Chords by notes

There are twelve different pitches or notes in music. In chord names, the root note is always written out; therefore, chords are often referred to as a C chord, a D chord and so on.

The letters: C, D, E, F, G, A and B

In music, we are using the letters C, D, E, F, G, A and B (in some countries H). These are names of notes or pitches, as well as name of chords, or part of chord names. It is not the same thing though, a C note is just a note, whereas a C chord includes a couple of notes with C as the root note.

Sharps (#) and flats (b)

sharp and flat symbolsIn chord names and in many other circumstances the flats and sharps are written in the symbols # and b, respectively. The flat means that a tone is flattened and the sharp means that a tone is raised.

In other words, a Db is a D that is flattened one semi-step (a whole step would made it to a C). And accordingly, a D# is a D that is raised one semi-step (a whole step would made it to an E).

Often confusing is the fact that b and # can occur in different chord names, but referring to identical chords. D# and Eb is actually the same tone or chord (if read as chord symbols). The reason why two symbols are used for the same thing is that the musical context, in this case the key, change. For example, in the key of B major D# is used, whereas Eb is used for the same note in the key of Ab major.

If you're still confused, just remember that D# and Eb is, practically speaking, the same thing. Here are all the cases of sharps and flats being the "same thing":

  • C# and Db
  • D# and Eb
  • F# and Gb
  • G# and Ab
  • A# and Bb

Does that mean that B#, Cb, E# and Fb doesn't exist? Concerning chords, yes, that's right. However, B#, Cb, E# and Fb are sometimes used as an alternative reference to notes. For example, in the chord C#13 the notes could be written either C# - F - G# - B - D# - F# - A# or C# - E# - G# - B - D# - F# - A#. The second version includes a E# and this is to avoid that F is included twice, which in some cases could confuse things.

How to remember chords?

As you learn new chords, you will by time forgot some. Although, as you getting used to your instrument and learn the notes on the fingerboard, you be will automatically find the chord shapes more logical. In addition, is not only about memorizing exact positions since many shapes will return in various configurations. By time you will recognizing such shapes and easier remember what to play.