I often see guitar chord boxes in sheet music for rock/folk and pop songs where the chord on the guitar will be something like a G major chord but the piano part will actually be a Em 6/3 chord. In a lot of cases the melody is using the 6th not the 5th which, from my understanding, means that from a classical musicians perspective the Em 6/3 chord is better suited for the harmony and that the artist/producer/songwriter probably didn't even realize that the 5th was going to change the name of the chord. Perhaps some chords are just easier to play on the guitar so that takes precedence over using the "right" chord. My question is, is using one just like using the other? Since the person notating the music thinks so, I was wondering if any one actually found it necessary to have both the 5th and 6th in a chord at the same time? Would this be a "jazzier" less consonant sound?

  • 5/3 refers to the position of the chord ie the inversion or root position. The harmony or the chord remains the same regardless of the position although the position has a great effect on the quality of the voice leading
    – Neil Meyer
    Jun 7, 2021 at 9:47
  • @Neil a G 5/3 chord is not the same as a G6/3 chord. G6/3 = Em/G. Please let me know if I made a msitake in my question, I will amend. thank you
    – user35708
    Jun 7, 2021 at 10:32
  • @armani - What - a G6/3 chord is not a G chord in first inversion (B-D-G), in analogy with the Roman notation?
    – Dekkadeci
    Jun 8, 2021 at 12:11
  • I meant a 6/3 and 5/3 chord with the same bass
    – user35708
    Jun 8, 2021 at 20:16

1 Answer 1


Chord boxes for guitar written at the top of staves are often approximations - and usually they show, using little dots on strings/frets what those basic chords are. I imagine only beginners would use those actual shapes, as they are there for those beginners. Other players would see the chord symbol and play a different, appropriate shape, thus voicing.

I think the chord in the question is G6, or Em7. Both of which contain the same four notes, G B D E, but not necessarily in that order. In fact, on guitar, they could be, and often are, in different orders, depending which shape gets used.

As an extension to a G major triad, the 6th (E) is quite consonant, and is often used. The 5 and 6 don't clash. As an extension to the Em triad, the 7th (D) is also quite consonant, and is often used. The D is the 'next stacked third'.

As far as what the chord gets named is really down to - is it a major or a minor chord, thus the name, and usually root note, is decided. What doesn't work is to take out the 5 leaving G B E from G6, as that then becomes Em. One case where the 5 isn't sacrificial. Likewise, taking the 7 out of Em7 leaves us with, well, Em. Neither of which sound the same.

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