How to notate this chord?


faith83
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faith83
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11/22/2020 12:42 am

Hi all,

I'm writing a new song that uses the chord below. (Note that all of the strings are played).

My question is, how do I notate this on a lead sheet? As you'll notice, there are multiple options below the fretboard diagram and I'm not sure which one to use. I'm inclined towards C#m (the song is in the key of A), but the "b6" and also the choice of C#m(b6)/E are making my head hurt.

[br]What's the simplest/easiest notation for a session musician to understand in the context of the key of A? (Also if it's helpful, it's preceded by an A and the next chord will be an E)

Thank you in advance for help.


"I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk."

# 1
dlwalke
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dlwalke
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11/22/2020 1:14 am

Well, Amaj7 is a pretty basic chord, and that fingering is a pretty basic Amaj7/E. I don't see any advantage to cluttering it up with the parenthetical notations that calling it something else would require. I'm certainly not an expert but I would think that A-Amaj7-E is a perfectly rational progression.


# 2
faith83
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faith83
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11/22/2020 1:45 am

Yeah, but it doens't sound like a traditional Amaj7. It's a bit more unusual and I want to make sure I'm communicating that so that the sessoin playres don't reach for a more generic chord.

I'm hoping that the amazing and wise Christopher will shed some light on some basics about how to choose which notations to use when there are multiple options.


"I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk."

# 3
ChristopherSchlegel
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ChristopherSchlegel
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11/22/2020 2:01 am
Originally Posted by: faith83

how do I notate this on a lead sheet?

Amaj7/E

The slash E is not absolutely necessary since it's a standard chord tone. But if you really want that sound then use it in the name.

Kudos to dlwalke for answering correctly!


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dlwalke
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11/22/2020 2:06 am

I'm sure he will. I'll look forward to his response as well. I'm kind of wowed by the implication that you're writing music for session musicians. You should post a composition sometime if that's possible (like maybe link to it on a YouTube channel if you have one [easy to create one if you don't]).


# 5
faith83
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faith83
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11/22/2020 2:28 am

Thanks, Christopher! My larger question is, how does one choose? There are seven different options for the same combination of strings -- are there rules of thumb for which to use in which situation?

@dlwalke: I'm primarily a songwriter and always have been, so that's always my relationship to music and to guitar. And yes, I'm hoping to post some new stuff when it's ready! Thank you for being interested.


"I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk."

# 6
dlwalke
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11/22/2020 2:51 pm
Originally Posted by: faith83

I'm primarily a songwriter and always have been, so that's always my relationship to music and to guitar. And yes, I'm hoping to post some new stuff when it's ready! Thank you for being interested.

Great! I'll be looking forward to that. Songwriting is such an incredible skill and gift, if you have it. You have to be a composer, a poet, meld the two, and if you're writing for yourself, a vocalist and instrumentalist to boot. It's incredible anyone ever succeeds at it. I enjoyed reading a couple of books earlier this year by Paul Zollo, "Songwriters on Song Writing" volumes I and II, which are collections of interviews with scores of famous songwriters (mostly people who became famous from the late 60s through 80's and mostly rock and folk rock but not exclusively - so for example, Paul Simon, Burt Bacharach, Neil Young, Janis Ian, Frank Zappa, etc, etc) on their craft. Given your interest, perhaps you've read them as well but if not you might want to put them on your list.

If you don't mind, I have a quick follow-up re: the Amaj7 chord you were asking about. You said that that particular fingering sounded non-traditional to you. I'm curious what finger pattern you're comparing it with (what does sound traditional?).

Thanks,

Dave


# 7
faith83
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11/22/2020 3:08 pm

Your question re: Amaj7 inspired me to consider this issue more closely. I think you're right. I don't think that, in isolation, there is any difference really, between different variations of Amaj7. At least not that big a one.

I think what the issue is -- and what I'm not communicating well -- is a psychological difference. The verses and the chorus are a simple, switching between A and E. For the bridge, I'm looking to signal that this is a different tone/mood from the verses/chorus (as is common, of course, for a bridge) and that the bridge is a bit more moody. Hence the desire for a minor chord notation and also something that is not just a variation of A, which is one of the only two chords in the rest of the song -- not because the sound is different, obvoiusly it's not, but because I want to signal to the creative team that this is a "minor" feel and a different feel from the verses/chorus.

[br]This is why I was asking about which notation to choose. I don't want to overly complicate things by using the C#m option when there is a simpler one, but C#m "feels" more right for this part of the song. And those tiny kinds of nuances can affect how a musician approaches the song in the studio.

On the other hand, having a session musician be annoyed with the composer for using an overly complicated notation when a simpler one would do (thus looking like the composer doesn't know what she's doing or is trying to be pretentious) would also be a problem.

