Is there any common notation for a generic voicing of a chord? For instance, I could specify as a kind of voicing template:

"Root, 3rd and fifth in fourth octave, plus root in the fifth octave"

And apply this to any triad.

So is there a common notation for such a template?


3 Answers 3


There's the standard root-3rd-5th making a root position, then 1st inversion with 3rd-5th-root up an octave, and 2nd inversion, with 5th at the bottom-root (up an octave from original)-3rd(up as well).Go up another step and it's back to root.

As there are so many combinations of the three notes available on several instruments, I don't believe there is a name. Guitar gets quite complex with voicings, with some chords doubling a particular note, others having 3 of the same, others missing out notes (often 5ths). Then on keys, you could end up with dozens of voicings for the same three notes.Apart from seeing the dots written down, I don't think there are labels.


possible voicings of a 3 note chord include those 3 halfsteps in ANY and ALL of the 7.3 octaves.

your example is ok for when the 1,3,5 are only used once. But maybe you want 3 separate bass notes in 3 of the lower octaves, plus a 3rd in octave 4, and 2 5ths in octaves 5 and 6.

You could have that 3 note chord playing on 21-ish possible notes or any combination. And of course, you can omit notes of a chord and still call it that chord.

So usually spec'ing the arrangement for a chord is listing each individual octave that's playing it. And of course, rhythm comes into play and some of the notes aren't held for the full duration or start at the same time. So the arrangement is usually just plain spec'd in notation.


There is a general distinction between "closed" and "open" voicings of chords -- what you gave as an example looks like a closed voicing (where the notes of the chord are as close as they can be). When creating an open chord voicing using many notes spread over a number of octaves, it is often good to follow the spacing of the overtone series: use octaves at the bottom, then add fifths and fourths, then thirds and sevenths, etc. (At the top of the frequency scale, many composers favor octaves again as an acoustic reinforcement.)

  • That sounds like good advice for choosing a voicing, but the question is about notation for the voicing, once chosen. Jul 16, 2014 at 3:47

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