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I've written a piece that has this chord (notes from lowest to highest):

Chord with notes Bb E G A D

I'm not quite sure how to name this chord, most of my attempts have been confusing [such as E-7(𝄫5)/B♭]. It's definitely a B♭ centered sound, with G also being a strong note contextually. What would be the cleanest way to name this? Are there strategies for naming chords like this?

Edit: Here is the entire chord progression used: image

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  • Context needed. Out of context I could call it maybe Gm6/9, with 7 not played. Or maybe Eø7add4? Or maybe something else? Apr 26, 2023 at 15:43
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    Or it's a C13 missing the root.
    – PiedPiper
    Apr 26, 2023 at 16:02
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    The way to describe this progression is with notation. Even if we did manage to contrive a chord symbol, it wouldn't really help anyone to either play or analyse it.
    – Laurence
    Apr 26, 2023 at 21:12
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    Why do you need to name it?
    – phoog
    Apr 27, 2023 at 6:18
  • @phoog mostly improv reasons Apr 27, 2023 at 18:31

2 Answers 2

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Are there strategies for notating chords like this?

The bass note matters a lot for the chord sound. It's rare to have upper structure notes in the bass. It's not because they necessarily sound bad, but because the bass note is so dominating that it may no longer sound as an upper structure. In your case, Bb could be the root of a Bb chord, could be a third of a G chord, maybe could be a b5 of an E chord, but is rather unlikely to be the b13 of a D chord, or the b9 of an A chord.

This gives us three candidates:

  • Bbmaj7#46
  • Gm69/Bb
  • Eø7add4/Bb (or Em7b5add4/Bb)

As PiedPiper suggests, one more possibility is for the chord to be missing the root, a.k.a. rootless voicing. C13 is a really good suggestion! It includes 3: E, and b7: Bb, which are the most important tensions, and then some more. Also, importantly, it doesn't include F, which is 4, which often blurs the chord's identity.

But how to choose one of those? This depends on the context. Ask yourself "what does it sound like?" What other, simpler chord you could play instead to move the harmony in a similar way. This may mean removing additional notes from your chord, but also adding some which are omitted. Could you replace it with a C triad? This depends on the context, the key, the preceding chords, and most importantly, the following ones. How the harmony flows, what resolves to what?

What you propose, E-7(𝄫5)/B♭, isn't right. There isn't really such a thing as a 𝄫5. A perfect fourth sounds like a perfect fourth. Em7b5 is quite a common chord, on the other hand.

Edit:

Within the context, I would interpret the whole progression as:

Em7b5add4/Bb Am7 Gm7 Dmadd4add2

Why this choice? Please compare it with this simplified progression:

Score of simplified chord progression

This is of course subjective, but to me it seems these simple chords grasp the essence of the progression, and what you have is just more "color" notes. The V→I relations between E and A, and then G and D dominate the movement, especially given the lack of other strong dissonances and resolutions.

The last chord feels quite unresolved, due to the added 4, but within the context I hear it as Dm.

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    Yes, I'd vote for rootless C13. :) Apr 26, 2023 at 18:45
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If you want to name that chord with a chord symbol and Bb feels like the root then call it a Bbmaj13(b5) or Bbmaj7(b5,13). I would not call it a #11 because when most people see #11 they will voice that note in an upper octave. I prefer not to use inversions and/or rootless designations when there is a logical spelling for a chord in root position. In this case the context shows other chords are not rootless. Root position chords will usually show harmonic function better than their inversion counterparts. It will also usually make it easier for constructing bass lines and improvising over,

The truth of the matter is chord symbols are an inexact science and will not always give you the desired results when played by other musicians. If you want those notes in that order from low to high then just write out the voicings like you did instead of using chord symbols.

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