I have seen a few singer/songwriters use this and Incubus, though I can't think of which songs in particular. I've seen it done with a Dmaj most frequently. The 4 appears a half-step above the 3, creating a minor second dissonance that sounds pretty cool. They use the F# on the D-string and play the open G-string. I have seen people add the open B and E as well or an A on the low E-string but I can call those extensions such as 9 and 13 if D is the root of this chord. If I refer to the G as 11, Jazz theory (and my ear) tells me that it shouldn't be there or that it isn't a normal major chord and that voicing wouldn't be played if someone wrote Dmaj on a chart. However, it does still functionally sound like a major chord to me.

If I just look at the notes I could try to call it Gmaj7/D and the B is implied, but it doesn't sound that way and a simple II-V-I in G, landing on this chord, doesn't sound resolved, where a II-V-I in D does.

Similarly, is there a way to express in a chord symbol that two notes should be played directly next to each other, creating the same minor second dissonance? Such as, the 9 and b3 of a minor chord or the b7 and 13 in a dominant chord. That is a specific dissonance that is not expressed by the normal chord symbol and I have wondered how to write it for a while.


3 Answers 3


Yes it should be noted maj add11

Similarly, is there a way to express in a chord symbol that two notes should be played directly next to each other, creating the same minor second dissonance?

No, chords describe notes, not voicing. add4=add11. I jazz theory we don't distinguish octaves, and it's always 11. Guitar players have invented sus/add2 vs sus/add9 and 4/11

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    Thanks, my only further thought would then concern proper voicing of this maj add11. The 11 would have to be below the 3 or right next to it or you would get a nasty b9, essentially changing the function of the chord, right? Also, I think of 4 when thinking classically and 11 for jazz and my jazz training has taught me that to reflect the function of the chords written on the chart, notes that are a half-step below a chord tone should be voiced above that chord tone, which to me distinguishes octaves relative to other voices. Is there a term you are aware of to describe the tight voicing? Jul 19, 2013 at 9:33
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    Simply you cannot communicate this with a chord naming (well you could, as guitarists do, saying "add4" instead of "add11"; in Jazz theory it is always an add11,add9 as they are stacked in thirds 1,3,5,7,9,11) but you may not because that is not the purpose of chord naming. This is relegated to chords pictures(boxes) or 022100 notation in guitar or either score for piano and others. Definining voicings and octaves is not defining notes (harmony).
    – Whimusical
    Jul 19, 2013 at 9:39
  • Yes, the more I think about how that would be depicted the more I realize you would have to say which notes were doing it and that it would be quite inefficient. Jul 19, 2013 at 9:46
  • Good comment about having the 11th below the 3rd. Sus chords are sometimes voiced to include the 3rd, but in that case higher than the 11th, for the reason you named (b9). Depending on context, I guess your chord example could be a Sus. But I know of no standard symbol for including the third in a Sus cord.
    – Gauthier
    Jul 19, 2013 at 10:46
  • Well you stil could do some invesion notation if it was the bass note,like in Cadd11/F or Cadd11/E, but never Csus4add10or3 or Csus4add3/E-Csus4add10/E.In practical terms as guitar players often spell you could say Csus4/E, but its not correct by classical/jazz naming conventions and guidelines. Anyway there is not a chord naming convention standard, just traditional rules.They ALWAYS claim not to define voicings in chord names.For traditional harmony, its always a stack of 3rds 1-3-5-7-9-11 so a 4th is an 11 always if the third is there (sus4 exception as its quartal -not thirds stack- chord)
    – Whimusical
    Jul 19, 2013 at 10:56

In the jazz / pop sense with the 3rd omitted, you'd call it a "sus" chord - -> Csus4

In the jazz / pop sense with the 3rd included, it would be more like - -> Cadd4

In the classical tradition, these types of voicings are realized with a different type of notation called figured bass.

For the chord you speak about in your last paragraph, I would try building it and generating a chord name the way you would build a chord otherwise. It is hard to help until you mention specific chords.

Hope that helps!

  • I like the figured bass idea, I've studied it but I don't think enough people outside the classical world use it (and not many within it after Theory III, maybe organists). Jul 19, 2013 at 9:40
  • Figured bass realization has largely fallen out of practice, but every classically trained musician has dealt with it in their theory studies. Jul 19, 2013 at 12:06
  • Figured bass becomes useful again when using computers, as a canonical form for chords. example. Jul 19, 2013 at 20:16
  • What would you call it when the root note and the 3rd is present, but rather the 5th is omitted and substituted with a 4th? Is it still a sus4? If it is, how do you tell it from the case where the 3rd is omitted? If it is not, does it have a proper name? Apr 9, 2014 at 14:37
  • @AndrásHummer Do you distinguish between a chord spelled C-E-G and a chord spelled C-E-C?
    – Divide1918
    Apr 9, 2021 at 2:51

I have been using chords that include the major 3rd and natural 4th for some time, particularly on guitar open tunings and high G ukulele. Without getting too complicated or over-thinking it, I write the chord symbol followed by add4 which I shorten as (4). So if it’s a C major chord with the major third and fourth I write it as C(4). I do the same with an added nine, C(9). The bracket defines the number being added to the chord. If it’s a C major chord with added fourth and added nine it can be written as C(4/9).

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