Chords with non-chord tone bass notes

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by Bryan T, Jul 17, 2019.

  1. JonR

    JonR Member

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    In some contexts I'd agree. In this one (G/A v Em7/A), the E helps support the A root, acoustically, so it makes that much difference - noticeable, but no difference to the overall functional sound of the chord. I'd think of the difference as comparable to including the 5th in a maj9 chord, or a dom9. Makes the chord a little more stable, fills it out a bit; doesn't change its identity.
    That's an academic argument really :). Classically, a "suspension" is a note held over from a previous chord, creating a tension on the following chord, and a delayed resolution.
    AFAIK, if the note is either (a) not in the previous chord, or (b) doesn't resolve, then in that strict technical sense it's not a suspension (only one of those conditions needs to apply). It's a "non-chord tone", and there are various kinds of those in classical theory.

    In modern music of course, we use "sus" as shorthand for any chord which has a 2nd or 4th instead of the 3rd, regardless of either of those conditions. That's "common practice" in modern music and well understood. Sometimes it sounds fine unresolved, sometimes we feel it should resolve and it doesn't.
    Well, only if you feel inadequate ;). I'd also prefer to see "F/Bb" to "Bbmaj9sus2" - in fact I think you mean Bbmaj7sus2, seeing as 9 and 2 refer to the same note ;). Either way, F/Bb is better, because - assuming it's denoting Bb-F-A-C - it's clearer and shorter.
    Likewise "G/A" - absolutely fine. As for "A9sus4" and "Em7/A" - both equally good IMO; one is no shorter or neater than the other, and both specify the same notes. For some readers (I agree), Em7/A might be easier to make sense of.
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2019
  2. MikeMcK

    MikeMcK Supporting Member

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    You're right, brain fart. But also a question... if you wanted the 7 in there and also wanted to use the C as a sus2 rather than a 9 (i.e. no 3rd), what would be the best succinct way to write that? Is there any such thing as a BbMaj7sus2?
     
  3. MikeMcK

    MikeMcK Supporting Member

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    The thing is a lot of Steely Dan uses that but in contexts where they seem to be purposely major/minor ambiguous (no 3). The chorus of Pretzel Logic uses a couple of those, but neither Maj9s nor mMaj9s quite sound right.
     
  4. Ed DeGenaro

    Ed DeGenaro Supporting Member

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    Yup
     
  5. Phil the Kill Bill V2 guy

    Phil the Kill Bill V2 guy Member

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    I really like it when say in the key of E, you get an A/B chord as a substitution for B or B7.
    The 4 chord with a 5 in the bass has a lot of character.

    I also like sus2 chords, that sorta ambiguous chord where it’s not really major or minor. I sometimes substitute sus2 chords for major chords.
    It can make a ho-hum chord progression more intriguing.
     
  6. JonR

    JonR Member

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    Yes.
    But like I said, "F/Bb" is perfect for that chord, and a better symbol simply because it's shorter. Quicker to write, to read, and to make sense of.
     
  7. JonR

    JonR Member

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    Steely Dan's issue was with the "add9" chord symbol, in that they liked the voicing with the 9 right next to the 3rd, in a major or minor chord, and invented their own name for it: "mu major" or "mu minor" (mu being the Greek letter, just to show how educated they were :D). The mu chord lacks a 7th though.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mu_chord
    Unfortunately, "mu" has not yet caught on as a conventional chord symbol :(, and chord symbols in general still resist specifying voicing.
    Slash chord symbols are fine for those more extended Donald Fagen chords (that's what published sheet music uses, at least for those in Pretzel Logic). Silly to spell out "maj7sus2" or whatever.
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2019
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  8. Ed DeGenaro

    Ed DeGenaro Supporting Member

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    Why? Dropping the third in a ∆7sus2 takes no longer than grabbing a D/G
     
  9. JonR

    JonR Member

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    For me, the issue is partly about brevity and clarity of the symbol. But also my dumb guitarist's brain with those triad shapes embedded in it :rolleyes:. I see "D/G", I can immediately see the shape on the fretboard - and not just in open position, but in a few places on the neck. I can also decide (if I'm in a band) to drop the G. I see "G∆7sus2", it takes me maybe a second or two longer to visualise it and therefore to find it. And I would probably translate it to "D/G" anyway, as I do that.
    But then I rarely see ∆7sus2 chord symbols anyway. Maybe if they were more common I'd be more used to finding them on the fretboard.
     
