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Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Chief2112, Dec 3, 2012.

  1. Chief2112


    Aug 31, 2011
    Greenville, SC
    So I just started working through some stuff that requires playing along with a track and moving through Roots, 3rds and 5ths in a II V I.

    This is from Scott Devine's Play Along Series.

    Anyways, the progression in Cmaj7 is Dm7, G7, Cmaj7, Cmaj7

    Playing the 5ths was straightforward enough but the 3rd on the Dm7 is kind of confusing me because it's telling me that the 3rd is an F but that's not the 3rd of the D Major Scale Box. I understand it's the 3rd in the Db Major Scale box but I guess I'm trying to understand the correlation of that 3rd when the root note is D and not Db.

    I don't really know much theory yet so I'm just trying to connect the dots on this one because with the other two chords the third is E for Cmaj7 and B for G7 and even playing the 5th of Dm7 is what I figured it would be by playing the major scale box with D as my root. Just not sure why the 5th is different from the 3rd in this instance.

    So if anyone can help me out without blowing up my brain I'd appreciate it. I'm not even sure this post makes any sense. LOL
  2. Assuming I undersand your question; Dm = flat 3rd. As in, one half step below a major third. Thus F is the correct note. If Scott says it's an F, chances are it really is an F. Now back to the woodshed!
  3. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    The "m" means it's a minor chord.
  4. Chief2112


    Aug 31, 2011
    Greenville, SC
    Ohhhh! I see what I did there. So when I see a minor chord I should transpose the minor scale box over the root to get my 3rd and 5th or just flat the 3rd of the major scale box???

    Thank you. Sorry for the complete "newb" question.
  5. Ewo

    Ewo a/k/a Steve Cooper Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2008
    Huntington WV
    OP, try this:

    Picture the C major scale on your fretboard. Build a seventh chord on D. Only use notes from the C major scale!

    See it? The third of the chord is F natural; hence it's a minor seventh.

    Do the same thing on G. Major third in that one, right? It's a dominant seventh chord.

    IOW, the chord changes use the same collection of notes. Building chords on different scale steps gets you different types of chords.
  6. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    See if this helps.

    Bass Patterns based upon the Major Scale box.

    Major Scale Box.
    G|---2---|-------|---3---|---4---| 1st string
    E|-------|---R---|-------|---2---|4th string

    Basic Chords
    • Major Triad = R-3-5 --- C
    • Minor Triad = R-b3-5 --- Cm
    • Diminished Chord = R-b3-b5 --- Cdim
    7th Chords
    • Maj7 = R-3-5-7 ---Cmaj7
    • Minor 7 = R-b3-5-b7 --- Cm7
    • Dominant 7 = R-3-5-b7 --- C7
    • ½ diminished = R-b3-b5-b7 --- Cm7b5 or C with the little 0 with a line through it.
    • Full diminished = R-b3-b5-bb7 --- C with the little 0 no line through it.

    C Major Scale stack in 3rds (every other note) = the notes and chords made from the C major scale:
    Notes	   Degree	Spelling		  Chord name      Function
    C		R	CEGB       R-3-5-7 	     Cmaj7		      I  (tonic)
    D		2	DFAC 	 R-b3-5-b7	     Dm7		     ii
    E		3	EGBD 	 R-b3-5-b7	     Em7		    iii
    F		4	FACE       R-3-5-7	     Fmaj7	     IV (subdominant)
    G		5	GBDF 	 R-3-5-b7	     G7		      V  (dominant)
    A		6	ACEG 	 R-b3-5-b7	     Am7	    vi	
    B		7	BDFA 	 R-b3-b5-b7          Bm7b5	    vii (diminished)
    Why is the D chord minor? If you compare the DFAC to the notes in the D major scale the D major scale will have an F# and a C#. Your DFAC has the 3 and 7 flatted for a spelling of R-b3-5-b7 and that spelling makes a Dm7 chord. All minor chords will have a b3. All major chords will have a natural 3. Stacking the scale in 3rds automatically build the correct major, minor and diminished chords for that scale.
  7. There are a few different systems of notating chords, but most commonly in jazz stuff and pop stuff:

    D is D major
    Dm is D minor

    You can add a 7th to these chords. The default 7th is the minor 7th, creating a "dominant" style chord. You can make that a major 7th by adding "maj7".


    D7 is "D major" + "minor 7th" = D F# A C
    Dmaj7 is "D major" + "major 7th" = D F# A C#
    Dm7 is "D minor" + "minor 7th" = D F A C

    I never see it notated this way, but you could also have a 7th chord like this:

    DmMaj7 is "D minor" + "major 7th" = D F A C#

    I think there are other ways to notate this one, and it's not as common as the others.

    Some charts substitute a triangle for the "Maj" part of "Maj7". In fact, some charts use a triangle to mean "Maj7" in full.

