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Cmaj7

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by WalkUpright, Mar 12, 2013.


  1. WalkUpright

    WalkUpright

    Feb 18, 2013
    Question- I’m relatively new to theory so please bear with me but I’m a little confused by this. When someone tells you that a certain chord is for example Cmaj7, they are referring to from what I understand as the 7th note in the major scale of C. So B.

    Why wouldn’t they just say the chord is a B. Instead of a progression that looks like C-G-Cmaj7-D etc? Is this information more pertinent for guitar than bass and that’s why it seems like it’s intentionally overcomplicated? I guess it would make it easier to transpose keys but you’ll still know that a B is the 7th tone in the scale regardless of how its listed. Any insight would be appreciated.
     
  2. patplaysbass

    patplaysbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 7, 2011
    Los Angeles, CA
    Soon-to-be-ex Musician's Friend/Guitar Center Employee
    Cmaj7 means a C major chord (CEG) plus the 7th note of the scale- B. So CEGB.
     
  3. elgecko

    elgecko

    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    Um....because aside from a B, a B chord has completely different notes than a Cmaj7.
     
  4. patplaysbass

    patplaysbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 7, 2011
    Los Angeles, CA
    Soon-to-be-ex Musician's Friend/Guitar Center Employee
  5. WalkUpright

    WalkUpright

    Feb 18, 2013

    Alright this I understand, but from the bassists perspective you aren't playing those like a traditional chord on the guitar so would you target a B there?
     
  6. speeves

    speeves

    Apr 18, 2008
    Nevada
    Youwould if you wanted to change the inversion of the chord that is playing above you. This changes the way the chord sounds and how it is used to lead to another chord
     
  7. patplaysbass

    patplaysbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 7, 2011
    Los Angeles, CA
    Soon-to-be-ex Musician's Friend/Guitar Center Employee
    Unless it's an inversion, you'll probably want to go for a root. Very generally speaking, the bass should take care of the root note (in this case C) and the piano/guitar should take care of the rest (EGB) so together it fills out a Cmaj7. Of course there are exceptions; piano/guitar may choose to include a C and if you're playing a walking line then you're most likely going to have more than just C. But if it isn't marked otherwise then it's pretty safe to assume you want to hit the root.
     
  8. Michael Glynn

    Michael Glynn

    Feb 25, 2004
    Seattle
    From the "bassist's perspective" you should understand all of the music going on around you, even if your ears tell you that you should just play the root.

    Or rather: using your ears to hear the music that is happening around you, along with your historical knowledge of the kind of music you are playing, along with your understanding of music theory, you may decide that the root is still the best note for you to play at that moment.
     
  9. Jsn

    Jsn upright citizen

    Oct 15, 2006
    San Francisco Bay Area
    Your confusion (which is understandable) seems to stem from misconceiving how to unpack the information in a symbol like "Cmaj7".

    It's just a recipe for a bunch of notes. Just as some recipes get longer when they add more ingredients, chord symbols get longer as they add in extra notes. The "7" in "Cmaj7" doesn't mean "this chord is really a B chord". It means "play a C Major chord, but this time add in the seventh note of the scale as well."

    If you were playing the piano, you'd form the chord out of four tones instead of three. Simple as that. Throwing in that extra seventh note gives it a slightly more urgent, pushing quality--it's not as settled and placid as the basic triad.

    But we're not playing the piano; we're playing the bass. So what does the chord symbol mean to us? We rarely mash down all those notes at once. Instead, we play a linear selection of notes, for as long as that chord is in effect. You get to raid the recipe for only the ingredients important to you. So to us, "Cmaj7" means "If there's room in the measure for you to throw a seventh in there, you might want to do it."

    But don't scramble to fit it in, breaking meter, pulse and/or rhythm in the process. You are NOT obligated to sound every note in the chord. You may play only two or three, or even just one (usually the root). If you're in an uptempo song with a lot of changes, you may very well play a "Cmajb5add9add11" exactly like you might a "Cmaj": by hitting a C note and moving on.

    Don't know if this helps, but wanted to offer it.
     
  10. good explanation. what I'd say even more simply - it's a C chord, not a B chord, but if you're walking or arpeggiating use the B natural, not the B flat.
     
  11. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    Not really. In this case, the "maj7" indicates that there is a "Major Seventh Interval", from the named root, plus a Major triad = C, E, G, B.

    These are 'short cut' labels based on INTERVALS.

    C7, the "7" would indicate that there is a "Minor Seventh Interval", from the named root, plus a Major triad = C, E, G, Bb.

    Cm7, the "7" would indicate that there is a "Minor Seventh Interval", from the named root, plus a Minor triad = C, Eb, G, Bb.

    CmMaj7, the "maj7" would indicate that there is a "Major Seventh Interval", from the named root, plus a Minor triad = C, Eb, G, Bb.

    It's about intervals and knowing the labeling method - not scales.
     
  12. WalkUpright

    WalkUpright

    Feb 18, 2013
    This is very helpful thank you. It's nice to have the option but probably better for what I'm doing (Folk/BG) to stick with the root there and work the 7th in when I find I can.
     

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