I got a book as a present from my grandma called "Jazz Theory Book" by Mark Levine. I thought the bank holiday was a great day to start reading it. I've spotted something in the book that confuses me.

Above the stave is "Bb7", and "Eb7". I know what they mean such as "B flat 7". But, I'm not sure why they're above the stave. Does it mean to play a Bb7 chord whilst playing "D, Eb, E, F" as there is no mention of chords?

Here's an image from the page in the book:

enter image description here

  • Does it mean to play a Bb7 chord whilst playing "D, Eb, E, F" as there is no mention of chords? Yes.
    – JakeD
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 16:26

3 Answers 3


They are indeed chord names, the specific chord to be played at the same time as the melody from those bars. They could be written underneath the staff or over as here.

Which inversion of the chord, and what rhythm to be played is up to the player - there may even be a guitar providing the chord accompaniment.

This is written out in a way that we call a lead sheet, where there will be a melody line and each bar will have a one chord (or more) against it. More can be found in Real books and Fake books, written in the same way.


It refers to the chord that is meant to be played above the melody that is represented on the stave.

This is usually the case on jazz and rock songs, where the music sheet focuses mainly on the melody and not so much on the chord voicing.

One of the most common examples where this way of notation is used is on the Real book. Take a look at some pictures from the book. Pretty much every song is that way, unless the composer wanted the chords to be played in a very specific voicing and/or rhythmic way.

Your example is a jazz standard, and can also be found on the real book, pretty much the same notation as you have provided it, since the source is from a jazz book.


Written above the melody of many pieces of music, are chords. Your chord is a B flat dominant 7 which contains the notes: B flat-D-F-A flat. The lower case 'b' next to a later signifies a flattened note.

They are written in that fashion so they are open ended, the musician is free to interpret them in any way/shape/form in order to support their style of play.

This freedom of play means it is suitable in jazz mostly but also in rock genres.

As for examples: pretty much any jazz piece you can find.

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