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Why don't we have a triad symbol for notation?


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Especially in jazz chord symbol notation, there is a need for a triad symbol.

 

If you write, for instance, Cm on a jazz chart, you might want it played specifically as a triad, or you might not care if the player plays some extensions.

 

But if you *did* want to specify a triad, there's no symbol for that. You'd have to write "triad".

 

The ideal symbol would have been the triangle, but some idiot already misappropriated that to signify a major seventh chord. Which to me is ridiculous - if you were going to use a shape for a maj 7 chord, why not use a square (since the maj 7 chord has 4 tones)? Putting a 7 inside a square box would have been a great symbol for maj 7 - it's visually distinct, it makes logical sense, and it's compact (doesn't take hardly any more room than a 7). Then the triangle would still be available to indicate a triad.

 

Or, is there some triad symbol that I don't know about?

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Your point about the triangle is well-put.

 

To me, though, writing "C" implies a C triad CEG - nothing more, nothing less, and writing "Am" implies ACE. Writing Am7 means ACEG, writing A7flat5 means AC#EflatG, etc. Anything desired past that probably involves actual notation.

 

Bach-era figured bass took all of this into account, didn't it?

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If you ain't specifying a 7th, 9th, or other extension then the assumption IS a triad.

 

If I see Gm on a chart I'm gonna use the notes G-Bb-D in some inversion or other. I won't add upper partials unless they appear on the score, or unless the voicing of the melody indicates it would work.

 

Part of how jazzers got an early rep for not knowing how to rock is they wouldn't leave the chords alone - they'd sub a syncopated Ab9 for a straight D as it resolved to G and the simplicity that drives the song would vanish. Imagine playing "Smoke on the Water" and instead of playing Gm F under the verse, you played Gm11 Fmaj7...

I used to think I was Libertarian. Until I saw their platform; now I know I'm no more Libertarian than I am RepubliCrat or neoCON or Liberal or Socialist.

 

This ain't no track meet; this is football.

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Coyote, I don't think that's entirely fair. I think it goes unsaid you have to define the genre before discussing notation convention. Yes, in jazz, the extensions are implied, no jazz player will play a triad and 'leave it alone'. It's also true that in rock or whatever else, the extensions can completely remove the intended flavour. Again, you have to know how it's supposed to 'sound'. To give another example, take a rock blues based progression, the chords might be notated as A | D | E

but obviously they should be played as dominant 7ths...

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If you want a D- triad on jazz chart write it as

" D- triad "

 

Jamey Abersold used to publish his books without bothering to notate "7" on minor 7th chords. He wised up and now includes the "7" symbol.

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book." Harry spends his time teaching jazz piano online and playing solo piano gigs.

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Not sure I agree with this. I played a bit of guitar in jazz context many years ago and unless I saw at least a 7th on the chart I'd refrain from adding extensions. In fact, it was generally understood that the arranger's chord choices ought be honored. If you're a quintet jamming on "Autumn Leaves" or something there is of course more room to improvise.

Originally posted by InTheDark:

Yes, in jazz, the extensions are implied, no jazz player will play a triad and 'leave it alone'. To give another example, take a rock blues based progression, the chords might be notated as A | D | E but obviously they should be played as dominant 7ths...

Take the first six bars of a typical rocking 12-bar:

A / A /| D / D /| A / A /| A / A /| D / D /| D / D /|

 

If you play 'em all as 7ths, you lose certain definitions in the transitions:

A7 / A7 /| D7 / D7 /| A7 / A7 /| A7 / A7 /| D7 / D7 /| D7 / D7 /|

 

If instead you play:

A / A /| D / D /| A / A /| A / A7 /| D / D /| D7 / D7 /|

 

you lend the music a bit more 'punctuation' and character.

I used to think I was Libertarian. Until I saw their platform; now I know I'm no more Libertarian than I am RepubliCrat or neoCON or Liberal or Socialist.

 

This ain't no track meet; this is football.

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Originally posted by Jazz+:

If you want a D- triad on jazz chart write it as

" D- triad "

That's what I said. But that takes up a lot of real estate, especially if you have to write it a lot of times. I think it would be better if there a symbol. Triangle would have been the ideal symbol, but someone (was it Aebersold?) already used it.
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Originally posted by Doug Osborne:

Your point about the triangle is well-put.

 

To me, though, writing "C" implies a C triad CEG - nothing more, nothing less, and writing "Am" implies ACE. Writing Am7 means ACEG, writing A7flat5 means AC#EflatG, etc. Anything desired past that probably involves actual notation.

 

Bach-era figured bass took all of this into account, didn't it?

I was also trained in figured bass and still work through keyboard exercises. The original chord notation system for club daters ... and fool proof as well.

 

For me, I used to notate Am7 when I wanted an Am7th chord. But now, just in order to save space and create less clutter (when writing four chords to the measure, for example), I only write Am. Since I'm the one looking at the chart, I know what I mean. I write Am, but nine times out of ten, I want Am7 ... or more. (The changes on my lead sheets are more for the bass player and Am is more than enough for him.)

