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What is the name of the chord that stacks a major 3rd on top of 2 minor 3rds. Ex: E, G,Bb, and D.

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    In what key? You could awkwardly call it an E min7 flat5 …but it's just as likely to be a G min6
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 21 '20 at 18:15
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    min7 flat5 chords are also sometimes referred to as "half diminished" chords.
    – Aaron
    Jul 21 '20 at 18:24
  • @Tetsujin Gm6 3rd inversion, yes. Jul 21 '20 at 18:50
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If those are the notes, then it's Em7♭5, in root position. E being the lowest, it is the root of the chord. It is often called a half diminished chord, which doesn't make too much sense, but that's what it gets called.

Those same notes, with G at the bottom, making that the root in root position, will be Gm6.

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  • Sometimes Eø symbol is used for this chord. Jul 21 '20 at 19:01
  • @user1079505 - thanks - my computer isn't clever enough to make that sign - or is it me..?
    – Tim
    Jul 21 '20 at 20:06
  • We can trust in computers being stupid, at least for a while still. There are some tricks that you can do with keyboard, depending on the operating system, but an option that always works is to find the symbol in the web and copy-paste it. Jul 22 '20 at 18:25
  • @user1079505 - I've heard of copy-paste, but right now, I haven't a clue.
    – Tim
    Jul 22 '20 at 18:43
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It is unequivocally a half-diminished seventh chord.

Why "half" diminished? The (fully) diminished seventh chord has two diminished intervals the diminished fifth and diminished seventh above the root. By comparison the half-diminished seventh chord has only one diminished interval the fifth. Its seventh is a minor seventh. So, one diminished interval is half of two diminished intervals.

Of the diatonic seventh chords it gets the Roman numeral (RNA) label viiø7 in major keys or iiø7 in minor keys. My feeling is the minor iiø7 is the more common usage, and that chord acts as a type of subdominant.

In D minor you would spell iiø7 as E G B♭ D. If it is inverted with the G in the bass it would be iiø6/5 and G B♭ D E.

Jazz/pop symbols come it two common forms that sort of match up with the Roman numeral inversions: root position is Em7♭5 an "E minor seven flat five" chord, or Gm6 a "G minor six" chord which is a G minor chord with an added major sixth above the bass.

Personally, the difference in labeling with RNA and jazz symbols annoys me. In RNA iiø identifies a subdominant chord regardless of inversion. But in jazz the m7♭5 is common for what would be a iiø7 subdominant in RNA, however m6 is often used for a tonic chord, like Gm6 in G minor. That's one function identified in RNA, but two different harmonic functions in jazz. I think of the m6 as a minor tonic chord with an added major sixth rather than an inverted half-diminished chord. That may be splitting hairs, or downright confusing, but I think worth considering when asking: "what is the name of this chord?"

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  • 4th paragraph, iiø6/5, can you explain? It’s a iiø7 with the 3rd in the bass, I don’t get the 6/5. Maybe iiø7/4? Jul 21 '20 at 22:26
  • @JohnBelzaguy that's standard figured bass for Roman numerals, in English it means G in the bass with a fifth above the bass D and a sixth above the bass E, intervals are assume diatonic to the key signature unless altered with flats, sharps, etc. Basically 6/5 mean a seventh chord in first inversion, 4/3 is second inversion, and 4/2 is third inversion. Jul 21 '20 at 22:35
  • Oh, figured bass, the chord changes of the 18th century, got it! I never learned it very well for 7th chords, thanks. Jul 21 '20 at 23:23
  • I like that you refer to a m6 chord as a half diminished chord in the first inversion where in the comments you can see several people think of a half diminished chord as a m6 in the third inversion. I never agreed with that since a half diminished chord is a diatonic chord built in 3rds. Jul 21 '20 at 23:34
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'tis an E half diminished tetrad (chord with 4 notes). The difference between Diminshed and Half Diminshed tetrad is the use of seventh diminished (=sixth) or the seventh minor

Diminished tetrad: I, IIIb, Vb, VIIbb (E, G, Bb, Db)

Half Dimin. tetrad: I, IIIb, Vb, VIIb (E, G, Bb, D)

For tabs, the symbols used are a circle and a circle with a diagonal line

Diminished tetrad: E°

Half dimin. tetrad: EØ (i can't make this circle higher/smaller on smartphone, sorry)

EDIT: thanks, John Belzaguy

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  • A diminished chord is a triad, E G Bb. Adding the Db makes it a diminished 7th chord, Eo7. The Db is actually a diminished 7th, not a 6th even though it’s the same note; I, bIII, bV, bbVII. Jul 21 '20 at 20:24
  • Indeed. I'm used to say "chord" to both triad/tetrad when I mention the notes Jul 22 '20 at 21:12

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