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Thread: Theory Geeks: Mixing sharps & flats in nomenclature?

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    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Theory Geeks: Mixing sharps & flats in nomenclature?

    I'm writing notes for some chords, and wondering about how to write the notes when I have, for instance, a flatted note but in a key that takes sharps in its key signature.

    For an example, I'm looking at a A13b9 chord and the specific chord omits the root and the fifth, it's spelled like this on guitar: b9-x-b7-3-13-x

    When I write the actual note names rather than intervals, should I write:
    Bb - G C# F# -

    Or as a matter of practice, is it acceptable to use all sharps like A# - G C# F# -

    This is just an example, I'm looking for a general answer how to do this, and whether it really matters how I name the individual notes.
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    Registered User Kevin Stueve's Avatar
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    Default Re: Theory Geeks: Mixing sharps & flats in nomenclature?

    if you are flatting the 9th then you are lowering the 9th so Bflat is the appropriate notation
    2012 Weber Bitterroot F5.

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    Default Re: Theory Geeks: Mixing sharps & flats in nomenclature?

    Thanks for the quick reply, Kevin. I know that's right from a scalar point of view, so it has to be right on a chord chart - just a bit more work and care when writing this stuff is what I need. I have to go back and correct a few things
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    Default Re: Theory Geeks: Mixing sharps & flats in nomenclature?

    I was playing a classical piece the other day in A where the second mando had a flatted note, it is always a little bit of a puzzler if you don't see the chord.
    2012 Weber Bitterroot F5.

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    Default Re: Theory Geeks: Mixing sharps & flats in nomenclature?

    I've been trying to learn to play Mickey Baker's chords on guitar, and decided I also need to understand why he names them the way he does, so making up a cheat sheet. When I got to that one, I realized I was probably wrong turning a flat 9 into an augmented root when writing the notes on the chart. Writing this stuff down is a pain, but in the end it helps me somehow. I had to go back and correct another one I'd already done wrong. Thanks again for the push.
    Technique, theory and fun, fun, fun. I love playing, studying and sharing MUSIC.
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    Default Re: Theory Geeks: Mixing sharps & flats in nomenclature?

    Ahhh the Mickey Baker chord books ……. I never did finish. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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    Default Re: Theory Geeks: Mixing sharps & flats in nomenclature?

    A7b9 = A C# E G-natural Bb

    A7#9 = A C# E G-B#, though in 3-note voicings (C#-G-B#, C#-G- C natural) using both C# and C nat calls attention to have a blue note on the top of the stack.

    it is self-evident that the 9th has been lowered. Same reason A b5 is spelled A-C#-Eb instead of A-C#-D#

    btw A7b9 without the root is C#dim7 (or Edim7, Gdim7, A#/Bb dim7, which may help explain that (diminished chord) substitution, which often used for a chromatic bass line.)


    NH

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    Default Re: Theory Geeks: Mixing sharps & flats in nomenclature?

    The key signature doesn't limit which notes you write to just flats or sharps. In your example you obviously need a Bb to make an A13b9. The key of G minor has two flats, but an F# is added more often than not.

    Standard key signatures themselves don't mix sharps and flats, but there are non-standard ones that do. I wrote a piece in A freygish (phrygian dominant) which has a key signature of Bb and C#. Bartok used other mixed signatures.

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    Default Re: Theory Geeks: Mixing sharps & flats in nomenclature?

    When there are choices, I try and use the notation that best expresses how I am thinking about the note. If I am flatting a note, my preference is to use a "b" rather than the enhormonic. I have no problem with b accidentals in a # key.

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    Default Re: Theory Geeks: Mixing sharps & flats in nomenclature?

    Quote Originally Posted by mandocrucian View Post

    A7#9 = A C# E G-B#, though in 3-note voicings (C#-G-B#, C#-G- C natural) using both C# and C nat calls attention to have a blue note on the top of the stack.
    Good point. A7#9 usually leads to D7 (with the C nat. repeated) or D13 (with C nat. falling to B). Phil Nimmons, and probably a number of other arrangers, always wrote that chord as A7b10. Looks a little odd, but it respects the voice leading.

    In general, raised notes are tending up, lowered notes down.

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    Default Re: Theory Geeks: Mixing sharps & flats in nomenclature?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nevin View Post
    When there are choices, I try and use the notation that best expresses how I am thinking about the note. If I am flatting a note, my preference is to use a "b" rather than the enharmonic. I have no problem with b accidentals in a # key.
    One issue is correct spelling of the scales and chords; that's where using the correct enharmonic note name helps.

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    Default Re: Theory Geeks: Mixing sharps & flats in nomenclature?