 

I do see your point though.

 

Regarding the triangle to denote a major 7th, it took a while, but now I have become accustomed to it and see it as a space saver. For those few times I would really want a simple triad, I would just notate the part long hand or write the word triad.

 

(Who was the idiot who first used the triangle for a major 7th? .... names anyone? I'm guessing someone from North Texas State. :cool: )

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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Originally posted by burningbusch:

Originally posted by DafDuc:

Mehegan opined that if it wasn't at least a 7th, it wasn't jazz. Or words to that effect...

I believe it was "chords less than a seventh are insufficient for jazz."

 

Busch.

I think as a general rule, that's true. But jazz isn't restricted by such rules, especially now that rock and 'world' music have influenced it. There are indeed times (maybe not often) where you might want to indicate triads. I realize I can just write "triad". It's just that it takes a lot of chart real estate. I lament that fact that triangle is used for maj 7, when a square would have been a better symbol, and would left triangle available for triads.

 

And, simply writing C or Cm is not enough. If a jazz player sees that, he will most likely add extensions to it, unless instructed not to. Even then, he might add the extensions anyway!

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Which is why 'jazz' players, who like to think they are better musicians than others, occsionally lose the gig to 'rock' players.

Originally posted by Floyd Tatum:

And, simply writing C or Cm is not enough. If a jazz player sees that, he will most likely add extensions to it, unless instructed not to. Even then, he might add the extensions anyway!

To use a golf analogy, really good musicians know it's not neccessary to employ every club in the bag - a driver (substitute chord with all available upper partials added) doesn't work when the situation clls for a pitching wedge (simple triad). It shouldn't be neccessary to add a new symbol to denote a lack of augmentation.

I used to think I was Libertarian. Until I saw their platform; now I know I'm no more Libertarian than I am RepubliCrat or neoCON or Liberal or Socialist.

 

This ain't no track meet; this is football.

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Originally posted by coyote:

Which is why 'jazz' players, who like to think they are better musicians than others, occsionally lose the gig to 'rock' players.

That's probably true of some players. I try not to see things that way.

 

To use a golf analogy, really good musicians know it's not neccessary to employ every club in the bag - a driver (substitute chord with all available upper partials added) doesn't work when the situation clls for a pitching wedge (simple triad)..
That's true. I think it depends on the context: the gig, the style of the tune being played, etc. If I were playing on a non-jazz gig, let's say, I would probably tend to read a Cm as a triad, if I saw Cm on a jazz gig, I'd probably consider myself free to add extensions (depending on the context, of course).

 

It shouldn't be neccessary to add a new symbol to denote a lack of augmentation.
Not on a non-jazz gig, no.
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This may not be entirely related, but the mention of playing simple triads and whether or not it was fitting for jazz use etc. brought the following to mind. I am reminded of a few comments made by my college prof (decades ago) regarding the limitations imposed by the many rules we had to follow when harmonizing melodies using 'simple' chords - traditional theory.

 

Some guys found it extremely restrictive, too restrictive. This is where the boys get separated from the men. When you can still be creative in an extremely limited situation, you prove your musical worth. It is difficult to improvise or write in various styles because of the limitations imposed. Anyone can create anything when there are absolutely no rules, no restrictions. It becomes exceedingly difficult to still be creative when there are limitations imposed - self imposed or externally.

 

Back to the piano - I spend too much time here.

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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From the peanut gallery...

(1) If one uses the "European" 7 (with a slash through it) for maj. 7ths & the "English", no-slahed numeral for dom 7ths, wouldn't that free the triangle as a symbol? Of course you'd be fighting all those who're entrenched in the usual interpretation of that symbol...

(2) The suggestion early on that a chord listed without extensions is a de facto triad...

What about all those cases where players just use the 1 & 3 (or other partials) to define the chord?

(3) Even with a defined symbol, you'd still be indefinite about voicing, right?

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Originally posted by d:

From the peanut gallery...

(1) If one uses the "European" 7 (with a slash through it) for maj. 7ths & the "English", no-slahed numeral for dom 7ths, wouldn't that free the triangle as a symbol? Of course you'd be fighting all those who're entrenched in the usual interpretation of that symbol...

I've thought about doing that. Putting a note at the top of the chart saying "∆ = triad". But I think maybe it's just asking for trouble.
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Originally posted by d:

From the peanut gallery...

(1) If one uses the "European" 7 (with a slash through it) for maj. 7ths & the "English", no-slahed numeral for dom 7ths, wouldn't that free the triangle as a symbol? Of course you'd be fighting all those who're entrenched in the usual interpretation of that symbol...

(2) The suggestion early on that a chord listed without extensions is a de facto triad...

What about all those cases where players just use the 1 & 3 (or other partials) to define the chord?

(3) Even with a defined symbol, you'd still be indefinite about voicing, right?

