Chord Notation Interpretation Question

• Apr 18, 2020 - 13:18

I am in the process of using MuseScore to re-score some old leadsheets and arrangements for posterity, created by a long deceased friend of mine that I played with more than 20 years ago.

To make you appreciative of how far we come, in those days when my friend would make a chord change, he would have to Whit-Out the printed chord and write the new chord symbols over that and make a photocopy…over & over again as required!!

Which brings me to this notation question, two times I have run across a measure where he made a change and notated a Dominant 7th chord symbol on one beat, followed by just the number 7 on the successive beat, so for a measure with two chords on two beats: Bb7 7

I have never seen this notation before and wondered if anyone had any insight. My first thought was it was different way of notating a slash chord so in one example where it was Bb7 7, it would be a Bb7 on the first beat and Bb7/Ab on the second beat and in the other example which was D7 7, it would be D7 on the first beat and D7/C on the second??

If it is another way of notating a slash chord, in one example it isn’t the harmonic interpretation of the original arrangement because although one example is on a leadsheet with no accompaniment, the other example with piano accompaniment has the Bb7 chord in root position on both beats. I realize it could just be poetic license as is often the case with slash chords.

An add7 makes no sense nor does anything else I can think of so I figured it was just some obscure notation that someone here may be familiar with or have run across before.

He was a guitar player if that helps.

I didn’t create an example because I don’t really think it will help much as there really isn’t any harmony to analyze, just a hand written chord symbol.

Thanks in advance for any insight you can provide.


Another thing I just noticed is on the dominant 7th chord symbol that precedes the number 7 by itself, he puts a straight line through the 7 but not on any other 7, as if to indicate a slash chord. So maybe it is a slash cord on both beats?

I scanned a section of his score with this notation as an example.

Attachment Size
Untitled.pdf 614.79 KB

In reply to by BSG

You all are analyzing the written harmonies and comparing it to the written chord symbols which has nothing to do with my question and why I was initially reluctant to post a section of the score.

In addition, I also have other examples of his scores which are leadsheets with NO piano accompaniment to analyze using the same notation.

And besides, I have yet to see a Jazz score which strictly uses harmonic relationships to determine chord symbols. Slash chords that are not classic inversions are a perfect example.

You need to look at the symbols in the REVISED attachment and get back to the original question: What does the notation of just a 7 after a Dominant 7th chord symbol mean, and have you seen it before?

Thanks regardless!

Attachment Size
Untitled.pdf 618.84 KB

In reply to by HuffNPuff

We're doing that because none of us has ever seen this person's notation before. Is it not likely that this person made up his or her own chord notation system/convention, thinking it would be transparent to the people for whom he or she first intended it? Is it not reasonable to look at the piano part to figure out what this person meant? How do you intend us to otherwise understand what he or she meant?

In reply to by HuffNPuff

Indeed, comparing the symbols to the notation has everything to do with your question, because otherwise it is impossible to guess what this particular notation might have meant to the person who wrote it. While it is obviously true one shouldn't assume the chord symbols were written to be a completely literal interpretation of the original written harmony, they provide very important context that can help us guess the intent. And make no mistakes, it's quite clear he was using the sheet music as a guide, otherwise there is no way he'd have included those specific passing chords in the first measure.

Unfortunately, this particular snipped doesn't make this as clear as I might like, I would want to see other similar snippets to see if my guesses seem good. But one distinct possibility is that he is using 7-with-slash to indicate dominant seventh sus 4, and the 7-without-slash to indicate an ordinary dominant seventh, and when he omits the root, he intend it's to be the previous root carried over. So the Bb7-with-slash is Bb dominant seventh sus 4, the 7 by itself is a plain Bb dominant seventh (thus, it si indicating the resolution of the 4-3 suspension, and as such I would expect to see similar notation elsewhere in a similar context),

BTW, you've probably figured this out, but it also seems clear he used capital "M" to mean minor, and he doesn't both notating major sevenths/sixths at all.

BTW, not bothering to notate sixths or major sevenths is common enough, but I've never seen the other notations used here.