  10. Bryan T

    Bryan T guitar owner Silver Supporting Member

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    I’ve been working through a bunch of chord voicings that I play, but don’t typically name. There seem to be a few camps. Obviously, these can have many names. Some simple examples.

    5x543x - G/A. My ear hears that as a G chord that’s going somewhere. Kind of a Stevie Wonder sound, at least in my head.

    x5222x - A/D. In contrast, I hear this as a Dmaj7ish chord. The root is stronger here. x5765x is another popular variant.

    I think what I’ve realized is that of the major chords with diatonic bass notes (a limited set, for sure), only the 2 and 4 are confusing to my ear. With a 2 in the bass, it seems like the triad dominates. With the 4 in the bass it gets more ambiguous and sounds like extended harmony.

    If I voice the G/A differently, do things change?

    xx7433
     
  11. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

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    I don't think it's possible to analyze a chord in isolation, unless the entire piece of music is just that chord, with zero movement of any of the voices within the chord.
     
  12. Bryan T

    Bryan T guitar owner Silver Supporting Member

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    Fair point.
     
  13. JonR

    JonR Member

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    True. But you can usually identify a chord in isolation, because its name rarely depends on its context.
    Some chords are ambiguous, and might have a couple of different names (or four in the case of a dim7!), but to analyse it - determine its function - you obviously need a context.
     
  14. JonR

    JonR Member

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    Yes, I think of it as a Carole King/ Steely Dan chord.

    G/A on the words "fine to see" (0:26). (Lots of Dan-style maj7s and no doubt a few mu chords too...)

    But as I said before, I hear it as an "A7sus" sound, not a "G" sound. Maybe that's because I've (almost) always heard it used in that way. It's going "somewhere" and usually to D (as above).
    V9sus4>I is also known as the "gospel cadence". It would be a plain plagal cadence ("amen" cadence) if it was just G>D, but that A bass is a strong "V" sound beneath it.

    Of course, what's interesting about is it's a combination of V and IV in the same chord. And you're obviously right (in a D major context) there's a whole lot more IV in it than V!
    I like the observation that only pure V chord is the triad. Once you add the 7th, you're starting to evoke the IV chord:
    A7 = 3/4 V, 1/4 IV
    A9 = 3/5 V, 2/5 IV
    A9sus4 = 2/5 V, 3/5 IV (tipped the balance now! but A on the bottom still rules, supported by its 5th, E)
    G/A = 1/4 V, 3/4 IV (again, the A bass still helps stop it being wholly IV, although its E support has disappeared)
    Yes. The D root is stronger because - unlike the A in G/A - its 5th (A) is still present. The D-A 5th defeats the E-A inverted 5th.
    I'd say that's closer to a "Gadd9" sound than x0x433. The lower the A relative to the rest of the chord, the more it tends to dominate. I'd still call xx7433 "G/A", of course, unless there was also a bass playing G - then it's clearly Gadd9.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2019
  15. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

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    You can assign an identity to a chord in isolation - that much is true.
     
  16. kingsleyd

    kingsleyd Frikkin genyus Gold Supporting Member

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    I'm sorta the same way in terms of having triad shapes (and sounds) embedded in my brain, but for me it would probably come down to the chord's function, i.e., am I more concerned with the "D-ness" of the chord in context, or the "G-major-ness"? This, of course, is mainly a concern when I'm writing out a lead sheet for a tune that other people are gonna read. When I'm reading someone else's lead sheet, I'd grab it quicker if I saw "D/G" for the same reason as you, Jon, and also like you, if I saw "G∆7sus2" I'd probably just do the translation and play a D triad of some sort, trusting the bass player (or whoever) to hit the G.

