2.7.2 Displaying chords

Chords can be displayed by name, in addition to the standard display as notes on a staff.


Printing chord names

Chord names are printed in the ChordNames context:

\new ChordNames {
  \chordmode {
    c2 f4. g8
  }
}

[image of music]

Chords can be entered as simultaneous notes or through the use of chord mode. The displayed chord name will be the same, regardless of the mode of entry, unless there are inversions or added bass notes:

chordmusic = \relative c' {
  <c e g>2 <f bes c>
  <f c' e g>1
  \chordmode {
    c2 f:sus4 c1:/f
  }
}
<<
  \new ChordNames {
    \chordmusic
  }
  {
    \chordmusic
  }
>>

[image of music]

Rests passed to a ChordNames context will cause the noChordSymbol markup to be displayed.

<<
  \new ChordNames \chordmode {
    c1
    r1
    g1
    c1
  }
  \chordmode {
    c1
    r1
    g1
    c1
  }
>>

[image of music]

\chords { … } is a shortcut notation for \new ChordNames { \chordmode { … } }.

\chords {
  c2 f4.:m g8:maj7
}

[image of music]

\new ChordNames {
  \chordmode {
    c2 f4.:m g8:maj7
  }
}

[image of music]

Selected Snippets

Showing chords at changes

Chord names can be displayed only at the start of lines and when the chord changes.

harmonies = \chordmode {
  c1:m c:m \break c:m c:m d
}
<<
  \new ChordNames {
    \set chordChanges = ##t
    \harmonies
  }
  \new Staff {
    \relative c' { \harmonies }
  }
>>

[image of music]

Simple lead sheet

When put together, chord names, a melody, and lyrics form a lead sheet:

<<
  \chords { c2 g:sus4 f e }
  \relative c'' {
    a4 e c8 e r4
    b2 c4( d)
  }
  \addlyrics { One day this shall be free __ }
>>

[image of music]

See also

Music Glossary: chord.

Notation Reference: Writing music in parallel.

Snippets: Chords.

Internals Reference: ChordNames, ChordName, Chord_name_engraver, Volta_engraver, Bar_engraver.

Known issues and warnings

Chords containing inversions or altered bass notes are not named properly if entered using simultaneous music.


Customizing chord names

There is no unique system for naming chords. Different musical traditions use different names for the same set of chords. There are also different symbols displayed for a given chord name. The names and symbols displayed for chord names are customizable.

The basic chord name layout is a system for Jazz music, proposed by Klaus Ignatzek (see Literature list). The chord naming system can be modified as described below. An alternate jazz chord system has been developed using these modifications. The Ignatzek and alternate Jazz notation are shown on the chart in Chord name chart.

In addition to the different naming systems, different note names are used for the root in different languages. The predefined commands \germanChords, \semiGermanChords, \italianChords and \frenchChords set these variables. The effect is demonstrated here:

[image of music]

German songbooks may indicate minor chords as lowercase letters, without any m suffix. This can be obtained by setting the chordNameLowercaseMinor property:

\chords {
  \set chordNameLowercaseMinor = ##t
  c2 d:m e:m f
}

[image of music]

If none of the existing settings give the desired output, the chord name display can be tuned through the following properties.

chordRootNamer

The chord name is usually printed as a letter for the root with an optional alteration. The transformation from pitch to letter is done by this function. Special note names (for example, the German ‘H’ for a B-chord) can be produced by storing a new function in this property.

majorSevenSymbol

This property contains the markup object used to follow the output of chordRootNamer to identify a major 7 chord. Predefined options are whiteTriangleMarkup and blackTriangleMarkup.

additionalPitchPrefix

When the chord name contains additional pitches, they can optionally be prefixed with some text. The default is no prefix, in order to avoid too much visual clutter, but for small numbers of additional pitches this can be visually effective.

\new ChordNames {
  <c e g d'>    % add9
  \set additionalPitchPrefix = #"add"
  <c e g d'>    % add9
}

[image of music]

chordNoteNamer

When the chord name contains additional pitches other than the root (e.g., an added bass note), this function is used to print the additional pitch. By default the pitch is printed using chordRootNamer. The chordNoteNamer property can be set to a specialized function to change this behavior. For example, the bass note can be printed in lower case.

chordNameSeparator

Different parts of a chord name are normally separated by a small amount of horizontal space. By setting chordNameSeparator, you can use any desired markup for a separator. This does not affect the separator between a chord and its bass note; to customize that, use slashChordSeparator.

