Fowler-Brent Shorthand


Table of Contents:



Preface

The symbols you see below are my adaptation of Dr William Fowler's "Tonal Shorthand" system.

Besides being one of my teachers at UCDC, he was also Education Editor and Columnist for 13 years at Down Beat magazine, Theory Columnist for 6 years at Keyboard magazine, and he co-invented the piezo pickup.

Dr Fowler's bio:
http://www.fowlerbrothers.com/bill/bio_bill.htm

Because of his fame and respect, we were able to attend up-close and personal master classes with such greats as Billy Taylor and George Duke.


This "Chord Shorthand" you see here was inspired by Fowler's concept of an efficient and quick way to rapidly see whichever tones were present in the current chord.
The main improvement to Fowler's system is my addition of a "backbone", as well as my idea to put the lower chord tones on the left side of the backbone and the upper extensions on the right side.

Unfortunately Fowler's system was designed for quill and parchment. Here I have adapted it for use in computer text documents.

Its informative and intuitive qualities in defining chords are unparalleled. The beauty of this system is that any chord can be expressed with zero ambiguity.


Explanation of the Fowler-Brent Shorthand system:


Lower chord components


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 _ 
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root
third
fifth
seventh

 
 7  _ 
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 5  _| 
     |  
 3  _|   
     | 
 1  _| 
 

 

Upper extensions

  
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9th
11th
13th

 
    
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  |_  11 
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  |_  9 
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Base Template

 
  7  _ 
      |_  13 
  5  _| 
      |_  11 
  3  _|   
      |_  9 
  1  _| 
 

 

Scale Degree Options

1. Root options:

The root may be present or not.


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rooted
rootless

 

3. Third options: 
 
The third may be: 
   natural (4 half-steps above root) or 
   lowered (3 half-steps above root). 


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   _|  
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    |  
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   _|  
  / |  
    |  

natural 3rd
(Major third)
lowered third
(minor third)



5. Fifth options: 
 
The fifth may be: 
  natural (7 half-steps above root), 
  lowered (6 half-steps above root) or 
  raised (8 half-steps above root). 
 

 
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     | 
    _| 
   / |  
     |   
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     | 
   \_| 
     |  
     |   
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     | 
 
natural 5th
(Perfect fifth)
lowered 5th
(b5)
(flatted fifth)
(dim5)
raised 5th
(#5)
(sharped fifth)
(aug5)

 

7. Seventh options:

The seventh may be:
   natural (11 half-steps above root)
   or lowered (10 half-steps above root).

    _
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     |  
     |  

    _
   / |  
     |  
     |  
     |  
     |  
     |  

natural 7th
(major seventh)
lowered 7th
(b7)
(minor seventh)

 

9. Ninth options:

The ninth may be:
   natural (14 or 2 half-steps above root),
   lowered (13 or 1 half-step above root) or
   raised (15 or 3 half-steps above root).

 
    | 
    | 
    |  
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    | 
    | 
    |  
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    |_ 
    | \
 
 
    | 
    | 
    |  
    |   
    |_/ 
    | 
 
natural 9th
(major ninth)
(major 2nd)
lowered 9th
(b9)
(flatted ninth)
(minor 2nd)
raised 9th
(#9)
(sharped ninth)
(aug 2nd)

 

11. Eleventh options:

The eleventh may be:
   natural (17 or 5 half-steps above root) or
   raised (18 or 6 half-steps above root).

    
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     |  

    
      |  
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      |_/  
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      |  
      |  

natural 11th
(perfect eleventh)
(perfect fourth)

raised 11th
(#11)
(augmented eleventh)
(#4)
(augmented 4th)

 

13. Thirteenth options:

The thirteenth may be:
   natural (21 or 9 half-steps above root) or
   lowered (20 or 8 half-steps above root).

    
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      |_  
      | \
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      |  
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      |  

natural 13th
(major sixth)

lowered 13th
(b13)
(minor sixth)

 

Representation of Chords


Major Quality Chords

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   |_/ 
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Major Triad 
Maj6 
Maj7 
Maj9 
Maj9#11 

 _ 
  | 
 _| 
  |_ 
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 _ 
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Maj11 
Maj13 
Maj13(no 11) 
Maj13#11 
Maj69

 


minor quality chords

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 / | 
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 / | 
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  _ 
 / | 
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 / | 
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  _ 
 / | 
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 / | 
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 / | 
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minor triad 
m6 
m7 
m7b5 

 
  _ 
 / | 
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 / |_ 
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 / | 
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 / |_ 
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  _|  
 / |_ 
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  _ 
 / | 
  _| 
   |_ 
  _|  
 / |_ 
  _|  


m9 
m9b5 
m69 
m11 

 

 

Dominant Quality Chords

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 / | 
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  _ 
 / | 
 \_| 
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Augmented Triad 
7th 
7sus4 
7b5 
7#5 

 
  _ 
 / | 
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 / | 
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  _ 
 / | 
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   |_ 
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  _ 
 / | 
 \_| 
   | 
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7b9 
7#9 
9th 
9b5 
9#5 

 
  _ 
 / |_ 
  _| 
   | 
  _|  
   |_ 
  _| 
 

 
  _ 
 / |_ 
  _| 
   |_ 
  _|  
   |_ 
  _| 
 

 
  _ 
 / |_ 
  _| 
   |_/ 
  _|  
   |_ 
  _|   


13(no 11) 
13th 
13#11 

 


Suspended Triads

  
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sus4 
sus2 

 


diminished chords

 
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 / | 
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 / | 
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   |_  
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 / | 
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 / |_ 
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dim7 
dim9 

 


Rootless Chords Examples

 
   _ 
  / | 
   _| 
    | 
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  / |_ 
    | 
 

 
       _ 
      / |_ 
        | 
        | 
       _|  
        |_ 
        | 
 

 
    |_ 
   _| 
    | 
   _|  
    |_ 
    | 

rootless m9
rootless 13th (no 5, no 11)
rootless Maj69

 
   _ 
  / | 
   _| 
    | 
   _|  
    |_ 
    | \ 
 

 
    _ 
   / | 
     | 
     | 
    _|  
     |_/ 
     | 
 

  
    |_ 
   _| 
  / | 
   _|  
  / |_ 
    | 
 
rootless 7b9
rootless 7#9(no 5)
rootless dim9

 

There are, of course, many more chord combinations possible. The above simply illustrates the principles involved and the rest can be extrapolated from there.

