I was watching a tutorial for Viceroy by Mac DeMarco with the following chord construction for a C#minor7 chord with the capo on the second fret:

enter image description here

I was confused by this chord construction considering I know that a C# minor scale consists of notes:

C# D# E F# G# A B

With a C# minor chord consisting of notes:

C# E G#

With a C#minor7 chord consisting of notes:

C# E G# B

Any help with my misunderstanding would be appreciated.

  • 2
    The image is for the chord C#m7b5, also know as C-half diminished Jan 12, 2021 at 22:04
  • How do you come to think that there‘s a capo in the 2nd fret? Jan 13, 2021 at 20:26

3 Answers 3


Two things:

  • There's no capo in that chord diagram.
  • It's not a C#m7 chord, it is a C#m7 flat five, which makes it an Em6 with C# in the bass. It says "b5" in parentheses. For the life of me I cannot understand why anyone would write it in smaller text and in parentheses, because the flat five makes all the difference and changes the whole meaning of the chord. If it was just C#m7, it would correspond to an E major chord, but now it's an E minor, totally different.

Here's a fixed version:

flat five

"Educated" jazz snobs dislike writing Em6/C#, but once again we see that beginners do not even see the "b5", let alone understand what it means. Em/C# or even just plain Em would retain the original meaning better and do less damage than C#m7 without flattening the fifth. Depending on the melody a C#m7 can sometimes work, but it also changes the mood.

The subject asks about construction, so here are the components of the chord. On the upper strings there's an E minor triad E, G, B, and then there's C# in the bass.

Construction of C#m7-5

If we compare this to a regular C#m7 without the flat five (following a similar voicing), we see that now there's an E major triad E, G#, B, and the C# in the bass.

Construction of C#m7

At the same time, there's another perspective to see C#m7-5: there's a C# diminished ("C#m-5" or flat five), and there's an added seventh

Construction of C#m7-5, different perspective

And finally, here's a different voicing for the same chord. I think this is not only easier to play, but it sounds nicer as well:

C#m7-5 different voicing

The only downside with this is, the Em shape isn't so clearly visible.

For completeness, maybe I should add that there are many different ways to write a half-diminished seventh chord as a chord symbol, e.g. C#m7-5 or C#m7♭5 or with a circle Cø7 or Cø. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Half-diminished_seventh_chord#Chord_symbols_and_terminology

  • 3
    Most beginners would fare just as poorly with a m6 chord with a 6th in the bass. Jan 12, 2021 at 23:43
  • @JohnBelzaguy I have tried it, they will play an Em, which will not be wrong at that spot. Some try playing a C# major, but it'll be super bizarre, they may actually even notice it can't be right. C#m will be Wrong for the tune, but not wrong enough for many to notice that it can't be right. I have tried the "correct" version and nothing good has ever come out of it, with non-geek level players. Even fairly experienced players don't get it, if they haven't studied theory. C#m7-5 works for those who are at an advanced level of studying, and for theory geeks. Jan 13, 2021 at 1:00
  • 1
    The most aggravating cases are those players who are experienced but don't have a good ear. Those players won't hear much of a difference as long as the bass and lyrics are about right. They'll play a C#m7 and think nothing of it, while the melody has loud and clear G notes clashing with their G#. And arrangers who consider themselves as "educated" keep on writing their "correct" C#m7-5 chords, with small superscript -5 in parentheses to make sure that the result is as likely as possible to sound bad, while still being able to claim theoretical "correctness". Good job. Jan 13, 2021 at 1:17
  • 2
    Piiperi, you make a good point that at an educational level an Em triad will sound better than a C#m triad if the chord is C#m7b5. However upon learning theory and harmony one of the first 4 types of 7th chords one learns is the VIIm7b5, a diatonic chord from the major scale so that chord shouldn’t be a big mystery either. It’s up to the copyist to write it clearly, the student to learn it and the player to play it correctly. I totally agree with you that important information about a chord like b5, + or o shouldn’t be written as an afterthought or in parentheses. Jan 13, 2021 at 3:07
  • 1
    My personal preference is m7b5 because among other things I prefer to spell chords from the root whenever possible (I’m a bass player, what can I say?) but I won’t debate which is “right”, both spellings are valid and if jazz snobs (I’m not one of them am I? :0) don’t know that two of the fathers of modern jazz, Dizzy and Monk referred to it as “a minor 6th with the 6th in the bass” then they need to take a jazz history lesson. Jan 13, 2021 at 3:15

If you look carefully at the chord symbol you'll see the chord is C#m7(b5), so the fifth is flattened (G#->G). The complete chord is C# E G B. You don't need a capo, the diagram shows the notes without a capo.
Possibly the chord is intended to sound as D#m7(b5), in which case you'd need to use the capo on the second fret and finger the C#m7(b5) chord as notated.


C#m7b5 means the 5th is diminished, so we have no G# but G (b5) should actually be not a flat but the natural sign: C#m => the m refers to the minor 3rd of C#-E, the 7 refers to the 7th of C# = B. Thus the chord is C#,E,G,B.

The signature m7b5 is the tetrad of the ii degree of a minor scale or the vii degree of the major scale: C#,E,G,B is the 2nd degree of B-minor respectively the 7th degree D-major key, like there e.g. Bm7b5 is ii7b5 of am and vii7b5 of C.

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