    To the OP (Bryan), I recommend the strategy of playing and listening to triads over all twelve possible bass notes and learning to recognize each one. Some come up a lot, some rarely, but mess with them enough and you'll start to recognize them all when you hear them.
     
  17. Tootone

    Tootone Member

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    Maybe you already know this... but if you really must know the correct chord name, there is a method.

    Strictly speaking..
    The lowest note in the chord is considered the Root and therefore the Harmony name of the chord - UNLESS it is a 3rd or a 5th, and the remaining notes in the chord are roots, 3rds or 5ths... then it is an inversion.

    Count up from that root to all the other notes in the chord:-

    minor 2nd = 1 Semitone
    major 2nd = 2 S
    minor 3rd = 3 S
    major 3rd = 4
    Perfect 4th = 5
    Flat 5th = 6
    Perfect 5th = 7
    Sharp 5th = 8
    6th = 9
    Minor 7th = 10
    Major 7th = 11
    Octave = 12
    Flat 9th = 13
    (Add) 9 = 14
    (Add) 11 = 17
    13th = 21

    Then you get synonyms for some of them, depending on how pedantic you want to be about the overall harmony/scale.

    2nds -> 9ths
    4th -> 11
    6th -> 13
    #5 -> Aug5th -> min6
    6th -> Dim7 -> bb7

    etc....

    plus, if you study the CAGED theory you will start to see common 3 adjacent string patterns (triads) with different bass notes/patterns or higher (Add) patterns.

    An easy example:-

    F#min (inversion -> A, minor 3rd in bass)
    ---5--- = A
    ---7--- = F#
    ---6--- = C#
    ---7--- = A
    ---x---
    ---x---

    ... to this,

    ---5--- = A
    ---7--- = F#
    ---6--- = C#
    ---7--- = A

    ---5--- = D
    ---x---

    Dmaj7 (or F#m/D?)

    to this...

    ---5--- = A = Root, 2nd Octave
    ---7--- = F# = 6th
    ---6--- = C# = Major Third
    ---7--- = A = Root, 1st Octave
    ---x--- =
    ---5--- = A = Root

    Is it still an F#m? or A6(no5th)? or just A6? In music sheets you will mostly see this as an A6! Nobody is missing the 5th, because what you are hearing is the more sonant maj3rd to the 6th interval over its root of A.

    So, I try not to overthink it, and just think of it as a bunch of notes (or intervals, or shapes) irrespective of what someone wants to call it.
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2019
  18. Tootone

    Tootone Member

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    Cool.
     
  19. KRosser

    KRosser Member

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    I don't recall the context you're getting this from, but voice leading is a very interesting thing to me. I think that way when I'm playing chords just as much as when I'm playing single lines. I'm not saying it's 'right or wrong', but just something I've found fruitful, personally - that's a well I can always go to and get some water.

    I find this particularly relevant when talking about more ambiguous harmony than easily identifiable diatonic (and related) formulas, especially 'slash' chords, which can be quite ambiguous all by themselves. If I had a sequence of Bm9/F - Ebm9/G - Gm9/Ab* to solo over, I wouldn't even bother looking for function, I'd mentally stack up all the notes involved (including the bass note below the slash, which can be inverted for my purposes here) and voice lead melodies between them. Once you get the hang of thinking this way it can yield interesting results even on functional harmonic clichés.

    (*I totally pulled this out of thin air. If you hit it big with this just thank me at Grammy time, that's all I ask)
     
  20. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

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    I don't recall the context either, but I can assure you I didn't pull up that memory out of nowhere, lol.

    More food for thought... thanks!
     

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