 

Representation of Scales

Fowler's system deals with chords only. My shorthand system can also precisely express scales with much fewer keystrokes.

Simple example:

In the Major (Ionian) scale, no tone is raised or lowered. By flatting the third, we have the Jazz minor. By flatting the 6th of the Jazz minor, we get the Harmonic minor.

Simple Example:

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    / |_  
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     _
      |_  
     _| \  
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    / |_  
     _|   
 

Major (Ionian) scale
Jazz minor scale
(b3)
Harmonic minor scale
(b3 & b6)



Greek Modes

     _
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     _
    / |_  
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    / |_  
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     _
    / |_  
     _| \  
      |_  
     _|   
    / |_  
     _| \  

     _
      |_  
     _|   
      |_/  
     _|   
      |_  
     _|   
 
Ionian
Dorian
Phrygian
Lydian

     _
    / |_  
     _|   
      |_  
     _|   
      |_  
     _|   

     _
    / |_  
     _| \  
      |_  
     _|   
    / |_  
     _|   

     _
    / |_  
     _| \  
    / |_  
     _|   
    / |_  
     _| \  
 
Mixolydian
Aeolian
Locrian

 

Comparison of Major Modes

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    / |_  
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     _
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     _
      |_  
     _|   
      |_/  
     _|   
      |_  
     _|   
 
Mixolydian
Ionian
Lydian


Comparison of minors

     _
      |_  
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    / |_  
     _|   

       _
    / |_  
     _|   
      |_  
     _|   
    / |_  
     _|   
 
Jazz m
 
Dorian m
     
     _
      |_  
     _| \  
      |_  
     _|   
    / |_  
     _|   

       _
    / |_  
     _| \  
      |_  
     _|   
    / |_  
     _|   
 
Harmonic m
 
Aeolian m

 

Comparison of b2 minors

     _
    / |_  
     _| \  
      |_  
     _|   
    / |_  
     _| \  

     _
    / |_  
     _| \  
    / |_  
     _|   
    / |_  
     _| \  
 
Phrygian
Locrian

 

To properly express all scales, (especially ones with more than 7 notes) an additional criteria must be understood:

Sometimes a scale degree may take more than one alteration.

 


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    |  
    |  
    |  
   _|  
  / |  
    |  

    |  
    |  
    |  
  __|  
  / |  
    |  
nat3
b3
nat3 + b3

 


     | 
    _| 
     |  
     |   
     | 
     | 
 
 
     | 
    _| 
   / |  
     |   
     | 
     | 
 
 
     | 
   \_| 
     |  
     |   
     | 
     | 
 
  
nat5
b5
#5
 
       
 
     | 
   \_| 
   / |  
     |   
     | 
     | 
 
 
     | 
   __| 
   / |  
     |   
     | 
     | 
 
 
     | 
   \_| 
     |  
     |   
     | 
     | 
 
 
     | 
   \_| 
   / |  
     |   
     | 
     | 
 
b5 + #5
nat5 + b5
nat5 + #5
nat5 + b5 + #5

 

    _
     |  
     |  
     |  
     |  
     |  
     |  

    _
   / |  
     |  
     |  
     |  
     |  
     |  

   __
   / |  
     |  
     |  
     |  
     |  
     |  
 
nat7
b7
nat7 + b7

 

 
    | 
    | 
    |  
    |   
    |_ 
    | 
 

    | 
    | 
    |  
    |   
    |_ 
    | \
 

    | 
    | 
    |  
    |   
    |_/ 
    | 
 
 
nat9
nat2
b9
b2
#9
#2
 
       

    | 
    | 
    |  
    |   
    |_/ 
    | \
 

    | 
    | 
    |  
    |   
    |__ 
    | \
 

    | 
    | 
    |  
    |   
    |_/ 
    | 
 

    | 
    | 
    |  
    |   
    |_/ 
    | \
 
b9 + #9
b2 + #2
nat9 + b9
nat2 + b2
nat9 + #9
nat2 + #2
nat9 + b9 + #9
nat2 + b2 + #2

 

    
     |  
     |  
     |_  
     |  
     |  
     |  

    
      |  
      |  
      |_/  
      |  
      |  
      |  

    
      |  
      |  
      |_/  
      |  
      |  
      |  
 
nat11
nat4
#11
#4
nat11 + #11
nat4 + #4

 

    
     |_  
     |  
     |  
     |  
     |  
     |  

   
      |_  
      | \
      |  
      |  
      |  
      |  

   
      |__  
      | \
      |  
      |  
      |  
      |  
 
nat13
nat6
b13
b6
nat13 + b13
nat6 + b6

 

Symmetrical Scales

    _
   / |_  
    _|  
     |_/  
    _|  
     |_/  
    _| \ 

    _
     |_  
   \_|  
   / |_  
    _|  
   / |_  
    _|  
 
HWdim
WHdim
   
    _
   / |_  
    _| \ 
   / |  
    _|  
     |_  
    _|  

    __
    / |__  
    __| \  
    / |_  
    __|   
    / |__  
     _| \  

Whole Tone
Chromatic




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