\chords {
  c4:7.9- c:7.9-/g
  \set chordNameSeparator = \markup { "/" }
  \break
  c4:7.9- c:7.9-/g
}

[image of music]

slashChordSeparator

Chords can be played over a bass note other than the conventional root of the chord. These are known as “inversions” or “slash chords”, because the default way of notating them is with a forward slash between the main chord and the bass note. Therefore the value of slashChordSeparator defaults to a forward slash, but you can change it to any markup you choose.

\chords {
  c4:7.9- c:7.9-/g
  \set slashChordSeparator = \markup { " over " }
  \break
  c4:7.9- c:7.9-/g
}

[image of music]

chordNameExceptions

This property is a list of pairs. The first item in each pair is a set of pitches used to identify the steps present in the chord. The second item is a markup that will follow the chordRootNamer output to create the chord name.

minorChordModifier

Minor chords are often denoted via a ‘m’ suffix to the right of the root of the chord. However some idioms prefer other suffices, such as a minus sign.

\chords {
  c4:min f:min7
  \set minorChordModifier = \markup { "-" }
  \break
  c4:min f:min7
}

[image of music]

chordPrefixSpacer

The modifier for minor chords as determined by minorChordModifier is usually printed immediately to the right of the root of the chord. A spacer can be placed between the root and the modifier by setting chordPrefixSpacer. The spacer is not used when the root is altered.

Predefined commands

\whiteTriangleMarkup, \blackTriangleMarkup, \germanChords, \semiGermanChords, \italianChords, \frenchChords.

Selected Snippets

Chord name exceptions

The property chordNameExceptions can be used to store a list of special notations for specific chords.

% modify maj9 and 6(add9)
% Exception music is chords with markups
chExceptionMusic = {
  <c e g b d'>1-\markup { \super "maj9" }
  <c e g a d'>1-\markup { \super "6(add9)" }
}

% Convert music to list and prepend to existing exceptions.
chExceptions = #( append
  ( sequential-music-to-chord-exceptions chExceptionMusic #t)
  ignatzekExceptions)

theMusic = \chordmode {
  g1:maj9 g1:6.9
  \set chordNameExceptions = #chExceptions
  g1:maj9 g1:6.9
}

\layout {
  ragged-right = ##t
}

<< \context ChordNames \theMusic
   \context Voice \theMusic
>>

[image of music]

chord name major7

The layout of the major 7 can be tuned with majorSevenSymbol.

\chords {
  c:7+
  \set majorSevenSymbol = \markup { j7 }
  c:7+
}

[image of music]

Adding bar lines to ChordNames context

To add bar line indications in the ChordNames context, add the Bar_engraver.

\new ChordNames \with {
  \override BarLine.bar-extent = #'(-2 . 2)
  \consists "Bar_engraver"
}
\chordmode {
  f1:maj7 f:7 bes:7
}

[image of music]

Volta below chords

By adding the Volta_engraver to the relevant staff, volte can be put under chords.

\score {
  <<
    \chords {
      c1
      c1
    }
    \new Staff \with {
      \consists "Volta_engraver"
    }
    {
      \repeat volta 2 { c'1 }
      \alternative { c' }
    }
  >>
  \layout {
    \context {
      \Score
      \remove "Volta_engraver"
    }
  }
}

[image of music]

Changing chord separator

The separator between different parts of a chord name can be set to any markup.

\chords {
  c:7sus4
  \set chordNameSeparator
    = \markup { \typewriter | }
  c:7sus4
}

[image of music]

See also

Notation Reference: Chord name chart, Common chord modifiers.

Essay on automated music engraving: Literature list.

Installed Files: ‘scm/chords-ignatzek.scm’, ‘scm/chord-entry.scm’, ‘ly/chord-modifier-init.ly’.

Snippets: Chords.

Known issues and warnings

Chord names are determined from both the pitches that are present in the chord and the information on the chord structure that may have been entered in \chordmode. If the simultaneous pitches method of entering chords is used, undesired names result from inversions or bass notes.

myChords = \relative c' {
  \chordmode { c1 c/g c/f }
  <c e g>1 <g c e> <f c' e g>
}
<<
  \new ChordNames { \myChords }
  \new Staff { \myChords }
>>

[image of music]


Other languages: deutsch, español, français, italiano, 日本語.
About automatic language selection.

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