So I started with this:

Eb G Bb Eb. Easy. Eb major.

Then I moved to this --> Left Hand G | Right Hand F Bb D

My inclination is to write that as a Bb/G, but any MIDI chord identifier calls it a Gm7.

My ear hears a minor tone, but because I'm playing the G in the root, and the right hand is a major chord, I don't jump directly to minor. That's why my inclination is to write Bb/G.

Moving forward, the next is similar. It's an Eb in 2nd position with a C in the root. So, Left Hand C | Right Hand G Bb Eb.

This I would tend to call Eb/C instead of Cm7.

Which leads me to the last one, which confuses me.

In the key of Eb, Left Hand F | Right hand Ab Bb Eb. This is so close to an Fm7 that it seems it should be that, but it's coming up as Bb7sus4.

When I read that, I'm inclined to lay out my left hand on the Bb since there's no F shown and I'm limited in my left-hand skills and obviously just trying re-learn all of this theory to know better yet.

Now, for all of these, I'm trying to get to the "root" of the matter by learning what the modifier is when naming chords. Is it key dependent? Hand position dependent? If I saw Bb7sus4, how would I know that I need to play an F in the bass if it wasn't written out as Absus2/F?

I guess they all sort of confuse me. If only these guys would learn how to read music. Lol...hope someone can shed some light on this simple stuff for me. Thanks.

  • 1
    Algorithms go for the most obvious choice; If there's a fifth among the notes, they will consider those notes as the 1 and 5; if there are several options, they will pick a 7th chord over a 6th. If you want to think or write Eb/C or Eb6 instead of Cm7, just ignore the algorithms. Jul 27, 2019 at 23:58
  • The lowest note is usually defined as the root - which is why slash chords need the note after the slash. And often, with that, the chord could be given another name. Technicality also comes in, where, for instance, the cycle of fourths is followed.
    – Tim
    Jul 28, 2019 at 6:50
  • MIDI algorithms can be helpful but should never be seen as authoritative. Computers are much worse than humans at this kind of contextual analysis. If you disagree with the computer, most of the time you’re right and the computer is wrong. Jul 28, 2019 at 8:20
  • I agree with all of you. Silly software. Jul 29, 2019 at 21:43

3 Answers 3


I'd call this chord an Fm7(11). Since your bass line follows the circle of fifths, there's no reason to hear anything but F as the root, and you then have all the notes of an Fm7(11) except the fifth (C), which is often omitted from this sort of complex chord.


Fm11 fully spelled would be F Ab C Eb G Bb. So you have the fifth and ninth omitted for F Ab Bb Eb. As @Mirlan points out those omissions would be typical.

In Eb major: Eb: ii11 - that might be easier to read with superscript, but it's a ii Roman numeral with an 11 figure.

If you move the Ab to the top - F Bb Eb Ab - a chord build of fourths. Such harmony is called quartal as apposed to teritan where chords are built of thirds.

If the music is really in Eb major, calling it quartal probably isn't appropriate. That depends on if it is really in a key (does it have harmony like Fm Bb7 Eb?) or if it just uses a three flats key signature but not conventional major/minor harmony.


To start, I agree with Mirlan. I think most likely the final chord should be written as a Fm7add11, but I wanted to add a few more things.

For reference, chords are named using something called tertian harmony, which is the practice of using stacks of thirds to create chords. Generally speaking, the smallest most complete stack of thirds is used to name a chord. For example, if you had a C-E-A, you would call that an Am not a Cadd13. This gives an order of importance for scale degrees when naming chords, namely 1-3-5-7-9(2)-11(4)-13(6). However, this is not always true. Mirlan gives the example of omitting the 5th, a practice common especially in jazz.

With that all in mind, I'll break down how I think you could name the chords in your progression.

E♭-G-B♭-E♭: Agreed, definitely an E♭ chord

G-F-B♭-D: I incline to agree with the software in this case. This has all the notes of a Gm7 and is played in root position. Further, from the perspective of functional harmony (see video), Gm7 has tonic function (disputed), same as E♭. Whereas, B♭ has dominate function as the V chord. Functional harmony dictates that a dominant chord should be preceded by a subdominant chord.

Your interpretation of the chord as a B♭/G isn't necessarily wrong though. First, lots of music works non-functionally. Also, the very fact that you hear the B♭ as the harmony goes to show it is the harmony (tautology, I know). People's ears are usually onto something. How many octaves are between your left and right hands? The farther they are apart the less important the base is to the harmony. How is the bass moving? You could have something happening similar to a walking bass, meaning the bass is less important in defining the harmony (the base can play notes outside the chord).

There is also a third option, which would be that the chord should be written as B♭6/G. Writing this basically says, "while the G is important to the harmony B♭ is still the root." This is pretty much halfway between the previous two options.

C-G-B♭-E♭: Almost the same reasoning as the previous chord applies to this chord. In this case, functional harmony doesn't support either interpretation, Cm7 or E♭ (both serving tonic function). Additionally, it appears that your right-hand voicing for this chord is the same as your one for the E♭. This might mean that the base (left hand) is functioning more as a melody than part of the harmony.

F-A♭-B♭-E♭: Imo, this is the hardest one to name. Strictly by tertian harmony, the chord should be called B♭7sus4 or B♭7sus4/F. There isn't any funny business with that interpretation. It is just a stack of thirds, without any omissions (one suspension). However, it is an inversion which makes it less "solid". Yet, the main reason I think it probably should be called a Fm7add11 is that the B♭ is played in every chord of the progression. This is a solid example of a pivot tone, one note that stays constant. This allows more complex harmony to form without the listener being overwhelmed. In a way, think of the Fm7add11 as an Fm7 with a B♭ played over it.

In all, my guess is that I would write the progression as: E♭-Gm7-E♭/C-Fm7add11, but that certainly could change with more specifics.

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