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Section 6.2 Lead-Sheet Symbols

Lead-sheet symbols (also known as “lead-sheet notation” and “lead-sheet chord symbols”) are often used as shorthand for chords in popular music and jazz. These symbols allow a guitarist or pianist to choose how to “voice” the chords, i.e., how they want to arrange the notes.

Lead-sheet symbols for triads communicate the root and quality of a chord.

Lead-sheet Symbol Chord Quality Notes in the Chord
\(\left.\text{F}\right.\) major \(\text{F}\)–\(\text{A}\)–\(\text{C}\)
\(\left.\text{G}\text{m}\right.\) minor \(\text{G}\)–\(\text{B}^♭\)–\(\text{D}\)
\(\left.\text{D}^{\circ}{}\right.\) diminished \(\text{D}\)–\(\text{F}\)–\(\text{A}^♭\)
\(\left.\text{C}{+}\right.\) augmented \(\text{C}\)–\(\text{E}\)–\(\text{G}^♯\)

Here is a musical example with lead-sheet symbols and guitar tablature.

Figure 6.2.1. Germanotta, Garibay, Blair, “Edge of Glory”

As you can see in the example above, major triads are represented by an uppercase letter (\(\left.\text{A}\right.\), \(\left.\text{E}\right.\), and \(\left.\text{D}\right.\)) while minor triads are represented with the root in uppercase followed by a lowercase “m” (e.g., \(\left.\text{F}^♯{}\text{m}\right.\)). Diminished triads are represented by including the diminished symbol (\(\left.\text{}^{\circ}{}\right.\)) after the chord root (e.g., \(\left.\text{C}^{\circ}{}\right.\)) while augmented triads are represented by including the augmented symbol after the root (\(\left.\text{C}{+}\right.\)).