Enharmonics Explained

Jazz arranging students sometimes make the mistake of writing incorrect notes for the chord symbol that is being used at any one time. Sometimes this confusion can be caused by using the piano as a guide, and not music theory fundamentals.

Notes in a chord can be written differently even though they sound the same. This video deals with the topic of enharmonics and how they are used (both correctly and incorrectly). Please post any questions or comments you have in the comment box below the video.


2 Replies to “Enharmonics Explained”

  1. Larry

    One thing that has helped me with enharmonics is positioning on the staff. For example, if the root is a “space” note, then the 3rd, 5th, and 7th will also be “space” notes, which would then be altered with sharps and flats to make minor, augmented, and diminished chords. Similarly, if the root in on a line, the 3rd, 5th, and 7th will also be on a line. When the chord is extended above the octave to include 9th’s, 11th’s, etc. the spacing is then opposite…root on a space, 9th’s etc. on a line and vice versa.

  2. Jim Martin

    Larry: never thought of it that way, and I guess that methodology would work ok. One problem I see with that is that when you begin to voice these chords for instruments, they will virtually never be in root position and voiced straight up in 3rds. Best thing to do is, in order: memorize spelling of all major and minor triads, then major 7ths, minor 7ths, diminished 7ths, and dominant 7ths, then start memorizing upper extensions. You can test yourself anywhere – driving in the car, waiting in line, while you are laying in bed wide awake, etc. Then simply writing charts is a good way to learn them too.

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