I was playing around on the piano and decided to write some chords down. One of the, I couldn't find anywhere, nor figure out what it's called. This lead me on a research spree which left me with two questions.

First, the simple one: What is my chord called? I just played the notes B, C# and G#. The closest I could find was C#7 or C#7sus4.

Second, how would I denote removing a note from a chord? Say I had a just a C# without the F, i.e., a C# and a G#. I looked into suspended and diminished chords, but from what I understood, they only seemed to "move notes around", not disregard them. Is this even a thing?

  • 1
    Yes it's a thing. Classical composers were using it for centuries before the modern system of chord names assumed that every chord ought to have a third, otherwise you can't tell if it's a major or minor chord! The name for it in the modern system is something clumsy like "C#7(no3)". Back in the days of figured bass (1700-1800) it would have been called a "75 chord" – user19146 Jun 18 '18 at 19:14

You've stumbled upon C#7. Usually. it has E# (aka F) as its 3rd, but if you play F#maj right after it, you'll hear that the first chord is V7 of I (F#). It's unusual to leave out a 3rd, but here, with this voicing, it works.

  • You can also follow it with F#/C#. (i.e. C#, F#, A#). – user19146 Jun 18 '18 at 19:14
  • 2
    @alephzero - isn't that still F#maj? – Tim Jun 18 '18 at 21:17

The most common notation for your chord would be C#7(no3) or C#7(no3rd). You can find this at the bottom of the power chord section of Wikipedia's chord symbol article (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chord_names_and_symbols_(popular_music)#Power_%22chords%22). Actually, people on this stack exchange have wondered the same thing from the opposite direction (What are (no3) chords?), so I don't think the notation is all that common, but it does have a defined meaning applicable to your question. Your second question also referenced removing a third, so the same notation would apply.


C#7 has an E#, not an F. Yes, it's the same note. But as you're interested in the 'theory' of naming chords, get it right!

You've 'played around' on the keyboard and found three notes that sound good but don't form a complete chord that we can stick a label on. Keep playing around, there's plenty more to be discovered! What about C, D, A or C, D, Ab? We could suggest several named chords that these notes MIGHT be an incomplete version of. If we saw them in the context of a functional chord sequence, we might even be pretty sure about our guess. But not all sets of three notes define a named chord, and not all chord sequences are functional. There's a LOT of music that simply consists of one pleasant sound followed by another. Maybe because the composer is intentionally being atonal, maybe because e.g. a guitarist was just messing around with chord shapes and came up with something that 'sounded good'. We struggle to justify it with 'theory', but it's often pointless to do so.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.