    For a bit more information on decoding these, look here:

    Chord names and symbols (popular music)
  8. INTP


    Nov 28, 2003
    Dallas, TX
    This is a good post, but I'd just like to emphasize one small point:

    Notice that the 'default' is major, for the third. That is, if you don't specify, the third will be major, not minor.

    Notice that the 'default' is minor, for the 7th. If you don't specify, it will be a minor 7th, not a major 7th.

    Sometimes music theory seems inconsistent and confusing, but I try to think about it as just the name of the pattern, and the list of most common chords to learn isn't really that long.

    And while you're at it, pat yourself on the back for taking the time to make sure you understand it. It's worth the effort.
  9. Bainbridge


    Oct 28, 2012
    Let me fix something for you here before you get too far. The key is C major, not Cmaj7. Why? Because it relates back to the C major scale:

    C D E F G A B

    Saying "Key of Cmaj7" is redundant. Besides, we don't name keys after chords.


    Next order of business is this Dm7 thing. Don't think of the key of C as just a C∆ chord (∆ means maj7). The key of C major contains all of the notes of the C major scale.

    C D E F G A B

    Since the key contains these notes, being within the key means that the chords are all derived from this collection. So, Dm7 is in there: D F A C. So is G7: G B D F. And, of course, C∆ is also in there: C E G B.

    Dm7 G7 C∆ is a progression in the key of C major, and every note within those chords is from the C major scale.

    If we transpose this to, say, the key of D, it's the same deal. Here is D major:

    D E F# G A B C#

    ii V I in this key would be Em7 A7 D∆. So, if we make seventh chords from the notes of this scale, we'll see the same correlation:

    Em7 - E G B D
    A7 - A C# E G
    D∆ - D F# A C#
  10. Yes, I think all these different notations can be confusing. I also like to use the term "flattened 7th" when explaining a dominant 7th chord - then it won't be confused with a minor chord. It's a shame there not a single standardised way of notating. It would make life a lot simpler.
  11. Bainbridge


    Oct 28, 2012
    Despite the fact that the symbols aren't completely standardized, they still use the same grammar. It's not too hard to figure out: you start with a triad and tack other things onto it.

    D+ - augmented triad (D F# A#)
    D - major triad (D F# A)
    Dm - minor triad (D F A) - also "D-", "d" (I don't like this one) or "dm" (a little better)
    D° - diminished triad (D F A♭)

    The sevenths, from what I've seen, are fairly universal.

    ∆, maj7, M7 - major seventh
    7 - minor seventh
    °7 - diminished seventh - this one only applies to one specific chord

    From there, we can slap these symbols onto our triads (D+, D, Dm, D°), and you have the basic spellings of the seventh chords.

    Triads with major sevenths:
    D+∆ - D F# A# C#
    D∆ - D F# A C#
    Dm∆ - D F A C#
    D°∆ - D F A♭ C# - An uncommon chord.

    Triads with minor sevenths:
    D+7 - D F# A# C
    D7 - D F# A C
    Dm7 - D F A C
    Dø7 - D F A♭ C ('ø7' is used specifically for this chord to differentiate it from '°7'; also called 'm7(♭5)')

    Then, the diminished seventh:
    D°7 - D F A♭ C♭

    If you have extensions, notate the highest (major or perfect) extension in the chord symbol as a replacement for the seventh.

    D+∆9 - D F# A# C# E
    D+∆11 - D A# C# E G - The third is omitted from this chord because the eleventh is indicated. The ninth would likely be omitted, too, but I'm including it for completeness.
    D∆13 - D F# A C# E B - Omitted 11th. Including the ninth for completeness.
    Dm13 - D F A C E G B

    Then, with alterations, stick them in parentheses in order of highest to lowest.

    D13(#11,♭9) - D F# A C E♭ G# B
    Dm9(♭13,#11) - D F A C E G# B♭
    D∆(#11) - D F# A C# G#

    This is the most orderly way I've been able to conceive to do this. As a copyist, composer and performer, I endeavor to standardize my own notation with the hopes that others will pick it up. I like to make my chord symbols as compact as possible, which is why I choose "∆" over "maj7", "ma7", and "M7". It seems like nitpicking, but a good set of conventions can really clean up a score. "D+∆" at three characters, for example, is a lot easier to fit on a page than "Dmaj7(#5)" at nine characters. Then, there's the matter of clarity. I do "m" instead of "-", because E- could just as easily be E with a smudge or some stray ink next to it.
  12. I'm not a fan of the ∆, ø and other weird symbols, simply as they're not easy to type (not on my laptop, anyway), and they're not obvious. But I really don't care; I just wish musicians could settle on a set of standard musical notations. It would make life a lot easier for those who are just starting out. I still occasionally come across yet another way to notate a chord. Very annoying.
  13. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    As mentioned, the key is CMajor. In any Major key, you can build a total of seven chords; one from each scale degree. They are numbered one through seven using roman numerals (more on this later). The seven notes in CMajor are:

    c d e f g a b, and all seven chords are built using only these seven notes. As a result, the seven chords are considered "diatonic" to the key of CMajor. Chords are built by stacking alternate scale degrees.

    The first chord: c e g b
    The second chord is: d f a c
    The third chord is: e g b d
    The fourth chord is: f a c e
    The fifth chord is: g b d f
    The sixth chord is: a c e g
    The seventh chord is: b d f a

    Now, this is where you have to make the leap and grasp this concept: to figure out what type of chords these are, you need to go to the Major scale of each scale degree from the Key of C Major.

    The first chord, c e g b is based on the note c, so we refer to the CMajor scale and see that these four notes are the 1st, the 3rd, the 5th and the 7th degrees of the scale. This is the construction of a Major7 chord, and we assign it I (capital Roman numeral) because it is the "one" chord based on the first scale degree. It is capitalized because it is a Major chord.

    The second chord, d f a c is based on the note d, so we now have to go to the DMajor scale to see what notes of the DMajor scale we have to define the second chord in the key of CMajor. D is the first note of the DMajor scale. F is not in the DMajor scale - the third note in the DMajor scale is f#. Since we have the note f natural, this is the b3rd of DMajor. The note a is the fifth scale degree of D Major while the note c is the b7 of DMajor since the key of DMajor has two sharps, f# and c#. What we end up with is a constructed minor 7 chord because it has the 1 b3 5 and b7 of the parent key (which is Dmajor, not Cmajor). Since this chord is the second chord in CMajor and is a minor7 chord, we assign it ii.

    If you do this for each chord that is diatonic to the key of C Major, you find that the following is true (and is true for any Major key):

    The one chord (I) is Major7 (CMaj7)
    The two chord (ii) is minor7 (Dmin7)
    The three chord (iii) is minor7 (Emin7)
    The four chord (IV) is Major7 (FMaj7)
    The five chord (V) is Dominant7 (G7)
    The six chord (vi) is minor7 (Amin7)
    The seven chord (vii) is minor7(b5) (Bmin7(b5))
  14. Bainbridge


    Oct 28, 2012
    I've seen decent workarounds for symbols like those.

    C#° - C#o
    Gø7 - G%7
    B♭∆ - Bb^

    Although, the hotkeys for those symbols are pretty easy on Mac: ∆ is opt+J, and ø is opt+O. All of this stuff is in Unicode, too, but learning all of those codes is a pain in the ass.

    As for not being obvious, it's a matter of education. Teach somebody min7, they'll learn min7. Teach them -7, they'll use -7. You have a point that it's difficult to find fancy symbols on the keyboard, and perhaps that is responsible for musicians preferring one suffix over another. As for me, I'll keep doing what I'm doing. In my experience (as a composer/arranger), performers only ask what the triangle means once, often not at all.

    I agree. Once again, education plays a big role in this. Unlike a lot of other musicians, players of fretted instruments (bass, guitar, mandolin, ukelele, banjo) spend most of their formative period learning shapes for chords and concerning themselves with frets. These are complicated instruments, so it's understandable that someone learning a fretboard would want as much simplification as possible. Learning notes? Constructing voicings and scales? That's a lot of extra steps, considering that you can find the same note in three or four different places on the fretboard. When a guitarist or bassist has a question, they might go to a website like this one and use the information there to try to figure out what they're doing. (As an experiment, try plugging in a major scale, but omit one tone. Anybody who has taken a semester of music theory would see what's going on, but the computer can't tell what's happening without perfect information, and has no discretion for sharps versus flats.)

    Then, when these guys go to notate this stuff, it comes out in whatever form they can cobble together, given a limited understanding of pitch relationships. I see symbols such as "Csus2(add9)" all too often, and I recall being in a band wherein the front man handed some staff notation to me (!) with spellings like E A♭ B, B E♭ G♭ B♭, and A# D F. He kind of knew what was going on (he notated the pitches, after all), but he couldn't see that it should have been E G# B, B D# F# A#, and B♭ D F, and that those were chords that had names (E, B∆, and B♭, respectively).

    So, I don't think that it's so much that there is no consistency, but rather that musicians in the popular idiom are unaware of the conventions. Add to that the inherent aversion to the actual study of the craft (more so with guitarists) and you get a highly variable set of "standards", which of course means no standards at all. I follow the rule that composers have been following for hundreds of years: save ink, don't clutter, make sure the performer can decipher it. The rule that predominates in the world of fretted instruments is "my friend/the internet told me to do it this way and I sort of remember how they did it".
  15. Yes, that's true enough. Even though I'm a guitarist, I agree they are the worst offenders. Luckily I had music lessons when I was young (the teacher used a keyboard, but I was there solely to learn theory). Try suggesting this to young guitar players these days, and most of them look at you like you're from Mars. Bass players seem much more interested in theory.