When a chord is written such that the chord tones are as close together as possible, like this...

[CEG] | [EGc] | [Gce] |

...what is the correct term: "Close position" or "Closed position"?


Close position is the correct term.1

  1. See, for example, Wikipedia: Voicing (music): Vertical placement.

  2. Also, from "The Complete Musician" by Steven Laitz:

The third and the fifth of each triad are arranged directly above the root. This tight spacing ... of chordal members is called close position.2

  1. From The Oxford Companion to Music:

position. ... (2). Chords may be described as being in 'close' or 'open' position, depending on their layout.3

  1. In a variation, The Norton/Grove Concise Encyclopedia of Music combines "close position" and "close harmony":

Close position [close harmony] The spacing of a chord in such a way that the upper voices lie as close together as possible or the interval between the highest and lowest is relatively small.4

  1. And from Aldwell and Schachter's Harmony and Voice Leading:

Of the many [possible chord voicings], two general types are commonly distinguished: open position and close position.5

  1. Finally, one source (and the only one cited here) that mentions "closed" position:

People often mishear [close position] as "closed" position because the meaning seems somehow logical, and you may by now even see it written that way in some sources.

1 One possible source of confusion is that "close" and "closed" sound very similar, and "closed" makes intuitive sense, being the opposite of "open". It can be helpful to think of "open" in its meaning as "spacious" (the open prairie).

2 Steven G. Laitz, "The Complete Musician: An Integrated Approach to Tonal Theory, Analysis, and Listening", 2nd ed. (2008, Oxford University Press), p. 117.

3 The Oxford Companion to Music, ed. Alison Latham (Oxford University Press, 2003), p. 986.

4 The Norton/Grove Concise Encyclopedia of Music, ed. Stanley Sadie (Macmillan Press Ltd., 1994), p. 172.

5 Edward Aldwell and Carl Schachter, Harmony and Voice Leading, 2nd ed. (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1989), p. 67.

  • It's probably pronunciation. In English English, close is pronounced 'cloce', whereas closed is pronounced 'clozed'. Close being the adjective not the verb (it's 'cloze' then). So, not sounding dissimilar, but but easy to tell apart.
    – Tim
    Oct 7 '20 at 11:27
  • I don't disagree with your answer, but do you think it would be helpful to include other textbooks as sources?
    – Richard
    Jan 15 at 22:34
  • @Richard Can't hurt. I'll add Aldwell and Schachter (1989) and Oxford Companion (2003, I think) later today. If you've got an even more up-to-date reference, please let me know or feel free to add it.
    – Aaron
    Jan 15 at 22:40
  • You can cite something that backs up your second footnote?
    – Judy N.
    Jan 15 at 23:55
  • 1
    @JudyN. I've revised the note to make clear it's just a suggestion for keeping the terms straight.
    – Aaron
    Jan 16 at 7:15

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