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I'm an amateur songwriter with limited music theory knowledge. I have this chord progression in Eb:

Cm - Ab/C - Eb - Ab6(no3)/Eb Ddim

Played on a keyboard, the Ab6(no3)/Eb (Eb,F,Ab) transitions nicely to Ddim (D,F,Ab) (similar to the transition from Cm to Ab/C).

But Ab6(no3)/Eb is so ugly to write that way. This isn't the first time I've encountered this shape while writing--is there a standard shorthand or better way to write it? Or should I just make up my own shorthand?

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    Chord symbols are a shorthand and intentionally inexact. To specify an exact voicing of specific notes, use standard notation.
    – Aaron
    Nov 29, 2022 at 5:37

3 Answers 3

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I would call it Fm7/Eb. The missing C note, the perfect fifth, is actually commonly omitted in 7th and more extended chords.

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The chord progression you've written suggests that the E-flat is a suspension in the bass. That is to say, the "real" chord is the D diminished chord (which implies an incomplete Bb7 chord, if we're going back to E-flat, or perhaps a B-diminished 7th chord, if we're going on to C minor) and the E-flat in the bass is a dissonance that is held over from the previous chord and then resolves to the D. What you've written is actually very similar to a super common introductory chord sequence in the Baroque and Classical periods!

Chord symbols of the sort you're using are not that well suited to notating suspensions, especially suspensions in the bass. (Classical musicians have a whole different notation system for this sort of thing, figured bass.[^1])

Fm7/Eb, as suggested by another user, is possible. You could also consider Bb7sus4/Eb. The difference is basically whether there is a C in the chord, or instead a Bb. (You can listen and compare for yourself which sounds closer to what you have in mind. You might also find that you like the sound of Bb7/D better than D diminished, or not.) You could even consider something like writing Ddim, then add a verbal note something like: bass: Eb->D susp..

[^1]: In figured bass, you would write an E-flat in staff notation, then put a 4/2 underneath it to indicate that the fourth and second should be played. However, the 4/2 figure is usually taken to imply the 6th (C) as well.

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    Interesting analysis! Perhaps it explains the voice motion better... although in Fm7, the 7th, Eb, has also some tendency to resolve downwards, so perhaps what I proposed is not that bad? e.g. an improviser would understand what's going on? Nov 29, 2022 at 19:37
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    Absolutely, what you proposed works too. 7ths work a lot like suspensions (dissonances that typically resolve downwards) and historically evolved out of them. So it's really like two different ways of looking at the same thing.
    – msailor
    Nov 30, 2022 at 11:51
  • Thanks for the detailed answer! I went with Fm7/Eb mainly for the simplicity. I actually do think the added Bb sounds better (for my song) than the added C, but in either case I feel like it's sort of a flavor note that isn't necessarily essential to the song.
    – ZX9
    Dec 1, 2022 at 22:19
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Another possibility, in addition to the other answers, is Ebsus2,4. This also implies a Bb, but it might get you close enough to what you need. It also makes Eb the root, which may or may not communicate better what you're thinking here.

Technically, the F and Ab aren't really suspensions, since it's the Eb that resolves downward, but in common pop/jazz notation, that detail is usually ignored.

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