Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Min(maj7) chords

Q: I have a question about the min(maj7) chord. its supposed to be the strongest resolve to the melodic minor and harmonic minor scales. but when i play it on the guitar, it just sounds wrong like it needs to be resolve itself. Is there a common progression for the melodic minor using the min(maj7) that works? i remember you saying in one of your articles that when you first encountered some of these chords, that you ears just hadn't been 'opened' yet. but i've listened to a lot of the jazz guys, to know what sounds properly resolved. so why is this one chord a problem?? Thanks for your time sir.

A: The i chord in MM takes some getting used to and is not as common as you would imagine. It doesn't need to be resolved and usually functions as a resolved i chord. It just has to be in context and voiced the right way. By context, I mean in the right genre. Jazz is the only real place it gets used as a resolved i chord. The other way it gets used is in a progression that goes:

min - min(maj7) - min7 - min6. You see the root keeps moving down in half steps:

Amin: XX7555, Amin(maj7): XX6555, Amin7: XX5555, Amin6: XX4555. Add in your open 5th string if you want to hear the A bass note underneath.


As a resolved i chord, it usually shows up in a iio - V(alt) - i : Emin7b5: X7878X, A7#5: 5X566X, Dmin9(maj7): X5365X. See the way the #5 in the A7#5 stays on as the maj7 in the min9(maj7) chord? Good voice leading utilizing common tones helps. It is not the easiest chord to use.


Chris this answer really hits home with me. i enjoyed reading this explanation. I do have a couple of questions just to make sure that i understand how to use these "awkward" chords from now on, especially with voice leading, resolving etc.

Question 1: Would an easy way to learn chord voicings be to memorize five shapes of each chord type? or learn the intervals of the scale 'solid' and build the chords that way? (easiest most efficient way?)

A: I would say, learn the chords inside the scales. You can usually achieve good voice leading by staying inside one scale for most of the chords. If the chords are unrelated, you can still get similar results by staying in the same position. I think it is important to learn your chords both ways, from shapes and by being able to understand the intervals and being able to manipulate them.

Question 2: Would it be correct to say that voice leading is a more elaborate way of phrasing, a non-diatonic approach, and as long as there is a common tone you can connect just about any neighboring chord?

A: I'm not sure if phrasing is the right word but I think you can make unrelated chords blend together by using voice leading, such as keeping common tones. There has to be a thread running through the progression. This thread could be common tones or some kind of motif. Slash chords are a good example. For example Amin7-Dbmaj. This would seem like a very difficult progression to make work as the chords are completely unrelated. But they have one common tone, a C note. And, they can both be though of as slash chords, a C/A and a Ab/Db. The two triads one after another, is a sort of motif.

Question 3: Your example: Amin - Amin(maj7) - Amin7 - Amin6: This is in my opinion kind of like a "pitch-axis" scenario. changing key, but keep the same tonal center. If you were to go back into a diatonic progression after this "series", how would you go about doing that...(give me another example, please).

A: The Amin - Amin(maj7) - Amin7 - Amin6 thing is not changing keys. It is a very common thing for any i chord that you would do if you have enough time to do it. Like two measures, or even a slow tempo number with the four chords played as quarter notes. This works for jazz, Latin and even rock to some extent

Question 4: I would like to hear a bit more on resolving. knowing which chord naturally leads to another, and why theory makes it that way. for example, i have a theory book that tells that the I chord can lead to any chord, the ii leads to IV and vi, the iii leads to V or viio, etc, just as examples. is there a reason behind this? tones going up major/minor thirds, or tonic note resolving up and down perfect 4ths and 5ths ? is there really a 'systematic' way of approaching this sort of thing, or is it based off entirely chord voice leading?? Thanks so much for your time.There is no other source i've found better than yours! Good solid answers.

A: It has a lot to do with intervals of 4ths and tritones. That is why a V chord likes to go to a I chord. The B and F tritone in the G7 want to resolve to C and E, the root and 3rd of the C chord. The root likes to move up a 4th to C, the root of the chord. 4ths are very strong, play a progression using the diatonic chords in C starting on the ii chord moving up in 4ths and you'll hear it: Dmin - G -C - F - Bdim - Emin - Amin.

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