Leadsheet Symbols

Another chord label system you should know are leadsheet chord symbols. Jazz and pop musicians use these symbols to tell performers what chords to play with a given melody and what chords to improvise on in solo sections.

They are very useful in lots of other circumstances, and you can use them to help you figure out chords before you try to apply a Roman numeral. Many theorists use these as they try to figure out music in more complex circumstances.

The way jazz musicians use these chord symbols and jazz theory can get complicated, but this page sticks to some basics points as we learn harmonies. Playing and studying jazz is well worth your time and effort.

There are usually multiple symbols for each chord, and I’m listing multiple options. The ones in red are the ones that Dr. Dickert teaches himself, so we’ll still to those when we label things in class.


Major C   Cma   Cmaj
Minor Cmi   Cm   Cmin   C-
Diminished C°   Cdim
Augumented C+   Caug

Seventh Chords

Major Cma7   Cmaj7   CΔ7
Dominant C7
Minor Cmi7   Cm7   Cmin7   C-7
Half Diminished Cø7   Cmi7(b5)
Fully Diminished C°7   Cdim7


Inversions are shown with a slash. You write the chord symbol you need for the correct harmony, a slash, and then the note in the bass. For example, C major in first inversion would be C/E.