July, 2011

"Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.
Those days of soda and pretzels and beer..."
(Oooops, just got caught up in song there for a moment.)


This Month:
    7th Chords 
   SCAT - The Real Thing

7th Chords:

Dominant 7th, Major 7th, Minor 7th

In the May ‘Scat’ page we talked about major and minor scales and how major and minor chords (triads) are built from them.  This month we will build upon this and discuss a common group of “extended” chords: the 7th chords.  Specifically we will discuss the three most common 7th chords that occur in modern pop/folk/rock music.

In our previous article we discussed major and minor triads (chords consisting of the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of the major and minor scales, respectively).  An “extended” chord is a chord that has notes in addition to the three notes that make up the triad.  The 7th chords are extended chords that add either a 7th or a flattened 7th  note to the basic triad.

Dominant 7th

The most common of these is the “dominant 7th” chord.  The dominant 7th is made up from the 3 notes that make up the major triad  plus the flattened (minor) 7th.  The dominant 7th chord can also be called a “major minor seventh” (major chord with minor 7th note added) or most commonly it is just referred to as a “seventh” chord.  In music notation it is written with the name of the major triad followed by a “7”: eg. a G seventh chord is written “G7”.  From this we learn that a G7 consists of G, B, D, F.  Here is how the G7 chord looks in standard notation and TAB (shown are the basic 4 notes as well as a common guitar voicing):

G7 Chord
( CLICK on any of the musical notation images on this page to hear how it sounds)
G7 Chord G7 chord - basic 4 notes G7 chord - common guitar voicing

The term “dominant” does not imply that it is the most important 7th chord (though that might be argued), but instead comes from the relationship of this chord to the major key that it naturally fits in to.  Referring back to our major scale nomenclature, the 5th note of a scale is also named the “dominant”.  In the key of C the 5th note, or dominant, is G.  A G7 fits naturally into the key of C since all 4 notes are present in major C scale and is the only 7th chord to fit this way.  Note that the G7 fits naturally into the key of C (where it is the “dominant”) but it does not fit comfortably into the key of G since the F is not in the G major scale (which requires an F#).

In terms of musical feel, the dominant 7th chord adds emotional tension to the music and seems to cry out for a chord change back to the root chord (or tonic).  [Listen to it here] This powerful tension to resolve to the root is a very common use of this chord.  It is heard frequently in folk, country and Christian hymns where it is used to replace the V chord in a I, IV, V progression (in the key of C, replace the G with a G7).  It is also common to hear in blues and rock and roll where it is sometimes used to replace any or all of the  I, IV and V chords.

Major 7th

The next chord we will discuss is the “major 7th” chord.  Like the dominant 7th, this chord is an extension on the major triad, but in this case the added note is a major 7th (as opposed to the minor 7th used in the dominant 7th chord above).  It is written with the name of the major triad followed by “maj7”: eg Gmaj7.  A Gmaj7 chord therefore consists of the notes G, B, D, F#.

Gmaj7 Chord Gmaj7 Chord Gmaj7 - basic 4 notes Gmaj7 - common guitar voicing

The major 7th chord can often be swapped in place of the major chord of the same name (Gmaj7 in place of G) to introduce a somewhat bittersweet emotion to the music.

Minor 7th

The minor 7th chord is an extended chord built upon the minor triad with a flattened 7th (minor 7th) note from the natural  minor scale added to this triad.  It is written with the minor triad name followed by “m7”: eg. Gm7.  A Gm7 chord is made up of G, Bb, D, F.

Gm7 Chord Gm7 Chord Gm7 - basic 4 notes Gm7 - common guitar voicing

Emotionally it has the effect of slightly lightening the sombre sound of the minor chord by creating a hint of tension that wants to resolve.

Have a listen to a comparison of these 3 different flavours of “seventh” chords.

If you haven’t been using these chords up until now, this might be a good time to add them to your musical palette and start experimenting.  Enjoy!

Eric Mattila

Plectrum

SCAT - The Real Thing


The Coyotes have employed vocal scat in some of their unique song arrangements. It can be a powerful tool using nonsense sounds to allow the voice to be a free-form musical instrument.

Here is a video with a great example of how this tool can be used. It is a video of Kurt Elling and Al Jarreau performing "Take 5" from the LEGENDS OF JAZZ espisode, the Jazz Singers.

It is VERY cool (in my humble opinion...):

 

Eric Mattila

Plectrum
Click on a chord to hear it