I am making a tab schema, and I was wondering if there was a symbol one could use to refer to the root note's major triad, without reference to the actual note itself. For example, I believe "C" in a tab refers to the C major chord, C-E-G ( also 1-3-5).

Is there a way one can use to refer to the major chord besides using the root note alone? Is "maj" or "major" the only one (i.e. Cmaj or Cmajor)? Are there other symbols?

The help would be very appreciated!


You're correct that C without a qualifier usually implies C major in the context of a chord sheet. However, you can explicitly indicate it as CΔ, CM or Cmaj. The triangle/delta is more common in a handwritten context than typed, I prefer it in general, but of course it's up to you. You won't see it in tabs because they're conventionally written using the ASCII character set, for monospaced fonts.

There are a range of symbols used, but I tend to use the below: they're universally understood, 1 character long, and unambiguous.

Δ major
- minor
+ augmented
o Diminished
ø Half diminished

Alternatively you have, respectively, maj/M, min/m, aug, dim, and m7b5, which are easier to type.

It's worth noting that while C- is commonly used for a minor chord, C+ is used to indicate augmented rather than major.

  • 2
    I've only ever seen Δ in reference to major/major seventh chords. Is it used for triads, too? (I legitimately don't know.)
    – Richard
    Sep 28 '17 at 23:11
  • @Richard It's common to not explicitly indicate major chords, and just write "C" or whatever. On on a sheet following that convention, you'll only come across Δ when representing a specific voicing (CΔ7 for example). Personally, I prefer explicit major indication, especially in a minor tune. Also, I didn't want to overcomplicate the answer, but Δ and - are generally used to indicate a major/minor "flavour" in jazz sheets; how you interpret depends on the music context (and ultimately, you). So Δ could be played as Δ7, 6, 6/9 chord for example, and "-" could be -6,-7,-9 etc. (or as triads)
    – Some_Guy
    Sep 29 '17 at 8:39

I think this is the beginnings of what you want (although I'm using notes rather than tab).

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  • I am sorry if I was unclear, but I wanted a comprehensive list of shorthand symbols like what @Some_Guy indicated. Thanks for answering anyway. Sep 30 '17 at 22:09

"C" and "Cmaj/Cmajor" are the usual ways to do it in tablature/lead sheets, but in music theory annotation, it's fairly common to write "C" for C major (which is the same as the above) and "c" or "Cm" for C minor, or even "C+" for C major and "C-" for C minor. (Edit: I now suspect the latter was the idiosyncratic notation of one of my profs.)

This is for English; other languages have their own conventions, like "Des Dur" in German for D flat major.

  • 1
    C+ is never C major. It's always C augmented. Unlike the opposite C- which is always C minor, never C diminished!
    – Tim
    Sep 29 '17 at 11:45
  • "Never" is a bold claim. I studied music theory in university and it was pretty common while annotating music. Not for performance, but OP didn't specify that. Sep 30 '17 at 9:53
  • 1
    If an academic musician decides to re-assign 'C+' to mean 'C major' he is being very foolish. He doesn't (or shouldn't) have the excuse of ignorance of real-world practice. Sep 30 '17 at 10:25
  • I'm stating from the Western world perspective, having never seen + to mean major in 60 yrs of playing and teaching. Perhaps in Canada it's different. If so, how did your lecturers denote C augmented?
    – Tim
    Sep 30 '17 at 10:36
  • 1
    Really? People actually write 'C+#5'? Oct 1 '17 at 11:14

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