Monday, April 22, 2013

Dominant 11 vs. 9sus4 Chords

Dear Chris: downloaded your book today and I'm really enjoying it. The way you explain where the altered chords come from scale wise, I feel is really going to open a lot of doors for me. So thanks.

Q: I've found your explanation of sus4 chords and 11 chords quite new. I got stuck with the idea in Mark Levine's books. I've been having to read a lot of Top 40, pop and rock in a cruise band and I'm finding many 11 chords which (I'm pretty certain) are looking for a F/G voicing. I'm gleamed from this that its all context based. The wikipedia article says similar things to your book...

Though rare, in rock and popular music, the third of the dominant eleventh ("as theoretically conceived": C, E, G, B, D, F) for example, is usually omitted.[1] It may be notated in charts as, C11, or, more often, "descriptively," as Gm7/C.[1] The fifth is also sometimes omitted, thus turning the chord into a suspended chord.

So in a jazz context I'm going to keep the 3rd in my 11 chords to make them true 11 chords but in pop and rock I'm going to leave it out. Sound ok?

If you don't mind me asking - which sequencer would you recommend so I can practice improvising over changes?

A: Glad you are enjoying my book.

As far as dominant 11 chords. I tend to think that when whoever is writing the chart is just making a notation mistake (min11, maj7#11 and 7#11 chords are standard fare. Go here for more on this >>). Regarding dominant 11 chords, I can't imagine that the person writing the chart is actually telling you to make sure that that you keep both the 3rd and 4th in the chord. I mean, the only reason I could possible think of is that the melody note is the 3rd, but then again why would the 4th be important? The 3rd and 4th would be fighting each other. I just assume that he means 9sus4 and play the slash chord. In other words, G11 = F/G. Being guitar players, we don't really have a great way to keep the 3rd without losing something more important and even if we could get all those intervals in there, the chord would be big and bulky, not especially pretty. I wouldn't worry about it being a jazz or top forty situation, stick with the slash chord and you'll always be fine.

I disagree with the wikipedia definition somewhat, especially the part:

The fifth is also sometimes omitted, thus turning the chord into a suspended chord.[citation needed]

It should say, the 3rd is more often than not omitted, thus turning the chord into a suspended chord. 

The 5th is often omitted but that has nothing to do with making the chord a sus4 chord or not.

Here is an example of a voicing with both the 3rd and 4th that seems to work for me but then again, I don't play all the notes at the same time. I more or less play the notes separately like a pianist would so I think a voicing like this works better for a ballad. It is spelled 1-b7-3-4-1 and if you absolutely have to play the root, you can do so with your thumb.

As far as practicing over changes, if you are using an ipad or any apple device, I definitely suggest irealb. If you want a sequencer, see if you can find a jamstation on ebay. But I can't tell you how much I enjoy irealb, so if you don't have an ipad yet and needed an excuse, you have one now.

More on sus4 chords here >>>
And chord formulas here >>> 

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