Is there a standard chord symbol for playing open octaves or open 5ths, or even 4ths?

• Dec 5, 2015 - 07:54

I'm writing up a lead sheet for a scripture setting that I'm working on, and at times, open octaves or open fifths seem to do the trick.

Question is, how does one indicate open octaves or fifths in the chord symbols?

Anyone done that before? (surely this isn't a new thing, I just can't seem to find anything on it anywhere???)



Someone will know more about this than I do, but I think that technically what you are asking for are not chords. I believe than a chord, by definition, has at least three notes. I think you are talking about intervals, and I have not comed across a 'chord' symbol for them.

C5 is indeed a semi-standard symbol for an open fifth, commjon in some genres of music )rock / heavy metal especially). Probably win you blank stares in other contexts, though.

Open octaves aren't chords at all, so you wouldn't use a chord symbol - in fact, you'd probably use "N.C." to make it explicit there is no chord.

Chord voicings built out of fourths are not uncommon, but these are almost invariably just particular voicings of more standard chords, so you use the chord symbol for the corresponding standard chord and either hope the player is sophisticated enough to recognize when a voicing built from fourths might be appropriate, or you write the voicing out for him,

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Marc & all......

Thanks so much!

Yes, it's the blank stares that I'm hoping to avoid..... But I also want something that is as easy as possible to *read*.

Is there a way to put in piano cue markings into a lead sheet (to 'write the voicing out for him' as you put it?) Something that wouldn't impede one from reading the vocal line readily?

I'd really rather not put together a full piano score at this time. No one in line to *possibly* play this reads music anyway, just lead sheets (at best).

The fella who I think will be willing play this bit of work will likely improve on my voicings anyway! He's really good. He just can't read a lick! (I'm hoping we can work together - and that we can learn from each other. He's heard some of my chord selections from the beginning of the third section, and he was tripping out.... - disoriented as to the key even...., some chord usages were new ***to him***, but overall, he has a quicker ear than I do...... and much more experience playing - besides, my hands are falling apart these days....., and because of a spatial processing glitch that I have, it takes a good long time practicing *anything* for me to learn something well enough to retain it..... Spending a lot of time practicing is simply something my. hands. cannot. do. any. any. any. more..... especially for anything as long as this bit of work........ ack! *blush* - so now I am happy to write!!!).

Anyhoo --- If that fella'll play this for me, I figure I'll learn something about voicings from him before I write out a piano part!!!!! I'm pleased with my voicings to date, but I'm guessing that I'll be the next one saying, "What's that? How did you do that?" about his voicings of these chords I'm trying to grapple with getting on the page.

As to that: Any advice on ear training programs, etc.? I've finally gotten to where I can hear melodies *well* even with key changes, *&* I'm starting to hear basic chord changes, but even that is slow for me.......

If I can't put piano cues in the lead sheet...


Might I be able to adequately define something like C:1,5,8, or C:5,8 ?

Or A#8's or something of that sort?

Lastly, If I'm writing 4ths up from A, then 5ths up from A, I'm just thinking it would be easier to read something like:

A-4,8 A-5,8


A-op4, A-op5 or something like that????

One of my problems is that I have little experience with reading lead sheets myself.

So..... I might be micromanaging chord changes on the lead sheet....., but I don't know.

So the chord changes come at the player fast.

So I want everything to be as quick to read as possible.


I'm not writing for a main stream audience (to my knowledge.... =] )......

In reply to by RainahN-Songs

No one would want to read a special key at the beginning of your score and then remember and decode it while reading any more than they'd want you to invent your own 7-line staff and your own clef. They want to read music the way they learned to read music. So no, I would not recommend inventing your own symbols. If you want to write in a voicing, just put it in another voice, or perhaps use a second staff and the "Hide empty staves" option so it only appears when needed.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Fair enough. Thanks for your honest answer. It's greatly appreciated.

So, I've tried to find my way through the handbook to explain how to do either of your suggestions. When I was using MuseScore in the past, I could find things more readily doing a google search, of all things. Now, that doesn't work for me any more.... (ack!)......

Can you briefly explain and/or point me to pages to explain:

1) how do I add a staff after already having set up the score?

1b) I'm assuming I'll find the 'hide *empty* staves' where the 'hide' functions are.... I've seen those, that shouldn't be difficult...... ?

2) how do I add a second voice after setting up the score....

2b) and BTW, can I add more than one voice after setting up the score? Is there a limit on how many voices that can be used?

In reply to by RainahN-Songs

First: what do you mean Google search doesn't work any more? I can't imagine why it would be different than in the past unless Google has changed their search algorithms, which of course is possible. There is a search facility on this site as well. Just go to the Handbook and type your search terms into the box on that page. But realistically, using automated search of any kind to find specific information in a manual tends to be frustrating I find. I usually do better just looking at the table of contents.


1) Edit / Instruments (shortcut "I")

1b) Style / General

2) See the Handbook under the chapter "Voices"

2b) Voices can be added to any staff at any time. Each staff can have up to four voices; it's virtually unheard of to need more than two or three.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Hmmm, two things:

1) When I go to Instruments, I do not have a 'style' option.... (?which seems to be the reason I'm not finding anything?..... - the only option I have is to click on Instruments, and it brings up a page that is jammed.......

2) but I also received, today, with a restart on my computer, a pop-up box that is offering updates on MuseScore. I think I'll try that and see if it doesn't clear up the problem.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Yes, four voices should suffice.

And, yes, I have been surprised when I've (rarely) sung in choirs working with choral music with more voices at a time..... Leave it to a Russian composer who would change languages throughout (tho I blushing admit I don't recall his name.... I loved the work, does this bring any possibilities to mind for anyone? I'd love to listen to it from afar, rather than just sing it.....)

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