chord symbol in standard font

• Jun 15, 2021 - 13:43

In standard (not jazz) font, in a chord symbol, say, "Cmaj7", how can I make the "maJ7" a little higher and smaller than the "C" ?


In reply to by Gene Gaunt

Well, there are a number of standards for how chord symbols are presented, but superscripting the "maj" (or "ma", or other abbreviations or symbols used for major) is not one in common use. Just check various publishers to see how they do things. The only major publisher I am aware of that superscripts this is Hal Leonard for their Real Book series, and they do it there only because the college students who did the old illegal handwritten versions did, not because they approve of it (none of their other publications do it). As for standards, in the jazz world, the "standard" is from a book by Brandt/Roemer, it's what almost all publishers now use, but almost exclusively with handwritten fonts. Outside the jazz world, that particular standard isn't used, they are mostly just typed in plain Roman font left to right with no superscripting at all.

For G7aug5(b9), the way you show it there is how most publishers would do it - those not using handwritten fonts, anyhow. Well, also, the "5" is superfluous, "aug" already means the fifth is raised. So you write either aug (or +), or you write #5, but not aug5. In any case, again, superscripting is actually quite unusual in the whole of non-handwritten chord symbols. At most you might see the (b9) superscripted. The "aug" or "+" can either precede or follow the 7, and if you move it before, there is no need for the parens around the b9.

So, the most concise way to write that in a non-jazz setting would be G+7b9. But other common ways would be G7+(b9), or G7#5b9, or G7aug(b9), and other variations. But again, I can't think of any publishers who would superscript any of this, except in the jazz world using handwritten fonts.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella


I also just stumbled across this issue when I was creating jazz chord symbols in musescore. It also doesn't seem logical to me that a major chord has the "maj" at the bottom and a minor chord at the top.(See the attached image mso.jpg).

If you are consistent, the "maj" must also be on top of a major chord because it belongs to the 7.

The Schott-Verlag also does it this way. (See attached picture Schott.jpg) I don't see any sensible reason why it is done differently for minor chords and major chords.

But I also realize that you can write everything below and that is probably the most common form. For reasons of quick readability, I think the superscript kind is better.

Attachment Size
mso.jpg 33.58 KB
Schott.jpg 89.31 KB

In reply to by masterkey123

Usually the "minor Maj7" chord is written as: Xm(Maj7)
Reason: so that successive letters mM do not interfere with easy readability.
For the same reason, it makes sense that Maj7 in minor chords is superscript in Jazz chords (with or without parentheses).

NOTE: I'm only speaking in terms of the usage logic of Maj7 in minor chords here. Usage and writing style may differ from person to person.

In reply to by masterkey123

The goal here isn’t consistency, it’s adhering to common standards - and in particular, the Brandt-Roemer standard used by most jazz publishers. In actual published music from
these publishers, the abbreviation for major seventh is normally not superscripted except when it appears as a modifier to a minor chord, so that’s what we do by default - the goal is to make your music look as much as possible like professionally published music.

If you’re trying to adhere to a specific house style used by a specific publisher that doesn’t follow this standard, you can create your own custom chord description file to emulate it. A future version of MuseScore will simplify this process.y

In reply to by masterkey123

But what is the reason why Brandt/Roemer superscribe the maj7 at a Cm chord and on a C chord the maj is on the bottom and only the 7 is superscripted?

Do they have a logical explanation for it? I do not know the standard work of them. Did they develop their system logically or just throw together something old and fixed?

In reply to by masterkey123

Do they have a logical explanation for it?

My guess...
Since m, which explicitly denotes the chord's quality, is already "on the bottom"; the maj7, which refers to an M7 interval, gets superscripted.

BTW: Check your "Schott.jpg" attachment posted above. I can only see a blank image.

In reply to by masterkey123

Yes, it's quite logical, it's to provide an easily-readable visual arrangement where the information is "staggered" vertically in a way that makes parsing it easy - an issue in jazz played in dark nightclubs, often smoky back when the standard was created, and by musicians who are sight-reading and perhaps have had a few drinks). They show some nice graphics with rectangles making this visually clear.

As for where this came from, these were two of the most well-known music copyists back in the day, with the definitive book on that subject also. They were widely known as the experts in the field, so yes, their system reflected common practice, it wasn't just hastily thrown together.

That said, they don't explain everything all the time, many of their recommendations are pretty arbitrary, simply calling some things "unacceptable". But no matter, almost all major jazz publishers use this system, it's really pretty pointless to second guess this, any more than it makes to wonder why quarter notes are solid and half note hollow.

In reply to by masterkey123

It's long out of print, you can probably find it on Scribd or some such. But it's also easy enough to see the actual results, just look at the chord chart in the beginning (or perhaps end) of any publication from Sher Music to see a pretty exhaustive table of the chords used in their publications. Or just look at any of their fakebooks, or any big band arrangements from any of the major publishers (Kendor etc). It's pretty ubiquitous in use, so even without the actual text, it wouldn't take long to see for yourself the principles from it that are followed by most publishers. Realistically, that's what we did too, I didn't actually the Brandt/Roemer book itself until losing after we got most of it implemented just by surveying the literature.

Still to come are stacked extensions, but that shouldn't be too much longer (soon after MsueScore 4 is the plan).

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