I am playing from a Hal Leonard Latin Jazz piano book, and one thing confuses me:

The song is in the key of Fm. On the left-hand chords, at one point, they mark a certain note as C-flat. I'm confused why they wouldn't mark it as B-natural.

If it is C-flat, that's fine, I just want to make sure I'm not practicing playing the song incorrectly, perhaps is misprint.

Score containing a D♭9 chord: D♭ – F – C♭ – E♭ – A♭


It's as simple as - the chord is called Db9. It has therefore a b7 in it. The natural 7th of Db is C (natural), therefore b7 is Cb. Sounds quite like B (exactly the same on a piano), but can't be called B, as that would make it some sort of 6th.

  • An Augmented 6th chord IS a thing, and 'classical harmony' might want to spell the Db7 that way. But this one, in this context is clearly and correctly a Db7. As I guessed, before you added the scan. – Laurence Payne Nov 25 '17 at 12:51
  • @LaurencePayne - but would an aug6 also have a 9th included in the harmony? – Tim Nov 29 '17 at 13:30
  • There are several variants of the aug6 chord, and we're not restricted to using only the ones that were catalogued by 19th century theorists! I'd worry more about the tritone, less about the surrounding notes that add colour to it. – Laurence Payne Nov 29 '17 at 15:34
  • Wouldn't the "6th chord" would be a Db German 6th, added 9th. – Dean Ransevycz Dec 5 '17 at 4:14
  • @DeanRansevycz - certainly not. It's marked with Db9 symbol, so it's a dominant 9th , and a German 6th is an aug 6, making the one note in question having to be written as Bnat., which it certainly isn't. – Tim Jan 19 '18 at 14:48

You won't PLAY it incorrectly if a Bnat is misspelt as Cb, because it's the same note on the piano!

It's quite possible the music has strayed into Ab major, the relative major of F minor, and then an Ab chord has been modified into Abm. Or the Cb might be part of a Db7 chord, the 'b5 substitution' for G7, the 'dominant of the dominant' of F minor. This sort of thing happens a lot in jazz!

Had you attached a scan of the few measures containing the Cb, we could have told you for sure. But yes, it's very likely correct.

Update: Now you've shared the music we can be sure. It's Db9, Cb is correct.

  • Sorry I was probably not that clear, since this confuses me - My worry isn't that it's incorrect as in "they should have called it B natural" but more as in "They meant to put in Eb but did Cb by accident". Essentially, I wasn't sure if a book like this would ever actually include a Cb period, it seemed out of place to me, but I hardly ever read sheet music (obviously). I attached a screenshot, that shows it as part of a Db9 chord, which I didn't think too hard about before, but I guess suggests that yes, they did mean to make it a Cb, since that's the 7th of that chord. – user3833000 Nov 25 '17 at 3:16

That chord is annotated as "D♭9". You can understand the chord structure better if you bring the top note — an A♭ — down one octave:

X: 1
V: 1 clef=bass
K: Fmin
M: 3/4

Then, it becomes D♭ – F – A♭ – C♭ – E♭. Notice that each interval is some kind of third:

  • D♭ – F is a major third,
  • F – A♭ is a minor third,
  • A♭ – C♭ is a minor third,
  • C♭ – E♭ is a major third.

If it were written as D♭ – F – A♭ – B♮ – E♭ instead, then the chord would no longer satisfy that property:

  • A♭ – B♮ would be an augmented second,
  • B♮ – E♭ would be diminished fourth.

The chord would be played the same way, but it just wouldn't really be a D♭9 chord in theory, so it's not written that way. Besides, it would just look ugly:

X: 2
V: 1 clef=bass
K: Fmin
M: 3/4

A secondary consideration is that if the C♭ were written as a B♮, then it would require more clutter: one accidental natural on that chord, plus another accidental flat on the B♭ that immediately follows it.

  • I'm impressed by this answer's thoroughness and clarity. I think the biggest consideration is the fact that the D♭9 chord implies a flatted 7th. The unaltered 7th of D♭ would be a C, and so a flatted 7th (as we'd find in a D♭7 chord) would be a C♭. Writing a B♮ would suggest more of a ♯6 than a ♭7. – jdjazz Jan 19 '18 at 14:05

C-flat is a tritonus as opposed to F. Will it rather occur as an augmented fourth (which would make it B natural) than a diminished fifth (C flat)?

F minor has accidentals B-flat, E-Flat, A-flat, D-flat. Two more flats in the signature, and we have C-flat. In contrast, it will take four less flats until we have B-natural.

The diminished fifth is a natural part of F Locrian (6 flats), whereas the augmented fourth is a natural part of F Lydian (no flats or sharps).

When starting from F minor (4 flats), the diminished fifth just is the more likely choice than the augmented fourth when picking between B-natural and C-flat.

  • I uploaded a photo that might help with context better than I can – user3833000 Nov 25 '17 at 3:14

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