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Section 31.5 How to Write Jazz Chords

To write a jazz chord after being given a lead–sheet symbol, begin with all of the major notes up to the 13th.

Let’s work through this with the following label: Dm\(\left.\text{}{\Delta}\right.\)11.

Dm means D–F–A. The \(\left.\text{}{\Delta}\right.\)11 means there is a major 7th, regular 9th, and regular 11th, not that there is a major 11th. Remember, D11 would mean a D7 chord with the 9 and 11 (all chord members up to the 11th—D, F♯, A, C, E, G). D\(\left.\text{}{\Delta}\right.\)11 would mean a D\(\left.\text{}{\Delta}\right.\)7 chord with all members up to the 11 (D, F♯, A, C♯, E, G).

Let’s try this with another chord: E7\(\left.\text{}\left(\begin{smallmatrix}\text{♯11}\\\text{♯9}\\\text{♯5}\end{smallmatrix}\right)\right.\).

E7 means we have E–G♯–B–D. When we look at the altered notes, we see ♯5, so we add a B♯, then change it to a C♮ because that agrees chromatically with the 7th, D. When we add ♯9, we add F𝄪, which looks overly complicated, so we enharmonically respell it as G♮, which agrees chromatically with the D (7th) and C (♯5). The ♯11 can be an A♯, an augmented 2nd above the G (the ♯9), or we can respell it as a B♭. Both A♯ and B♭ are acceptable, although the upper notes of D–G–B♭ form a G minor triad and therefore are easy to sightread.