In reply to by HuffNPuff

Perhaps the slash through the 7 is shorthand for lowering it a half step. This works for me if I play it on guitar. So, F7 through the first measure. Then on beat one Bb6. Beat 2, Bb7. Beat 3 F7. FM7 on beat three doesn't sound right to me. I think the M on beat three is a reminder that it is a F major chord with a 7th added. If you play Bb6 ( in its simplest form) 1 finger across the four high strings at the third fret. B7 (add Ab on the forth fret). F7 ( based on fret 5). So you have nice voice leading on the 1st string.
And F7 not Fm as the key sig. implies.

In reply to by bobjp

It IS tricky interpreting his chord selection (and how it is notated based on the example with the piano score because I have another example of this notation, for example: D7 (seven has a dash through it) and then 7 on the final beat (with no dash through it) done on a lead sheet with no accompaniment.

Knowing him as I did, his choice of chords was based on the original chords notated on whatever sheet music he had access to and he either left them as is, or changed them to what sounded right to him. I know many guitar players who harmonize this way and many can't read music so they wouldn't know what was in the piano score anyway.

Going with the plausible Bb7sus4 to Bb7 theory in the original example and applying it to the other example (which I didn’t post) that doesn’t have an accompaniment to analyze, that change would be D7sus4 to D7. The most important thing is that chord change sounds good, (despite your own preferences) which is the ultimate verification.

I also see more than a few published arrangements using a minor 7 chord on the beat where he used a suspension so let’s call it a “choice of tension” thing.

Looking at some of his other arrangements, (with no accompaniment) I noticed another strange notation where a Major chord occurs on the first beat and he makes a few dashes (I assume indicating the subsequent beats) and then he just writes a 6 above what one would assume is the final beat in the measure. I’ve also seen him do the same thing where there is a piano accompaniment and indeed the 6 comes on the final beat in the accompaniment.

So if I was recreating that sheet in MuseScore, I would write C on beat one and C6 on beat 4 which begs the question, why didn’t he just write it that way unless it is a guitar finger position thing I don’t quite understand.

BTW – M did indeed mean minor to him because Major was notated MJ.

It is fun trying to figure this all out and I really appreciate all of the help and ideas. It will be a real tribute to him to re-score all of his sheets in MuseScore. I only wish it was available 30 years ago to save him the aggravation of using Whit-Out and a pen!!

Thanks again all!

In reply to by HuffNPuff

Is trying to figure out the language of an ancient telephone directory really worth it when the internet is here now? Are this person's chord-choices so wildly different from the standard chords of these jazz-standards as to merit this archaeological expedition? Certainly not based upon this example. I gather this person who did these 30 years ago was really important to you and you want harvest all of his or her wisdom as you can. Figuring out his or her idiosyncratic, perhaps inconsistent or or unknowledgeable (who knows?) notation may be of high interest to you, but I can't see why it would be interesting to the world at large or worth the effort of many people. Good luck figuring it out!

In reply to by BSG

It's no different than having a recipe from a long lost friend or family member and deciding to bake a cake with THEIR recipe to see if it tastes the same, or analyzing annotations on old scores or transcribing recordings to recreate the performances of others to see if it sounds the same.

A waste of time possibly, but by that standard so is recording any history or trying to learn from it.

It's nostalgia, memories or whatever you want to call it. The value to others or the world at large is as irrelevant and possibly as unimportant as the cake recipe...

...unless you had actually had the cake before.

In reply to by HuffNPuff

News Flash!!

I JUST discovered the same chord symbol on the same score (Bb7 (with a dash through the 7) going to Bb7 with no dash, but in this case, not just a 7.

AND a published version of the same score I have does indeed have a Bbsus(4) on that beat followed by a Bb7 with the same melody line & accompaniment in both parts of the score so I am now positive that in my friends notation, a dash through a 7 means a Dominant 7th chord with a suspended 4th.

Crazy, I never saw that symbol before...

In regards to just writing a 7 and not the entire cord name, I have to assume it was just a way of saving space on an already cluttered score. What I should have mentioned is my friend was in his 70's when we played together so one could assume his Whiting-out of the printed chord symbols and manually re-writing them LARGER, was just a visual aid and not necessarily a chord substitution.

Bottom line, the bigger symbols took up more space so he got creative.

Thanks again all!

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