Sorry if this has been asked before, but I couldn't find it all. In this example, and in general I wonder. Im not sure I can upload photo of the example due to copyright.

But in this bar there's an A dotted half note and then a C quarter note. In this bar there's two chords. Bbmaj7 and Eb7. Am I suppose to play the Eb7 over the C note? or on the dot of the A? Basically what I'm asking is, in jazz lead sheet when there are two chords in a bar, do the play first on 1 and second chord on 3?

Also when theres nothing above the bar, does that mean to repeat the previous chord? Ive read that I should, but want proper information about this.

enter image description here

Here's the picture of it. It looks fairly in the middle, even tho it's longer with extension tone

  • 5
    I think a snippet, for educational reasons (as here!) is acceptable.
    – Tim
    Jul 13, 2023 at 6:59
  • @V2Blast If you're going to edit a post, you should try to fix all the problems with it. Your edit leaves this post with an obsolete sentence, and an image without alt-text. (Not to mention the spelling errors, incorrect tags.) Jul 14, 2023 at 1:12
  • @ElementsinSpace: Well, I didn't directly edit the post. The question author posted that as an answer to their question; mods (and staff with mod powers) have a button to convert that self-answer to an edit to the question. All I was doing was cleaning up that answer.
    – V2Blast
    Jul 14, 2023 at 15:10

5 Answers 5


If the sheet is written well, the chord should be notated just at the moment it's supposed to be played; right above the note at the start of which the chord change should happen. That's your best indicator.

If the sheet is written sloppily, you're on your own to guess. Use your discretion to figure out when exactly it sounds right. With the aid of a recording, it shouldn't be too hard.

When there's nothing, yes, it means "no chord change", all the way until the point there is something. Doesn't matter if it's one chord lasting four bars, or four chord changes in one bar.


It depends on how the chords are spaced.

  • Most likely they are equally spaced, so each chord last two quarters.
  • If the Eb7 is over the last quarter then the Bbmaj7 lasts three beats.

It's unlikely to be crucial to the song how long each chord lasts. You can probably play it either way.

If there's no chord symbol over a bar, it generally means the previous chord continues, but it could also mean the copyist forgot to write in the chord symbols or that there are no chord symbols over a completely notated section.


To do the basic and mostly correct thing, as you speculate, the placement of chord symbols tells the moment for change to that chord... and until there's a different symbol, just keep the same.

However, if you have confidence and it seems appropriate, you can do a quick (and maybe quiet) "turnaround" above a long stretch of a given chord, for example. Or just parallel motion up to a tritone substitution for the dominant V. And for "voice lines", this can be something like single notes doing the relevant tritones for the impression of dominant fifths, etc. At one extreme, if it's very-traditional simple blues, there are often expectations to maintain a particular harmony (the I or the IV) for many measures, without getting outside that. Then it'd possibly be more appropriate to just do rhythmic things with that harmony.


Without seeing your lead sheet it could be either. You can edit and post an image of a single bar to your question, I don’t think there’s any need to worry about copyright infringement. It depends on the accuracy of the notation. In these hand drawn examples:

  1. Eb7 is beat 4
  2. Eb7 is beat 3
  3. Eb7 is not clear.

The slashes are for reference. Musically either 1 or 2 can work since the A melody note is the #11 of Eb7. Regarding your final paragraph, no new chord symbol means the chord stays the same as the last chord written.

enter image description here

  • 1
    No real need for the 7 after the triangle! I think triangle means maj7. I may be wrong...
    – Tim
    Jul 13, 2023 at 11:46
  • @Tim You are right about the redundancy but I have seen it written that way so many times in fake books on lead sheets (as a matter of fact, way more often than not) that I have gotten into the habit of writing it that way when I use the triangle. Jul 15, 2023 at 0:15

It is far more usual to split such a bar evenly into two halves. However, the A note is actually part of B♭▵, whereas the C note isn't. Neither does it belong to E♭7♯11 (E♭, G, B♭, D♭, A♮). I'm guessing that an A♭ chord of some kind follows, and that C note heralds it, so there'll be another note from the A♭ chord in that next bar, but until we get a glimpse of surrounding bars, we'll never know...

So, for my money, on this occasion, split the bar into 3+1. Listening to what else is happening will give the better clue.

  • 2
    But since A♮ is the ♯11 of E♭ there's a good chance that that chord was chosen specifically because it is played while the A is still sounding.
    – phoog
    Jul 13, 2023 at 21:00
  • @phoog - good point!
    – Tim
    Jul 14, 2023 at 6:40

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