Correct terminology question

So I have a quick question - I’m really making headway in my voice leading techniques in my chord progressions and finding some nice interesting two-handed rooted voicings that involve minimal internal voice movement. However - I’m looking to settle something that I’ve seen debated online. For example I have an open position Cm7 (voiced C-Bb in the left hand, Eb, G and D in the right - I vary it by substituting the 4th for the 5th). I move to an open Dm7 chord (voiced D-A in the left hand, F, G and C in the right). I’ve seen it argued online that the presence of the G as the 4th would be an ‘add 4’ given it occurs under the seventh. However, others disagree and would call this a Dm11 with the 7th as the top note (I like the slightly funky sound of the 7th as the top note). So - which is correct? Thanks for your time in looking at this question, Jamie

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Sorry, just realised I mentioned my Dm7 is in open position - this is a mistake of course! It has root and fifth in the left.

))) no idea
But these chords are really nice and very open to a lot of transitions or conclusions or even to add a kind of contrapuntic patten.
))) sorry, I just can enjoy this, but no idea about the theorical point)))

Thanks Marc! :smiley:

Hi James :wave:

I would certainly classify it as a D-11 chord.

This is because the minor 3rd and minor 7th are both present in the chord. These are the essential chord tones of D-7.

When you add an extension, in this case you have added the 11th, it doesn’t matter where in the extension is placed in the chord, ie. at the top or the middle (its placed in the middle in this case)

If you were not playing the minor 3rd (F) - when it would undoubtedly be a D7sus4 or D7sus. This is effectively a dominant chord with a suspension.

D7 with a suspended 4th (G) which replaces the major 3rd. The G would typically resolve down a half step to F#. Check out this lesson for more information on the sus to dominant 7 chord relationship :

Anyhow, back to your question…

Your D-11 voicing:

Left Hand: D and A (root and 5th )
Right Hand: F, G and C (-3rd 11th, and 7th)

Is very similar to the herbie hancock voicing -

The only difference is that the herbie hancock vocing has the 9th on top. But you would still call the chord D-11 because the 11 is the highest extension.

You always name chord by their highest extension, irrelevant of where the extensions are voiced in the chord.

I hope this helps clear things up.

I have a tonne of questions and answers in my email inbox which I will be moving into this section of the forum on “Jazz Theory Discussion” so that other students can benefit.

I have answered similar questions many times, and so I will reference them in this thread for some additional reading for you.

Cheers Hayden :slight_smile:

Thanks for the input Marc :slight_smile:

I’ll be creating a thread soon for what we were talking about regarding classical technique and how we can apply this to jazz studies to improve the technical aspect of our playing.

We have a lot of Grade 8 classical students and it would be great to get their insights!


I’ll try to describe what is really difficult for someone who studied
classical music in Paris in the past century ))
Of course, younger pianists are more clever now… but that could help for some pedagogic aspects ))))
Fingers technic, phrasé etc are much easier to improve than Harmonic knowledge))))

Hey Hayden, thanks for taking the time to reply. I did wonder, I just got a bit sidetracked by those who felt it necessary that the extensions must be positioned above the essential or other chordal tones. Thanks also for the reminder about the Dominant Sus chords. I’m a big fan of the Average White Band, who love a Dominant Sus chord. And I do too - they have a bright sweetness about them and I have to be careful I don’t overuse them! :hushed:

My pleasure James.

Yes that is certainly not the case. The extensions and alterations can be positioned anywhere in your voicings. Generally, you will not play them at the bottom, the middle or top is where they will usually be placed.

If you haven’t already, check out the course on Altered Harmony & Upper Structure Triads: Chord Alterations Jazz Piano | Altered Jazz Chords & Altered Harmony

In the first lesson we systematically work through the different alterations. As you will see, these are often voiced in the middle of the chord.

Moving on in the course we introduce the concept of Upper Structure Triads. This is a triad superimposed above a dominant chord.

The basic premise is that by learning and memorising these 4 simple formulas, it allows you to quickly find complex altered dominant chord voicings :

Here’s the formula sheet:
Upper-Structure-Cheat-Sheet.pdf (949.5 KB)

The triads outline combinations of the upper extensions and altered tones, and you will see that you can play the triad in any inversion, depending on what melody note you want to be on top.

This gives you a potentially limitless combination of shapes and sounds, with the extensions and alterations being voiced anywhere in the chord.

Having the triad in its 2nd inversion will give you the strongest sound.

Superb, thanks Hayden - I’ve already started experimenting with USTs but more by trial and error - so this will be really helpful.


When you spend the time to work them out yourself using the cheat sheet, you will retain the formulas much better than simply watching and copying.

This takes time as it is a large area of study - so don’t expect it to happen overnight!

Once you have memorised and internalised those 4 formulas, you will have a lot of really cool sounds at your fingertips :sunglasses:

Thanks again - on it :smiley: