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Old 11-28-2012, 03:16 AM   #1
HeadlessCross
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Understanding minor-major chords

Hi all, I'll make this quick. I'm just trying to get a grasp on the construction of minor-major chords and their use.

For those who don't know what I'm referring too, it is chords that usually appear as:

XmM* (where X = tonic note, m = minor, M = Major, * = chord extension)

for example

CmM7

I would pronounce this as C minor, major 7


I understand the chord construction of this chord would be as follows:

1 b3 5 7
C Eb G B

but from there it's a bit foggy... my understanding though is that it is possible to further extend this chord, am I right?

For example a CmM9 would be..?

1 b3 5 7 9
C Eb G B D

And even right through to CmM13 yes?

1 b3 5 7 9 11 13
C Eb G B D F Ab

Am I correct on this theory?


My second issue with these chords are their use in music. Where in a key would they be placed and where in a song would they be used?

I am assuming the scale used over the chord would be the harmonic minor scale due to the natural 7?

Last of all, is the minor-major chord referred to as anything else, or have another common name?

Please discuss.
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Old 11-28-2012, 04:05 AM   #2
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That chord symbol is usually written -maj7, min^7, or something similar to that, just so you know.

You're pretty close on the theory. You're deriving the chord from the harmonic minor scale. In almost all musical situations, it's actually derived from melodic minor. This would mean you'd have an A implied instead of Ab if the root of the chord is C. By the way, if Ab were an available tension on the chord (which it's not) it would be labeled b13, not just 13 (yes, there's a difference!). 13s are generally not used on minor chords because they tend to make the chord sound like a dominant chord over is fifth instead of a minor chord. You can, however, have a -6 chord, which replaces the natural 7 with natural 6. The 9 and 11 are available, as you correctly stated. The most common place to find a -maj7 chord is as the I of a key. IV-6 is also a very commonly occurring chord.
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Old 11-28-2012, 04:07 AM   #3
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I don't have any answers for you, but I just had to ask, I was not aware there was a thing called a Minor Major Chord? The first chord you wrote just looks like a Cm7?
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Old 11-28-2012, 04:20 AM   #4
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When a chord has both a minor third and a major third it is referred to as a major add#9.
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Old 11-28-2012, 04:22 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mattrusso
That chord symbol is usually written -maj7, min^7, or something similar to that, just so you know.

You're pretty close on the theory. You're deriving the chord from the harmonic minor scale. In almost all musical situations, it's actually derived from melodic minor. This would mean you'd have an A implied instead of Ab if the root of the chord is C. By the way, if Ab were an available tension on the chord (which it's not) it would be labeled b13, not just 13 (yes, there's a difference!). 13s are generally not used on minor chords because they tend to make the chord sound like a dominant chord over is fifth instead of a minor chord. You can, however, have a -6 chord, which replaces the natural 7 with natural 6. The 9 and 11 are available, as you correctly stated. The most common place to find a -maj7 chord is as the I of a key. IV-6 is also a very commonly occurring chord.


Very clear answer, this is what I was looking for. Ok to continue your post, if the chord is the I of the key, do you mean it would take the place of a Cm? And is there usually a specific chord that would directly follow after the use of it as the I or IV to summarize or sound in key?
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Old 11-28-2012, 04:23 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by minieme007
I don't have any answers for you, but I just had to ask, I was not aware there was a thing called a Minor Major Chord? The first chord you wrote just looks like a Cm7?


Cm7 would have a "b7"... it would have a Bb as opposed to a B.
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Old 11-28-2012, 04:32 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadlessCross
Very clear answer, this is what I was looking for. Ok to continue your post, if the chord is the I of the key, do you mean it would take the place of a Cm? And is there usually a specific chord that would directly follow after the use of it as the I or IV to summarize or sound in key?

Yes, if you're in the key of C minor, you can have C-maj7 as the primary tonic chord. It has to work with the melody and other contextual elements of the music, though. There is no specific chord that always comes after a -maj7. It's just part of a normal minor key environment; I is tonic, IV is subdominant.
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Old 11-28-2012, 05:31 AM   #8
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First there are your basic triads. These are made by "stacking" major or minor thirds.

Stacking thirds is easy...


Thus there are four basic triads...

Maj 3rd + Maj 3rd = Augmented Triad (1 3 #5)
Maj 3rd + min 3rd = Major Triad (1 3 5)
min 3rd + Maj 3rd = minor Triad (1 b3 5)
min 3rd + min 3rd = diminished Triad (1 b3 b5)

Seventh Chords
To get a seventh chord you then stack another major or minor third on top of the fifth of each of these basic triads to get a seventh chord.

Note that we use whatever kind of fifth we have in our basic triad and add the major or minor third from there. So if we have a perfect fifth we might add a major 3rd the result will be a major 7 interval from the root. If it is a diminished triad with a ♭5 and we add a major third to this we will end up with a minor 7th from the root.

So to get our various seventh chords we go through each of the four basic triads and stack a third on top.

Here are the various seventh chords built using different triads as a base:

Sevenths built from Augmented Triads

Aug Triad + Maj 3rd = Augmented Triad (a Major 3rd on top of a #5 will give a #7. Since the #7 is enharmonic with the octave of the root the result is a doubling of the root note and it's still just an augmented triad. (1 3 #5 #7 is enharmonic with 1 3 #5 8).

Aug Triad + min 3rd = Augmented Major Seventh, or Maj7#5 (1 3 #5 7)

Sevenths built from Major Triads

Major Triad + Major 3rd = Major 7th chord (1 3 5 7) - written as Cmaj7

Major Triad + min 3rd = Dominant 7 (1 3 5 b7) - written simply as C7

Sevenths built from Minor Triad

Minor Triad + Major 3rd = minor Major 7 (1 b3 5 7) - written as Cm/Maj7

Minor Triad + min 3rd = minor 7 (1 b3 5 b7) - written as Cm7

Sevenths built from Diminished Triad

Diminished Triad + Maj 3rd = half diminished 7th or minor 7 flat five (1 b3 b5 b7) - written as either C7 or more commonly Cm7b5

Diminished Triad + min 3rd = diminished 7th (1 b3 b5 bb7) - Cdim7 or Cᴼ7

These are the basic triads and seventh chords built from "Tertian Harmony" which means to use maj and min thirds for construction.

Other Seventh Chords
There are also some seventh chords that are altered versions of these chords. That is, one or more notes have been altered and the result is that the intervals between each note are not ALL major or minor thirds, but they are still considered seventh chords.

Dominant seventh sharp five = 1 3 #5 b7 = C7#5 - An augmented triad with a minor seventh.

a diminished/major seventh = 1 b3 b5 7 = Cdim/Maj7 or Cm/Maj7b5 diminished triad with a major seventh.

Dominant seventh flat five = 1 3 b5 b7 = C7♭5

Major seventh flat five = 1 3 b5 7 = CMaj7♭5


Soooo....

That gives a total of eleven different seventh chords.

Here they are again
Seven "Tertian" Seventh Chords
1. Major seventh = 1 3 5 7 e.g. CMaj7
2. Dominant seventh = 1 3 5 b7 e.g. C7
3. Minor seventh = 1 b3 5 b7 e.g. Cm7
4. minor/major seventh = 1 b3 5 7 e.g. Cm/Maj7
5. Half diminished seventh = 1 b3 b5 b7 e.g. Cm7♭5
6. Fully diminished seventh = 1 b3 b5 bb7 e.g. C〬7
7. Augmented Maj7 = 1 3 #5 7 (aka maj7#5) CMaj7♯5

plus Four "Altered" Seventh Chords
8. Dominant seventh sharp 5 = 1 3 #5 b7 e.g. C7♯5
9. Diminished major seventh = 1 b3 b5 7 e.g. Cm/Maj7♭5 or Cdim/Maj7
10. Dominant seventh flat 5 = 1 3 b5 b7 e.g. C7♭5
11. Major seventh flat 5 = 1 3 b5 7 e.g. CMaj7♭5

A tip - when naming chords (and only when naming chords) the triad is assumed major unless otherwise noted and the 7th is assumed minor unless otherwise noted. Thus if you see Major or Maj then it is referring to the seventh since the triad is already major by default.

If you see minor in the name (m) then it is referring to the triad because the 7th is already assumed minor by default. (The 7 is only minor by default when used in chord names. Outside that 7 always refers to a major seven unless noted otherwise).

Also: There other altered chords which are extended chords in which the 9th has been altered. But I've only gone as far a the 7th chords and haven't included extended chords or sus chords which you can also have C7sus4 for example.

Any of those seventh chords can be extended. Extensions continue in third intervals above the seventh but the extension is ALWAYS considered a major interval regardless of the type of seventh that has been extended.
So a Cm/M9 is a Cm/M7 with a major 9th.
A Cm9 is a Cm7 (C minor triad with a minor seventh) and a major 9th.

Extensions also can include all the notes up to the upper extension so a Cm/M13 includes
1 b3 5 7 9 11 13 C minor triad with a major seventh a major ninth a major 11th and a major 13th. the notes in this chord would be
C Eb G B D F A (not Ab as you wrote as the upper extensions are assumed major unless specifically noted CmMaj11(b13) or something similar would describe the chord you spelled.