Hence my dilemma. I think if this were a songwriting forum primarily rather than a guitar forum, it would be easier to communicate that sort of in-the-weeds songwriting thing, and I recognize that it probably sounds a little nitpicky. But especially since right now, everything has to be virtual -- no sitting around in the studio working out the song -- the need to communicate feel/nuance via the lead sheet and written notes becomes even more important.

I have read the first of the Zollo books, but not the rest. I agree, they are good reads, though I feel like Zollo has a bias that shows through pretty heavily in which songwriters he chooses to interview. He's a bit of a snob... but still, good stuff and I do want to make the effort to get the other volumes at some point. Really good process stuff in there.


"I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk."

# 8
dlwalke
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11/22/2020 5:28 pm

Gotcha. Two things come to mind regarding your desire to signal a different feel. I wonder if you could force, or strongly encourage the listener (and performer) to interpret that chord as a C#m by playing the C# bass note first - maybe doing a walkup from A to C# on the 5th string before strumming the chord? Also, I suppose you're playing those particular notes because you need them, but I did wonder if it would be at odds with your intent to just drop the A (the b6 if you are calling it C#m) and play a basic, or less ambiguous, C#m? Anyway, all that may sound like crap in practice, or be at odds with what you're going for. I'm certainly not a songwriter, but it's fun to think about.

What I remember about Zollo's interviews in terms of putting himself, or his views about songwriting, into it was that he was always asking the interviewee if they felt like the song was being channeled through them from some other source. It felt like he really wanted them to say yes (some did, some didn't).

Anyway, best of luck.

-Dave

Originally Posted by: faith83

Your question re: Amaj7 inspired me to consider this issue more closely. I think you're right. I don't think that, in isolation, there is any difference really, between different variations of Amaj7. At least not that big a one.

I think what the issue is -- and what I'm not communicating well -- is a psychological difference. The verses and the chorus are a simple, switching between A and E. For the bridge, I'm looking to signal that this is a different tone/mood from the verses/chorus (as is common, of course, for a bridge) and that the bridge is a bit more moody. Hence the desire for a minor chord notation and also something that is not just a variation of A, which is one of the only two chords in the rest of the song -- not because the sound is different, obvoiusly it's not, but because I want to signal to the creative team that this is a "minor" feel and a different feel from the verses/chorus.

[br]This is why I was asking about which notation to choose. I don't want to overly complicate things by using the C#m option when there is a simpler one, but C#m "feels" more right for this part of the song. And those tiny kinds of nuances can affect how a musician approaches the song in the studio.

On the other hand, having a session musician be annoyed with the composer for using an overly complicated notation when a simpler one would do (thus looking like the composer doesn't know what she's doing or is trying to be pretentious) would also be a problem.

Hence my dilemma. I think if this were a songwriting forum primarily rather than a guitar forum, it would be easier to communicate that sort of in-the-weeds songwriting thing, and I recognize that it probably sounds a little nitpicky. But especially since right now, everything has to be virtual -- no sitting around in the studio working out the song -- the need to communicate feel/nuance via the lead sheet and written notes becomes even more important.

I have read the first of the Zollo books, but not the rest. I agree, they are good reads, though I feel like Zollo has a bias that shows through pretty heavily in which songwriters he chooses to interview. He's a bit of a snob... but still, good stuff and I do want to make the effort to get the other volumes at some point. Really good process stuff in there.


# 9
ChristopherSchlegel
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11/22/2020 6:02 pm
Originally Posted by: faith83

My larger question is, how does one choose? There are seven different options for the same combination of strings -- are there rules of thumb for which to use in which situation?

[p]Good question. You choose based on:

1. The most efficient name, for conceptual clarity & perceptual ease.

2. The musical context.

I covered this in depth in this recent thread.

https://www.guitartricks.com/forum/thread.php?p=343341

So, some of my reply here is my standard replies copied & pasted from that & other threads. :)

Any group of notes can be called a variety of chord names by reference to any other musical alphabet letter.

1. Pick a root note. No, it doesn't even have to be one of the notes in the chord!

2. Identify the interval distance from the root note to each note in the chord.

3. Label each interval distance.

4. Build the chord name.

The most direct & precise way to indicate the chord you want played is in your original post.

If you want a specific voicing for a chord used, then just indicate it on standard notation. Then you don't even need to name it. :) Because if you just write Amaj7/E on a chord chart there are multiple ways to voice that on guitar. But it might be good enough to get the job done.

The best name for any chord is usually the most appropriate for the musical context. We use the name that helps us relate that chord to how it's being used.

So, for most purposes that's going to be Amajor7. It might help to indicate the E bass note. It depends on if there is a bass or piano already playing that bass note. If so, then it might not even matter if the guitar plays that low note, because the bass or piano is going to easily cover it. Or if all the instruments are going to be reading a chord chart instead of standard notation then it might help to indicate it.

Normally that kind of chord is a cadential 6/4 chord. A tonic with the 5th in the bass indicating motion to the V chord in some kind of cadence.

