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Help with chords please

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by fr0me0, Feb 27, 2006.

  1. fr0me0


    Dec 7, 2004
    Winnipeg Canada
    hey i got a few questions about chords. I just got a new jazz chart and theres no notation, just says the chord names and has slashes and says "walk"

    Ok so if it doesn't say major or minor does that mean its major by default? I notice the chart says F7 and Eb7 alot but doesn't say if its major or minor? I notice the chart says Bb7 MI several times and Bb7 MA once. Is it just being nice to remind me that its MA instead of MI that one time? Kind of like how some charts will remind you of a key sig after an accidental but others wont?

    also what does it mean if it says 9? does that mean root 3rd 5th 7th and a 9th? is a 9th a semitone above the octave? or is it the second note in the scale above the octave?

    also it says F7 sus(#9) what does the sus mean and the 9 in brackets mean?

    thanks for all your help guys I really appreciate it!
  2. Aaron


    Jun 2, 2001
    Bellingham, WA
    F7 = dominant 7th chord (R 3 5 b7)
    F Maj 7 = F maj 7th chord (R 3 5 7)

    One way to look at it-
    A chord will always be major unless it is modified with a minor/diminished/aug symbol. A 7th will always be flat unless it is modified with a maj symbol.

    A ninth is a tension tone or color note, they are actually unnecessary towards the function of the chord, but they can add really cool colorations to chords.

    A 9th is an octave above the second (two semitones above the octave), but you can voice it however you like. When it is saying C9 it is saying it has the R 3 5 b7 and the 2nd, but the second is generally voiced above the 7th and tertian harmony yields chords voiced in thirds, thus it is a 9, rather than a second. Historically, tension tones (b9,9,#9, 11, #11, b13, 13...) have generally been voiced above the root third and seventh of a chord, so many would be inclined to say that voicing them that way sounds best.

    If it says Maj9, then it has a major 7th, but just a plain vanilla 9. A sharp 9 (#9) is a semitone above a ninth and sus = suspended, which means the 3rd of the chord is now a 4th, so the F7 sus#9 would be R 4 5 b7 #9.

    As far as those Bb7s do they say Bbmi7 and Bbmaj7 rather than Bb7 mi and Bb7 ma? If so, those are completely different chords Bbmi7 = Bb Db F Ab Bbma7 = Bb D F A
  3. fr0me0


    Dec 7, 2004
    Winnipeg Canada
    hey thanks for taking the time to write all that out it is really appreciated man.

    what it exactly has is several Bbmi's and one Bbma7(#11)

    So I take it the Bb is jus a minor chord. I don't quite understand how to work in the #11 though in the other chord. I take it there is a tone that is a root above 4th sharp by one semitone? Do I skip the 9th in this chord? what does "ma" mean exactly?
  4. BassChuck


    Nov 15, 2005
    The 'mi' will mean minor, 'ma' is major. You're right about the #11, its the same thing as a #4. Some of these things you are asking are not totally standardized, so there may be some difference of interpretation. Generally if a chord is notated as a Bb#4, I would assume that there would be the basic Bb chord with an added tone a #4 above the root. If you also put the 5th in that chord, it would probably be best keep it away from the #4.
    If the chord is notated Bb#11, it could be assumed that there would also be a 7th and a 9th and in this case the notes would be Ab (for the 7th) and C (for the 9th).

    As a bass player, we don't always have to deal with these added tones. But it is interesting to hear why those tones are being used. Sometimes its for a certain kind of 'color', sometimes they are being used to confuse the key center. Its all VERY subjective, but how we respond to the chord symbols can help the function (reason) the chords are used. In Funk tunes these chords are used for color (at least thats the way I hear it) and its best to lay down the groove and stay close to the root. Sometimes in jazz they can be used to sorta be in 2 keys at once. In that case, its pretty cool to experiment with any of the chord tones in the bass line.

    In the end there no reason to get too uptight about it. Its all music... and thank God we have that.
  5. Aaron


    Jun 2, 2001
    Bellingham, WA
    One thing to look for in tension tones is that they often allude to certain scales. A Dmin7#11 for instance could infere a mode of melodic minor. I'm not sure what the most common name would be, I'd call it Dorian #4(or11). There are also altered dominant chords, which are x7 chords that commonly have tension tones of b9, #9, #11, and 13. These are very flexible and a great number of scales can be used over them.

    One thing to watch out for in tension tones is that if you are playing scale tones, it generally sounds 'better' if they match what others are playing. So playing an 11 against a piano players Fmin7#11 might not sound very pleasant, especially if the 5th is being voiced.