chord spelling and "add"

• Aug 9, 2021 - 15:46

How do you use the word "add." if you keep the triad , do you write "add." And if you change the triad you might "suspend." Is that right? (But this isn't always very consistent with some guitar books calling C-E-A "C6" as though the 5th is in there when it isn't. In keeping with the above, wouldn't that be "sus6"? No, and for reasons. But in any case, it could be an Am 2nd inversion) When chords are extended the word "add" is dropped (ie. 7,9,13) But in some cases the intervals of a triad aren't preserved. (ie 13) So, how do you use it?

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It helps to keep in mind the conventions for these things weren't all decided on as a whole - it was sort of a hodge-podge of different symbols being introduced as harmony got more complex over the years. So if things seem inconsistent, that's normally why.

Anyhow, your basic thinking is correct - "sus" means to replace a chord tone with some other note, "add" means add it. But you on;y need to use "add" for notes that can't easily be specified through simpler means. For instance, we don't write Cadd7, but rather C7. We don't write Cadd7add9; we write C9. We don't write C9addb13; we write C7b13.

The first number after the root (and possibly an indication for "major" or minor") says, "stack thirds up this high". Anything else just gets tacked on after that.

C6 is a weird and actually quite unfortunate case. Logically it shouldn't be there. For one thing, the "6" is also Roman-numeral-speak for first inversion, so it's unnecessarily ambiguous to have the same number mean something totally different for chord symbols. But I didn't get to make the rules. Even aside from the inversion confusion, you can't "stack thirds up to the sixth", because you'll never actually hit the 6. I guess one could reverse engineer the rule to be, "stack thirds up to some point here or as close to hear as you can get, then add the number specified if necessary". So, C7 is "stack up to the 7" and done. C6 is "stack up to the 5, then add the 6".

C2 then, shouldn't exist - or rather, it should literally just be C & D. But realistically, you see quite often, to mean the same as Cadd2. To me "add2" is about the only really legit use case for "add".

You'll also see Csus2, which technically might mean, use 2 instead of 3. Probably half the people writing that symbol actually mean Cadd2 though.

So, the one detail I think you have wrong - I don't think any published music would ever intend C6 to mean to play A instead of G. I've never heard of anyone suggesting such a thing. C6 is always C-E-G-A.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Somewhere in a book I have seen labelled guitar fretboard diagrams that lead me to this point. This may be because a guitarist has only four fingers (and a thumb) and given the construction and tuning, the fingering options are actually more difficult if not improbable. But the chord is still labelled a "6."

In reply to by ramblinj

Yes, C6 on the guitar is quite difficult to play if you include the 5th and 6th, especially in certain voicings. While it may not be theoretically correct, from a practical standpoint there is little difference between Am7 and C6, other than what note is in the bass, so generally either playing a C triad, or an Am7 would work in those cases.

In reply to by ramblinj

Yes, the guitarist has 4 fingers but there is also a barre option :)
Although there are other shapes, the easiest shape for the C6 chord is to barre the bottom 4 strings in the 5th position with the forefinger (index finger). //second notation on the screenshot.
This chord shape is also known as the m7 pattern.

A more advanced version of this can be accomplished by including the upper strings in play. //first notation in the screenshot.

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