It could be a kind of E major (E6 add 4 or 11) if the preceding chord is an E major that uses the A note as a temporary ornamental motion from or to B. For example.

|--0---0---0-------------|

|--2---2---2-------------|

|--1---1---1-------------|

|--2---2---2-------------|

|--2---0---2-------------|

|--0---0---0-------------|

The G# or C# as root note options are much less likely with that particular voicing. It could be a C#minor add b6 if you voiced it more like this.

|--------------------------|

|--5---5---5-------------|

|--6---6---6-------------|

|--6---7---6-------------|

|--4---4---4-------------|

|--------------------------|

In general the best name for a chord it the clearest, most efficient name that indicates the musical context in which it is found.

Hope that helps!


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# 10
faith83
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11/23/2020 4:47 pm

Thank you, Christopher and Dave!

I am reluctantly (very reluctantly) going with the A7maj, (CORRECTED TO: Amaj7 -- typo ,sorry!) though I'm not happy about it. The C#m on its own doesn't work, and adding the b6 would be pretentious and overly complex. Sigh... I'll have to find another way of conveying the change of tone.

And Dave, you're right re: Zollo. He does love his "songs that fall from the sky" theory. Our culture is sadly enamored with the myth of creativity without work, isn't it? (I see it on the forum all the time...)

I myself have not experienced that phenomenon, though I do look back at the completed songs and think, "How did I ever come up with that?" Which I suppose is somewhat the same.


"I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk."

# 11
ChristopherSchlegel
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11/23/2020 5:46 pm
Originally Posted by: faith83

I am reluctantly (very reluctantly) going with the A7maj[/quote][p]To be clear, it's an "A major 7" chord, notated Amaj7. If you put the 7 after the A that's standard terminology for an A dominant 7th chord "A7", a distinctly different sound.

[quote=faith83]The C#m on its own doesn't work, and adding the b6 would be pretentious and overly complex. Sigh... I'll have to find another way of conveying the change of tone.

What is the musical context?

1. What chord is right before & after this chord?

2. What's the overall progression of the section?

3. Most importantly, what are the melody notes over this section?

In my experience, one of the biggest reason people have trouble composing & arranging is that they are unclear about voice leading. Specifically about how the melody interacts with, suggests or reinforces harmony (chords). And conversely, how to reharmonize a melody, to use a variety of chords over the same melodic phrase.


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# 12
faith83
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11/23/2020 6:08 pm

last few lines of verse:

E7/E/E7/A

bridge (as currently conceived):

Amaj7/E7/E/Amaj7/E/A

Chorus:

A/E/A

A folk song, so very simple chords under more complex lyrics.

I don't know the notes of the melody,. I used to write that way, on piano, writing out a full formal musical score, but I didn't like the results. I got too bogged down and made things too complicated and stilted -- hard to play and hard to sing. I write the melody in my head, focusing on maximum singability, then go to the guitar to put the chords to it, do a scratch track with acoustic guitar/vocal and send that with a lead sheet to the producer/session players. In my experience, this is the norm for country/rock/pop songwriting. I've not met anyone who actually does a formal notation of the melody, though I expect there are a few outliers here and there.


"I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk."

# 13
ChristopherSchlegel
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11/23/2020 7:48 pm
Originally Posted by: faith83

last few lines of verse:

E7/E/E7/A

bridge (as currently conceived):

Amaj7/E7/E/Amaj7/E/A

Chorus:

A/E/A

A folk song, so very simple chords under more complex lyrics.[/quote][p]Got it. So the A chord of the verse leads to the Amaj7 of the bridge. And maybe that doesn't seem like enough of a dramatic change at that point. All those sections end with A, so maybe there needs to be a different chord at the end of one of those sections that helps dovetail or lead into the bridge?

Conversely, the Amaj7, E7 & E major all share the note G#. So maybe a different chord with a G# in it might work.

How about:

F#min7 add9 > E7

|--4----0-----------|

|--2----3-----------|

|--2----1-----------|

|--2----0-----------|

|--4----2-----------|

|--2----0-----------|

How about a modulation to really change shake it up?!

G#7 > C#min

|--4----4-----------|

|--4----5-----------|

|--5----6-----------|

|--4----6-----------|

|--6----4-----------|

|--4-----------------|

[quote=faith83]I don't know the notes of the melody

But surely they are easy to figure out. Often they are the notes of the chord you are playing with one or two passing tones in between chord tones.

And sometimes if you play the notes of the chord one at a time while singing the melody you might find one that isn't working for you. So you adjust the chord until you find the right note & then you can find the chord you were looking for!


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faith83
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11/25/2020 12:32 am

Thank you, Christopher, I'll be playing around with these suggestions. I appreciate you taking the time to help!


"I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk."

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ChristopherSchlegel
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11/25/2020 12:36 pm
Originally Posted by: faith83

Thank you, Christopher, I'll be playing around with these suggestions. I appreciate you taking the time to help!

You're welcome! Best of success with your new song!


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# 16

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