    I should say first that I once taught AP Music Theory which is based on Western Classical harmonies, and the first time I heard Tim Connel talk about a "flatted 9th without the root in stead of the dominant 7th" I didn't know what he was talking about. But it all made sense on a 4-course instrument where you can't lay out all the notes as you can with a keyboard.
    Another way to think (or write) is to think in thirds up from the root (even if the root is not actually played). So any "A" chord would use A C E G B D and so on; then you look at sharps and flats: A C# E G = A (dominant) 7th; A C E G + a minor 7th; A C Eb Gb = A dim and so on. I did not get into 13ths and more advanced jazz chords, but the same procedure works. If you saw A C D# F# it would be a D# dim, not an A chord at all, because D# F# A C would be the actual "stack" of thirds. BTW, I am avoiding the dim/half dim detail just to call attention to the thirds-based structure. And jazz/swing experts, feel free to correct any errors, I am more comfortable analyzing Bach and Mozart than Django, Dizzy, or Thelonious.

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    Default Re: Theory Geeks: Mixing sharps & flats in nomenclature?

    Quote Originally Posted by Doc James View Post
    I If you saw A C D# F# it would be a D# dim, not an A chord at all, because D# F# A C would be the actual "stack" of thirds.
    Correct - to spell it as an A dim7 chord would require the use of Eb instead of D# and Gb instead of F#:

    A C Eb Gb.

    To spell it as an Eb dim7:

    Eb Gb Bbb Dbb.

    note the double flats.

    Any Eb chord would need variety of Eb G Bb and D, thus the use of double flats so that the 5th of that chord is still a type of Bb and the 7th a type of D.

    BTW, the same chord as our D#dim7 could also be spelled:

    F#dim7:

    F# A C Eb

    Gbdim7:

    Gb Bbb Dbb Fbb

    Cdim7:

    C Eb Gb Bbb

    and so on

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    Default Re: Theory Geeks: Mixing sharps & flats in nomenclature?

    This all sounds confusing to a novice, and I hear a lot of "What's the difference? It's the same note!" I was at a workshop where the instructor did a B major scale: "B, C#, Eb..." NOPE! It's a D#, and it makes a difference because a scale is a scale, not just a string of letters. Some notes lead to others, half steps and whole steps make a difference. It's like the old examples of bad phonetic spelling, where "ghoti" spells "fish." The gh as in touGH, the o as im wOmen, the ti as in naTIon... Yes, but you would never spell it that way!!
    A lot of this is easier to visualize on a black-and-white keyboard, but I guess that's for the Piano Cafe website. Me, I just ordered my Mandolin Cafe cap, and I will wear it proudly while being asked "Is that a ukelele?" (TWICE just yesterday.)

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    Default Re: Theory Geeks: Mixing sharps & flats in nomenclature?

    My rule of thumb involves voice leading (tricky to apply to how chords work on stringed instruments)
    If the note is resolving down, use a flat, if up, use a sharp.

    With "jazz chords" the voice-leading is obscured. (unless you are a more advanced player... and you care about those kind of things)

    What you could do is play the chord, then just the note in question, then try moving one fret up or down. whichever sounds better is most likely the direction that it wants to resolve

    hope this helps.

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    Default Re: Theory Geeks: Mixing sharps & flats in nomenclature?

    Strict adherence to 1 b3 b5 bb7 spellings is a bit on the OCD side. Some chords F# A C Eb (F# dim) are fine, but those same four pitches are the same whether the root is F# A C or Eb, but commonly used notation is frequently 1 b3 b5 6

    C dim: C Eb Gb A
    A dim: A C Eb F#

    In actual notation, simplicity/clarity of reading tends to take precedence over "theoretical correct spelling". ie. use the 6th instead of a bb7 if it means less accidentals. or use the enharmonic F# dim instead of Gb dim. Besides, for any pop/jazz tunes chances are you are going by the chord names on the lead sheet than having specific pitches notated on a stave.

    NH

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    Default Re: Theory Geeks: Mixing sharps & flats in nomenclature?

    Quote Originally Posted by mandocrucian View Post

    In actual notation, simplicity/clarity of reading tends to take precedence over "theoretical correct spelling". ie. use the 6th instead of a bb7 if it means less accidentals. or use the enharmonic F# dim instead of Gb dim. Besides, for any pop/jazz tunes chances are you are going by the chord names on the lead sheet than having specific pitches notated on a stave.
    Agreed. In writing guitar and other rhythm section parts, arrangers will usually identify a dim. 7th chord by the bass note they want. But when you look at what the string section or sax section players have in front of them, you'll see the notes correctly spelled according to the standard voice leading rules of harmony. Take the common phrase:

    F6/// F#dim7/// C6/// etc.

    The diminished chord gets F# in the bass, but in the melodic parts it isn't F#-A-C-Eb but F#-A-C-D#, or D#dim7. (The F# and D# in the diminished chord rise to G and E in C6.) As Niles says, the distinction is not important for the player who is just grabbing a chord shape.

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    Default Re: Theory Geeks: Mixing sharps & flats in nomenclature?

    Quote Originally Posted by UsuallyPickin View Post
    Ahhh the Mickey Baker chord books ……. I never did finish. R/
    This is my second or third stab at it in the past two years. Some of the chords are tough to train my fingers for, and some of his chord names are less than intuitive on the face of them, but they make sense in the flow of his method exercises.
    Technique, theory and fun, fun, fun. I love playing, studying and sharing MUSIC.
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