How do you notate a chord like G F A C E without using slash notation? G13sus? G13sus4?

If it’s along the lines of a G13, this leads to me to wonder why the chord G F A C is usually notated as G9sus4 and not G11sus or G11sus4. After all, the only difference between that and the G11 is the omitted third.

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    Why would you notate it without slash notation? F△/G seems very much the clearest way of expressing it. Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 22:51
  • This may be helpful: what is the method behind naming jazz chords?
    – Aaron
    Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 22:55
  • @leftaroundabout F/g would imply some sort of supension of a subdominant, resolving into the dominant. Naming the chord G something instead implies a dominant function, resolving into the tonic. The chord here would be seen as a G dominant 7 9 11 13 chord without the third. I would not actually name this a Gsus4, as the 11 does not really serve as a suspension. So I’d suggest to notate this as G13(no 3,5).
    – Lazy
    Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 0:36
  • @leftaroundabout The main reason is that I use a roman numeral notation and already reserve the slash to indicate a new or temporary tonic. Combining this with the bass slash notation would be too cumbersome. But you’re right that, otherwise, it would be the clearest notation.
    – Daan
    Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 11:14
  • Some say that jazz chord symbols are not analysis and should simply be the clearest indication of what to play, Leftaroundabout's F△/G seems clearer and more direct for what to play than the cumbersome and redundant G13sus4. Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 19:33

2 Answers 2


How do you notate a chord like G F A C E without using slash notation? G13sus? G13sus4?

Either would work. "sus" is typically interpreted as sus4.

Someone could interpret it as sus2. Someone else could add the fifth: D. But that's the fun with interpreting the chord symbols.

G11sus or G11sus4

These two symbols don't make sense to me. "11" means: add 11 (and b7, and perhaps even 9), while "sus4" means: replace 3 with 4 – that's contradictory.

After all, the only difference between that [G13sus4] and the G11 is the omitted third.

But that's a huge difference! So large, that – as Richard points out – many musicians wouldn't even consider to play a chord with both major third and 11 and play sus4 if they see 11 symbol. I'd like to add that some other musicians see sus4 as a coexistence of third and fourth. But it's a clearly very distinct sound.

In a major and dominant chords the perfect fourth is often called an avoid note, i.e. a note that even if it's present in the scale, shouldn't be emphasized. Playing a note as a part of the chord does emphasize it.

Why would you notate it without slash notation? F△/G seems very much the clearest way of expressing it.

I agree it's a very clear way to notate the chord, I would argue, even more clear than G13sus4:

  • it strongly suggests to play notes G F A C E
  • it strongly suggests to play G in the bass (which is not suggested by G13sus4)

The only issue that I may have with F△/G is that it suggests that the root of the chord is F, which means it's a fourth inversion of a ninth chord... which doesn't really exist, see e.g.: How do you write a dominant ninth in fourth inversion? What I mean by this is that in most cases we wouldn't hear this chord as rooted in F.

So the symbol F△/G isn't so helpful in understanding the harmony. But for writing a readable score for the performers it seems fine to me.

  • Good point about 'making it simple to read' and/or 'explaining what's going on'. I think most of us reading it to play for the first time would prefer the former. We really don't use the latter until doing the post mortem, we just need something unequivocal to play. So the 'make it simple' wins - for most of us.
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 8:25
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    I'm just not quite sure if it's a contradiction or simply overlap/redundancy. G11 says "add 11"; G11sus4 says "add 11 and omit third". The thing that bugs me most though, is that if you go from G F A C to G F A C E, you go from G9sus4 to G13sus4. That's not... totally intuitive. But since 9sus4 is used so frequently, I'll probably stick to that.
    – Daan
    Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 19:13
  • "I'd like to add that some other musicians see sus4 as a coexistence of third and fourth." I haven't encountered this. If the 3rd and 4th are both present, then in what sense is a suspension occurring? Are we delaying resolution to the 5th? That seems wrong, but maybe this is an aspect of suspensions I'm not aware of. +1 for the point about F∆/G. That might be an accurate description of the notes, but it doesn't describe the harmonic function. I hadn't previously thought about the redundancy of G11sus4. That's an interesting point--I'm convinced. Having 11 and 4 in the same symbol is redundant
    – jdjazz
    Commented Nov 21, 2021 at 2:41
  • When I see G13, I play the 3rd and 4th together (eg G-B-C-F in the left hand in a solo piano context). I personally don't think G11sus is redundant, and I think I've seen it in lead sheets. Like Daan points out, the sus really means 'don't play the 3rd' in that context. But here's my two cents: the best way to notate this is Dmin9/G or G13sus. If it's a jazz setting, both will make very clear that you want all the upper extensions. When I see G13sus, I'm more likely to omit the 5th than include it. They also both convey the correct function.
    – jdjazz
    Commented Nov 21, 2021 at 2:51

I would argue that calling it G13 is sufficient, and that it's not necessary to specify the sus aspect of this chord.

This is because eleventh and thirteenth chords often automatically omit the chordal (major) third so that it doesn't clash with the eleventh. This is one reason why ♯11 chords are so much more common than "regular" 11 chords: the ♯11 creates a whole step (or major ninth) with the third, as opposed to the half step created between the third and eleventh.

To quote a great comment by Max to Dom's terrific answer here:

it's puristic to insist that G11 contains both a B and a C. In older pop charts G11 is a common shorthand for G7sus4 or G9sus4, as becomes clear from looking at the voicings in the piano part. If you want an accompanist to play both the B and C, G11 alone probably isn't enough to override the instinct against playing that chord. I have seen G7add11 used in this (uncommon) situation, and there was a suggested voicing written in as well. (And the suggested voicing was stacked fourths, so it actually put the 11th below the 3rd.)

Following this same logic, I would simply call your G F A C E a G13 chord. You could specify the omissions of the third and fifth if you really want, but in my experience that would be unnecessary and may honestly just trip up a sight reader.

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    I think for G13 it would be a lot more common to omit the 11th rather than the 3rd, no?
    – user45266
    Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 2:35
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    Perhaps there's a stylistic difference I'm not aware of, then. I'm glad I answered so I can get this figured out!
    – Richard
    Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 2:52
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    This is a very interesting answer, but I strongly disagree with the first sentence. However, I found myself arguing about that several times and I wonder if this disagreement may come from differences between jazz and classical notation? In classical music 6/7 chord, a.k.a. Chopin chord is what in jazz would be called 13 chord. Could it be that in classical notation 13 (which is perhaps never used) would indeed mean a chord with all components, including 3 and 11, i.e. something different than in jazz nomenclature? Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 3:39
  • In a modern jazz piano context (post Bill Evans), G13 is typically voiced F-A-B-E, the "type B rootless voicing" that many books teach. G13 does contain a 3rd in a jazz setting.
    – jdjazz
    Commented Nov 21, 2021 at 2:53

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