Writing the chord

There is a protocol to writing the chord. Let's start with some exercises. Use the form fields to write the chords Bm(maj7) , Ebmaj13b9 , Fm7b5 , C7#9b9 , A9sus4 and C7b9+.


1. Write the name of the note on which the chord is based, the root note.

2. If the chord has a minor third write a lower case m after the root note. Where there is a minor third write Cm and where there is no minor third write C

If the chord is C diminished write Cdim.

3. If the chord has a major 7th, write maj
For example, Cmaj
For example with minor, Cm(maj


If the chord is greater than a triad add the largest unaltered numeric interval. It will be one of 13, 11, 9, 7, 6.
For example, C6
For example, Cm13
For example, Cmaj9

The unaltered numeric interval (neither sharp nor flat) serves as a barrier between the root note and altered intervals.
C7b9 = C & V7 & b9
Cb9 = Cb & V7 & 9

5. Follow with altered numeric intervals in decreasing order of magnitude. Altered intervals are sharp or flat.
For example, C13#11b9
For example, Cm7b5

6. If the chord is augmented or suspended 4th place these symbols at the end.
For example, C9#11+
For example, C9sus4



  • The chord symbol begins with the root note, F#.
  • In a minor chord, m directly follows the root note
  • The first unaltered interval is 7
  • The altered 5th follows.


  • Numerals descend from left to right.


  • A compound interval implies the presence of every preceding third. The intervals in this chord are: Root, major 3rd, diatonic 5th, dominant 7th, diatonic 9th, sharp 11th and diatonic 13th.
  • The 7th is dominant because the word major is not present.


  • The intervals in this chord are: Root, major 3rd, diatonic 5th, major 7th, diatonic 9th, sharp 11th and diatonic 13th.
  • This chord has a major 7th because of the presence of the word maj.

Try some chords out for yourself using the Java word magnet underneath. (Your browser must have Java enabled for you to try this out.)

Music Theory

"Become an arranger first, then an orchestrator, and then a composer." - Joe Paparone

Joe Paparone is an Australian music arranger of the highest international calibre. Allow him to share 35 years of real world experiences with you.