I am trying to write the inverted G7 chord on the treble clef and in the attached images there are two bars. I believe the first bar in this score is correct. I am guessing so because this is what my notation software coughed up so I assume it knows how to write the chords better than I. However, my attempt, was the second bar and I got two wrong.

Can someone please explain why my versions are wrong?

enter image description here


4 Answers 4


Somehow, it's easier to read dots on consecutive line/space or space/line when the lower note is written first - so in the first bar, the F shows to the left of the G, whereas in the second bar, the 2nd and 4th chords show G before F.

Use semibreves instead - it gets rid of the stem problem! But same rule applies, the 'squashed' two notes get the lower written before the upper.

  • Oh ok. At first I thought it had something to do with the fact that the 7th (F) of the chord was always written on the same line so to be consistent. So it has nothing to do with that at all?
    – user35708
    Commented Aug 8, 2020 at 13:24
  • But semibreves aren't dots.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 5:32
  • @phoog - 'in the trade', they're all dots...
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 6:09

In your second bar, the lower of the notes a second apart in chords 1 and 3 are on the right hand side of the stem. As noted by Tim, the lower note should be on the left side. This also makes the 7th stick out to the left in this case (and maybe in other cases too.) Check out the first bar which is correct and look for differences.


The Music Publishers Association of the United States, Inc. publishes a pamphlet called "Standard Music Notation Practice."

In the section "Placement of Note Heads and Accidentals", rule (b) confirms Tim's answer.

(b) Thus in an interval of a second, written on a single stem, the lower note is placed on the left and the upper note on the right.

It goes on to explain,

In the case of the upstem, the lower note is in correct relation to the stem, while with a downstem the opposite is true.

Which means that when writing a chord, notes align on the left side of an upstem (with the "displaced" note on the right) and on the right side of a downstem (with the displaced note on the left).

First inversion G7 chord

Upstem   Downstem

 |G        |G
F|        F|
D|         |D
B|         |B

It's worth noting (pun intended) that the note placement stems (again) from rule (a), which observes that

Many musical symbols slant up from left to right at a uniform angle. This makes for easier reading. This diagonal principle governs the placement of note heads and accidentals in chords where they cannot be aligned vertically.


I’ve never heard about a rule, but the examples in your first bar make obvious the G-chord and the added 7th is clear for reading.


Even the Music Publishers Association of the United States, Inc. "Standard Music Notation Practice"

quoted by Aaron

says - written in italic letters! - :

Most of these rules are not necessarily rigid, and clarity to the performer’s eye is always a consideration.

In my eyes this statement is no reason to downvote my answer above - in contrary, the clarity to the performers eye is much better if you can identify the triad at first sight and the note head of 7th is oriented in the opposite direction - no matter which direction.

It is obvious that some followers are always tending to make a law of a thing only if someone is trying to give an advice.

  • My bar is the second one... The first bar is what the software told me so I assumed I was wrong. Would my second bar be wrong in your opinion?
    – user35708
    Commented Aug 8, 2020 at 19:17
  • I said there’s no rule that the one or other notation is wrong. But I prefer the version of your software. My answer implies why. Commented Aug 9, 2020 at 8:58
  • hooray! then I wasn't wrong after all.... I will try and keep the first dot in the minor second lower for next time :)
    – user35708
    Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 14:38