th unless otherwise specified; 11th is assumed not to be present and must be specified; C13, CΔ13, Cm-13, a b13 is usually written with a 7 or 9 followed by the b13 as in C7b13 or C9b13 (b13 is most commonly used with a dominant 7th chord, and is less commonly used with a Δ7 or a -7 chord), any 13th chord may have an altered 5th and/or altered 9th and/or altered or unaltered 11th which is usually notated after the 13 as in C13b5b9 or CΔ13#11 or C13#9#11, note that the b13 implies that a perfect 5th or flatted 5th or no fifth is present in the chord (thus C7b13 or C7#5, depending on the function of the Ab/G#, but not C7#5b13 which would be redundant)

Slash chords:

When a chord is not in root position the bass note should be provided after a slash, such as C7/E or C7/G or C/Bb (notice that the 7 is not strictly needed in the last example, because it's stated in the bass); the slash can also be useful for describing a chord in which the musical context implies that the bass note is best considered separately from the chord above it such as C/F (if F is a pedal tone, or simply easier than writing FMaj9(no 3rd)) or if the bass note seems to be unrelated to the rest of the chord, as in C7sus/Gb


When a chord cannot be sensibly defined with any single chord designation, and/or is best defined as the combination of two simpler chords, the two chords can be stacked vertically with a horizontal line between them. This is distinct from a "slash chord", which is a chord over a single separate bass note; in a polychord both elements in the symbol represent entire chords. For example, the polychord Ab7|A7 is simpler and clearer than A13Δ7#9#11, especially if the context implies two separate chords. [The two chords should be stacked vertically with a horizontal line between, rather than as shown here.]

Use of parentheses:

Some systems of jazz chord notation put all altered notes in parentheses, as in CΔ7(#5) or C7(b9)(b13). This seems unnecessary because the altered note is an integral part of the chord. However, when some unusual comment is needed for a chord to be accurately noted, parentheses may be the most direct way, as in CΔ9(no 5) or C11(with 3rd).

Use of superscripts:

When the typography permits, the Arabic extension numbers and the flats and sharps that modify them are usually printed as superscripts (small raised numbers) rather than full-sized as shown here. Commonly they're also stacked vertically when there's more than one. [I'm too lazy to do any of that here.]



This page was last modified October 28, 2014.
Christopher Dobrian,