However it is not necessary to play all the extensions, usually (particularly on guitar with it's limited strings) you will voice your chord with at least the R third seventh and upper extension. Sometimes even dropping the root if it's firmly established elsewhere by another instrument or through strong contextual setting.

The use of the m/Maj7 chord can be varied.

As you noted this chord doesn't fit with any diatonic chord. So you won't find it in diatonic harmony. However diatonic harmony is only a starting point. You want to focus on the lines within the harmony. That's where the true understanding of harmony will come from. When you see how individual lines move within chord changes you will start to break out of diatonic thinking and think more about notes that not only work together vertically but also how they flow horizontally one from the other creating logical lines that can create depth of interest in your music.

In choosing your harmonic notes the focus should be on two things: 1)what works to create an interesting harmonic sonority with the other notes that are sounding at the same time you, and 2) what works to create intersting lines with notes that come before and after.
In focusing on these two things you choose your notes regardless of whether they are diatonic or not and then figure out what the chord is called.

So it's not so much how do you use a m/Maj7 chord...the questions are how could we arrive at the notes in that chord and where could they go from there??

The answers to these questions are many and varied there is a lot that could be going on.

Let's take Cm/Maj7
C Eb G B

The B could be moving toward a C root from a Bb (or in the opposite direction from a C on it's way down to a Bb)

The best way to explore it's use is to play it and see what you can do.
I chose this voicing:
(x is not played
e|x
b|0
g|0
D|1
A|3
E|x

My thought was that I could have the b and g remain static with the other two voices moving in an opposite direction so i moved the C down a half step to B and the Eb up a half step to E to give me an Em/B chord. Then I thought I want to keep both those lines moving in the same direction so I figured if I moved the E up to an F i would move the B down to an A. The g and b sound ugly so when considering the vertical effect so i wanted to move them and chose an F/A chord.

CmMaj7 - E/B - F/A

What's the next logical step here? Well for my F to continue up and my A to continue down and they meet on G

Cm/Maj7 E/B F/A G

Code:
e ---------------3 b ---0---0---1---0 g ---0---0---2---0 d ---1---2---3--(0) a ---3---2---0--(2) e ---------------3
This is just one of an infinite number of ideas that might incorporate a m/Maj7.

Oh and a minor/major chord is a minor/major chord. As far as I am aware that is it's only name. Sometimes minor uses the symbols "min" "-" "m" and sometimes major uses "M" "Maj" or a little triangle "Δ". Other than those symbols used to notate minor or major the chord is still a m/Maj7 chord.

C Eb G B
It could have enharmonic names such as
Eb+6 (an Ebaug6 - an Eb augmented triad with an added major sixth)

If the C were in the bass only you could write it as an Eb+/C denoting an Eb augmented triad over a C bass without the need to specify the added sixth since you've noted it's played over the C bass and that's the only C in the chord.

Anyway this is probably just a wall of text and you might have a lot of this stuff down already but hopefully there is something in here that has been of some help to you.

Peace out...
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Old 11-28-2012, 06:04 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mattrusso
That chord symbol is usually written -maj7, min^7, or something similar to that, just so you know.

You're pretty close on the theory. You're deriving the chord from the harmonic minor scale. In almost all musical situations, it's actually derived from melodic minor.

I disagree. The m/Maj7 chord is not derived from the harmonic minor or the melodic minor. It is derived from the notes you use to harmonize your musical ideas. Those notes are derived from the notes and the context within which they appear - NOT from the melodic and harmonic scales.

As far as the rules of chord construction go scales don't really enter into it at all (except using the major scale degrees as a reference for naming purposes). The various seventh chords aren't derived from any scale they are constructed through stacking thirds with no reference to any scale.

However, I do think I get where you're coming from. If you were improvising some melodic ideas and had to navigate a m/Maj7 chord then associating the melodic minor scale with that chord could be helpful as that scale would provide you with a smooth melodic scale that contains the minor third and major seventh. I just think that is different than saying the chord is derived from the melodic minor scale.
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Old 11-28-2012, 06:01 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 20Tigers
WALL OF TEXT


This is much appreciated, alot of this I already knew, but the way you have broken it down makes it much easier to understand. I have always known that chords have been built as just minor 3rds or major 3rds being "stacked", but the way I have thought of it wasn't as direct. I guess seeing it in writing in front of you changes that.

The only part I don't quite understand is the altered chords, but that's for another day and I have some pieces to study which introduce them.
Thanks, your post has been of great help.
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