For a song I've written I do a chromatic descending climb with the bass note in a Cm chord and end up with my fingers like this:

enter image description here

First of all I'd like to know what chord this is, my guess is an A diminished +5th however I'm not certain.

Also I would like to know when this is the dominant (7th) chord, what is the tonic so that I can transpose another section of music to that key (making them work well together.)

That section of music is chords: Dm, F(inversion), B Dim, Bb --> Transpose to what?

  • 3
    Just want to point out that "descending climb" is a little counter-intuitive and contradictory. Commented Nov 17, 2013 at 15:22

4 Answers 4


This is an Am7b5 - also known as A half-diminished.

This chord would never be a dominant seventh in of itself. You would need to raise the 3rd and 5th degree of the chord for that to happen. In that case, the music would normally resolve back to D minor (in your case.) Alternatively, you can use this chord as a pivot chord using it as a ii7 before moving to V (D major), or vii° (F#dim) before modulating to G maj/min.

Just a simple idea.

Tonal centers for songs work well if they are somehow related to one another - the relative / parallel minor or major, the dominant, the sub-dominant and their respective relative / parallel minors and majors are all tried and true techniques.

  • OK thanks. Fist off yep, I didn't mean descending climb (whoops.) Just so you know I've decided to take it as a pivot chord (as per your advice) as I wanted to move to a minor tonality.So I went to ii7 (Dmajor) and transposed my next section to Gm making it Gm,A#(inversion),E Dim and D#. You've also introduced me to parallel minors and majors that I didn't know existed so thanks for the brilliant answer.
    – Corey Ford
    Commented Nov 17, 2013 at 18:54
  • 3
    Could also be a Cm6, especially with C as a root here.
    – Hilmar
    Commented Nov 17, 2013 at 21:02
  • 1
    @Hilmar - with due respect, Cm6 isn't actually a real chord. More than likely the C will be heard as the third of the chord instead of the root. Chord nomenclature deals with harmonic functionality. In the key of D minor, a "Cm6" would be the bvii6/5 which, harmonically speaking, doesn't make any sense as that roman numeral doesn't offer any function. Lastly, just note that the lowest note of a chord does not immediately indicate the root of the chord. Commented Nov 17, 2013 at 22:10
  • @CoreyFord - glad to help! Commented Nov 17, 2013 at 22:17
  • @jjmusicnotes: I am not sure what you mean. Surely you can have a m6, for example on the root? My Funny Valentine: Cm - Cmmaj7 - Cm7 - Cm6.
    – Gauthier
    Commented Jan 27, 2014 at 12:14

It looks like a simple c minor with an added major 6th to me.


Definition: ^ = "scale degree"

In Jazz, the tritone of a dominant 7th chord is the defining characteristic. In tonal theory the 7th chord built on the V includes ^4 and ^7 resolving to ^3 and ^1. In jazz, Tritone Substitution allows you to resolve these in the opposite direction to a chord whose root is a TT away from the expected resolution.

So from this perspective, your chord's dominant characteristic is that it contains the Tritone A-Eb. This TT could resolve to ^3 & ^1 in a Bb Major chord, a Bb minor chord, or via Tritone Substitution to an E Major chord or an E minor chord.

jjmusicnotes is correct as far as I know regarding common practice harmony, but I wanted to provide a different perspective on chords containing a tritone. Likely these will sound more jarring than the common practice resolutions. I might be mixing up the precise meaning of Tritone Substitution a bit, but the takeaway is that, what I have learned from Jazz is that the tritone content of a chord is extremely important to its sound and resolution characteristics.

  • you would be correct if the chord in question were in fact an F7. But as it is, this chord is not, and is also not a dominant seventh, and therefore in this context the tritone can function differently, such as a pre-secondary-dominant. Resolving to Bb would make sense if you ignored the G entirely, but as it is, a half-diminished seventh is not a cadential chord. I would also be careful about making statement regarding "common practice" resolutions - it is from "common practice" that jazz came into existence. Commented Nov 17, 2013 at 22:16
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    1) By "common practice" I mean harmonic practices of the western classical tradition through mid-late 19th century. Jazz literature has chord resolutions that are not typically found in the "common practice" literature. Obviously Jazz grew out of the common practice tradition, I don't think many would argue that point. 2) The chord in question shares 3 chord tones with an F7 and some musicians could see/hear it as a F7 add 9 chord which is missing it's root. Clearly you do not see or hear it this way. It's a different way of looking at things. Commented Nov 21, 2013 at 19:52
  • How you hear a chord entirely depends on context - plugging "what-if" scenarios to fit a possible chord does little to explain exactly what was presented. The notes the OP provided could be fitted into hundreds of different chords - all of them with a different function and with different merit, and yet not all advice would be pertinent to the OP's question. Supposition leads to sloppy theoretical analysis. Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 0:28

I'm a professional jazz-classical pianist, composer, author.

Here is the biggest question which also has the answer in it: What do you hear with this chord?

I would say this chords is right before the chord "G, B, D#, F#, A, E" to me if I was composing a piece for my latest book -Contemporary Studies for Piano.

The name is not important. *How you hear, how you feel, how you make* connections between chords matter. Rest of it just daily conversations between people.

I would recommend you to to work on basic classical harmony and functional, non-functional harmony.

Don't worry about the chord names. Listen more, improve your sense and ears. Don't be afraid composing new pieces. Rest of it for the people who will listen your creations and try to understand what you have done there.

Music is nature. A bird's voice still would be so wonderful before you gave a name to this bird.

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