Name that Guitar Chord (help!)

When first started playing guitar in highschool one of the first songs I learned was the Indigo Girls’ “Closer to Fine”.

For the purpose of this discussion, ignore the capo on the second fret.

There was a chord (I learned it from the chord chart in an Indigo Girls book) that used the same finger positions as an open C Chord but moved up two frets- so the base was now D but the third and first string were still open:

D F# G D E


Root 3 4 8 9

What would the name of this chord be? (I’m still using D as the root)

Looks like a D11, with the fifth and seventh omitted. Could also be interpreted as an Em9.

I can’t follow your description of the shape but Chordfind will work it out.

I’d call it a D add9add11. It would be a D11 if the dominant 7th was implied, but I don’t feel it is in the song, so add9add11 it is.

It’s a Dadd4/add2. (The open G is a 4th and the open E is actually a 9th rather than a 2nd but same difference).

REM uses the same chord on “Man On the Moon.”

Actually, D add2add4 would be the way this would be generally referred to. I prefer calling it an add9add11, but I wouldn’t say calling it an add2add4 is wrong. After all, the 9th and the 2nd, and the 4th and 11th are the same notes.

However, there are those that argue that add2 and add4 imply specific voicings–usually ones in which the added note is next to the third in the same octave. Others may say that add2 and add4 apply only when the added note is literally in the same octave as the root note.

I would say that for all practical purposes, these are the same chords. It seems that with guitarists, the convention is generally to call them add2 and add4 chords where I generally would call them add9 and add11 chords due to the voicings.

But the open G is in the same octave as the root and the third in this case. If you want to get really I technical I think it’s a Dadd4/add9.

Music theory & notation-type person here.

Other than some of the suggestions already given, our western, pop system of notation doesn’t describe such harmony well without getting clumsy. The key ingredients of a major triad are present – D, F# – and if the D is the lowest pitch of the bunch, the temptation is to call it a D-something, with added tones. It’s more of a cluster (D E F# G) than a chord.

Eminor9, no 7th / D might be just as “correct,” but a very odd inversion.

(Harmonically speaking, an added 2nd is the same pitch as an added 9th, likewise, 11th=4th. However, popular notation often (but not always) uses the low numbers to indicate the placement closer to other chord tones, and high numbers, placement in higher registers away from the main chord tones. It’s kind of a bastardization of the harmonic notation concept, one I always hated, but I can’t fight the world.)

Why do you need to call it anything? To transpose to another key, or just for pedantical curiosity?

It’s definitely a “guitaristic” voicing – the kind of thing that arises naurally from moving a certain kind of fingring around on a guitar neck but which would not necessarily be a voicing which would be likely to arise compositionally on a piano.

Now that notation I have never seen. It’s always been either add2/add4 or add9/add11.

But Musicat’s right–Western harmony doesn’t really have a good way to name these kinds of chords.

I sometimes have conversations like this with my wife, who was educated at the graduate level in theory. I would have called it an add2add4, and I’d be willing to bet she would have called it an add9add11. The difference between our usual choice seems due to the fact that I mostly taught myself on the guitar, while she actually knows what she’s talking about. She occasionally acknowledges the correctness of my preferences in the barest terms of intervals, but her training in vocal harmony tends to inform a logic that often just mystifies me. However, it’s always corroborated by the references I’ve consulted when still in doubt (that they are her references probably has something to do with that). I still don’t completely understand it all, usually, but that’s my experience from talking to the formally-trained.

I think it’s an add23/add25.

Because I don’t know what I’m talking about.

You’ve pretty much defined what I was talking about. I was trained formally, too, but worked in Hollywood environments where practical notation trumped ivory-tower pedants.

Since our classical harmonic chord structures are based on a pile of 3rds (1-3-5-7-9, etc.), theory majors like to use a 9th to show the relationship to the root of the pile, as the 4th isn’t in the list. But, to players who don’t give a hoot about theory and are just looking to use a number that everyone understands, a 2 works jes’ fine.

So if you want to show the harmonic structure, perhaps a 9 is best; if you just want to tell someone what note to play and to hell with the theory, use a 2.

However, to expand this discussion a trifle, I will make an exception to the “sus2” or “sus4” notation, which substitutes a 2nd or 4th for the 3rd, and often resolves to the 3rd. It indicates an absence of the 3rd (major or minor); in contrast, an added tone deletes no other pitch in the chord.


Actually, come to think of it, I think I may have seen add4add9 somewhere. It doesn’t look totally weird to me, like add2add11 would.

Or how about going back to Biffy’s suggestion and calling it D11 (no7th). (You don’t have to worry about the 5th–it’s implied). It’s not a notation I’ve ever seen, but I have seen stuff like D (no 3rd) for power chords. It seems to be as descriptive and perhaps a little bit easier to read than the “add” notation. The only problem is that the convention for extended chords (9s, 11s, 13s) require either a major or dominant seventh. Seeing (no 7th) would probably distract a number of players.

:smack: That’s it. I was trying to remember why it was that I preferred add9add11 to add2add4, and it’s because this is precisely the way I was taught. The add2 and add4 notation I’ve only seen in pop songbooks and guitar notation.

The funny thing is that if you’re explaining this chord to a guitar player it’s much easier to say “Make an open C and slide it up to the fifth fret.” Any guitarist would instantly understand that while giving them the correct name for the chord is likely to get you a blank look. Even guitarists who have some training in theory are going to have to work out the voicing in their head for a minute and there’s always more than one way to play a given voicing on the gutar anyway, so this is a case where the correct name just adds to the confusion.

Absolutely. This is exactly how I would describe the chord to a guitarist: “take an open C, slide it up two frets”. It describes the fretting (and hence, voicing) much more descriptively than Dadd9add11, which can be anywhere on the fretboard.

Sometimes, though, the keyboardist may want to know what the chord is. In that case, I would just say “Well, it’s basically a D, with an open G and E” thrown in there.