Name this chord

I posted a challenge to you guys to name a particular chord in my free arrangement from the other day. This is a big music nerd alert but I am going to talk about that chord today.

Here it is (last beat in bar 17)


Several people posted their thoughts on this page and by email and the most common guess was some version of Gmin. You could say it is a Gm6/9 in first inversion.

To be honest, I am not going to call those people wrong nor am I going to call anyone else wrong either though I see some problems with some of the guesses. For example, some called it a version of a Bb chord. That is problematic because the 3rd and 4th never exist in the same chord to my knowledge and if this was a Bb chord, it would have both a 3rd and 4th.

That being said, I hate to sound like a postmodernist but there are different right ways to name chords. Various trained musicians might analyze that chord differently depending on what influence they have had and the kinds of music they work with. So if you said Gm, I am not saying you are wrong.

However, no one said the answer I was looking for. This is just a V7 chord (C7 in the key of F). It is rootless and in 3rd inversion and has a 9th and 13th.

Yes, chords can be rootless, especially when the root is not very important. In a dominant chord like this, the root is quite unimportant. It is actually the 3rd (E) and the 7th (Bb) that are important and they both exist in this chord. The 3rd and 7th are always a tritone apart (in dominant) chords and that interval creates an unstable sound that leads to resolution. Typically they resolve in contrary motion by a half step. In this case, it is common for the E to resolve up a half step to F and the Bb to resolve down a half step to A. That forms the basis of the F major chord which is the I chord.

That resolution is the foundation of what we call dominant function. This chord is therefore functioning as a dominant. Obviously there are other dominant chords besides V but in this case, the 3rd and 7th are the notes that belong to the V7 chord. For that reason, I am just going to call it V7 without the root.

So why not include the root? I just like this voicing better without throwing it in. It feels more open. The use of the root does not affect the function of the chord at all. It just changes the sound a bit.

And why put it in third inversion? That again is just a stylistic decision that I made. The specific purpose was to smooth out the baseline which is moving down. The next chord is Am7. Here is the chord in context. Note the bass line.


Some of you might wonder if I should call this chord a V7 since it is not resolving to I. It is actually resolving to iii. However, here is another little thing to know. The minor iii chord is functionally equivalent to the I chord. So in my mind, the typical dominant resolution is still occurring. It is just not quite as strong because there is no F in the Am target chord.

I warned you this would be a musician nerd post. Hope you enjoyed it. I know no one got my answer but since I can’t claim my answer is the only right one, I picked a winner anyway. Harold Purvis, you are winner. Contact me and I will give you something. I don’t know what you already have of mine so just tell me what you want.