As an American living in Europe, that wouldn't work. My wife insists that I use a slashed 7 whenever I write numbers. She claims that an unslashed 7 looks like a 2.

 

I agree with you that it would work and I wouldn't have a problem with it.

 

(As an aside, over here, they are more familiar with the chord symbols being under the staff than above. I am never given any grief since I write changes above the staff and leave plenty of room between staves so there's no doubt about what changes belong to which staff. I'm sure the younger guys are accustomed to the US way of writing changes.)

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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Surely it depends on the actual style of jazz being played?! if i'm reading a standards kinda chart, Dm - G7 - C will totally suffice; i'd probably play Dm9 - G13 - Cmaj9 in woteva inversion - in this case the interpretation being the important part. Because here the symbols are simply implying functionality, it's up for interpretation and i'm sure you guys would play the same chords in the same chart differently from me! BUT if i'm playing a crazy-ass Chick Corea or Billy Childs chart, their voicings can be fairly nuts and i might wanna play exactly the same as they are - the difference being that no-one's gonna need to scribble out these charts in a big hurry; they can write 'triad' without worrying, coz the next chord might be Dbmaj9#11/C. Simpler charts with triads might be, say, rockandroll stuff, but who's gonna put big voicings on them? It's all about context... which is why guys like Dave are so into harmonic analysis i guess! My $0.02 (at least!) :D
Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?
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First: triangle means Major. The convention of using a dash for minor and triangle for major makes it easy to handwrite quickly and the result is still very easy to read (as is not the case with big and little 'm').

 

Second: Charts are clues, not music. The assumption is that you interpret the clues and play the music, against a background of a lot of information -- sometimes knowledge of the specific tune, other times genre, style, and mood. And of course, the other players.

 

Good charts provide a framework, not a script.

 

I've writte a bunch of charts, and not being a hot shot jazz player or theory expert, I include a lot of color and passing tones and the like. When I've shown them to more experienced musicians and ask them, they often say that I put too much down, or "over chart".

 

A while back I posted an anecdote about my experience playing Goodbye Pork Pie Hat from the chart, without knowing the tune. At first it was a disaster. After totally deconstructing the chart, significant experimentation, and building my own concept (just from the info in the chart), I managed to play the tune quite close to the original. So, the chart, while terrible for me, clearly had all the necessary information (it required interpreting the lead notes in addition to the chord symbols and extrapolating). To a talented and experienced jazz musician, evidently it was enough.

 

Bottom line: we write charts to an audience. Tailor your charts for the purpose: who's reading them. If you need a symbol for triad, invent one and clue in your bandmates. But I don't think that most fake book owners need it; they can sense when color is wanted and when it isn't.

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Originally posted by d:

...

What about all those cases where players just use the 1 & 3 (or other partials) to define the chord?

I won't defend this as standard, but I have called a chord consisting of D and A, no third, D5.

 

And what the heck do you call the Steely Dan chord (they call it Mu)? You know, D A Csharp E like in the intro to The Fez? It's D maj7 9, but how do you notate the shortcut to its specialness?

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I thought the Steely Dan Mu chord was a triad with a 2 instead of a three.

 

i.e., a Dmu chord:

 

instead of D triad (D F# A), you play

 

D E A

 

The E sounds like a ninth, giving it a jazzy sound, but because there's no 7th, it sounds more "rock 'n roll" (which is what SD were after, I think: jazzy but rock 'n roll at the same time)

 

I think a good name for this chord is D2.

 

I love SD by the way.

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I remember 25 years ago seeing a chart for the love song from "Cats", which notated "no seventh" on the opening C major triad. For myself, I stack a 5 over a three, using the 500 year convention to remind myself not to add upper partials. I don't use 6/4 however, instead going to a slash chord.

 

Kid Charlemagne.

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First of all, the whole "Mu Major" term was a joke that Fagen made up once. No one actually uses the term in the real world. Secondly, the voicing refers to a chord like A/D, not the D2 chord. Lastly, Fagen didn't invent the chord, but merely made it popular.

 

Here's a typical usage of the chord:

 

A/D A/C# G/C G/B

 

or

 

G/A A/D F/G G/C

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I know came up a different way but to me C=C major; Cm=C minor. It's as fast as adding the "-" & much more definite.

I know there's a long-standing tradition for the "-" sign but at what point does clarity of intent become more important than traditional symbols?

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Originally posted by Floyd Tatum:

The E sounds like a ninth, giving it a jazzy sound, but because there's no 7th, it sounds more "rock 'n roll" (which is what SD were after, I think: jazzy but rock 'n roll at the same time)

 

I think a good name for this chord is D2.

 

I love SD by the way.

Well, the E in a D chord is a ninth... which is probably why it sounds like one. ;):D

 

As for the name of D E A, I always thought it was Dsus2... ??? :confused:

 

Love this thread, btw... :thu: It's nice to see discussion of music interspersed with all the wacky G.A.S. and NAMM speculation that seems to have taken over the board the last week or so... ;)

 

Cheers,

SG

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