Minor/Major Seven chords

Some Review

Recall from lesson on building a context that we've defined a chord as being 3 or more distinct notes, usually played at the same time. (C and D are considered distinct, but C# and Db are not, nor are octaves of the same note).

Recall that chords come in two basic parts, a letter name (C, C#, etc.) also known as a root note (tonic, 1), and a descriptive part that abbreviates the name of the chord (is a short-hand for all the intervals of each distinct note from the root note).

Recall that an interval is the distance between two notes, and that we are using numbers (with accidentals) to describe these intervals.(ex. 5 = perfect fifth, etc.) For more info on intervals see July19's lesson. to convert letters to numbers and numbers to letters, see the link below (bottom of page) on transposition.

Recall, we've previously defined the following chords:

major = 1,3,5
minor (m)= 1,b3,5
diminished (o)= 1,b3,b5
power chord (5) = 1,5,8(1)
dominant seventh chord (7) = 1,3,5,b7
major seventh chord (maj7) = 1,3,5,7
minor seveneth chord (m7) = 1,b3,5,b7

Now we shall define the minor/major seventh chord as:
m/maj7 = 1,b3,5,7
(Ex. Cm/maj7, Dm/maj7, etc.)

Here are some open m/maj7 chords to get you started:
Am/maj7=X02110, Cm/maj7=X3100X,
Dm/maj7=XX0221, Em/maj7=022040, Fm/maj7=1X2111, Gm/maj7=310032.

We should note from our definition (m/maj7=1,b3,5,7) that a minor/major seventh chord contains a minor chord (minor=1,b3,5) within it.
We can think of a minor/major seventh chord as a minor chord with an added major seventh note.
m/maj7 = 1,b3,5,7
m = 1,b3,5

If we don't know how to play a m/maj7 chord, we could substitute a minor chord with the same root note in its place. We will no longer have the full flavor of the m/maj7 chord, but the substitution should work.

We also note that a chord synonym for for i7 is bIII+6. In the key of C:
Am/maj7 = A,C,E,G# = C+/A

So you could use as a substitute for a m/maj7 chord, an augmented chord a minor third higher than the m/maj7 chord. (you could substitute C+ for Am/maj7)

Recalling how the chromatic scale maps out on a fretboard in standard tuning ( see July19's lesson). We can map out the m/maj7 chord on the fretboard (shown here in F).


We can cut this up into zones of one sort or another. In previous lessons, we've been looking at shapes based on octave patterns. (A-shape, E-shape, etc.). So below are the 5 shapes along with some voicings in TAB that go along with the shape. All of these are for Fm/maj7. To change to to another m/maj7 chord, we use the same process as for other moveable chords (barre chords, etc.).

Fm/maj7 "E-shape"(root note on the 6th string)

  0   1   2   3


Fm/maj7 "D-shape" (root note on the 4th string)

  3   4   5   6 


Fm/maj7 "C-shape" (root note on the 5th string)

  5   6   7   8


Fm/maj7 "A-shape" (root note on the 5th string)

  7   8   9  10


Fm/maj7 "G-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

  9  10  11   12  13


Ok. So we can make many different voicings out of a given chord (many more than shown here). Choosing for ourselves just what voicing we're going to use to interpret a chord is one part of developing our own style.


(Look into inversions (aug 23rds, aug 30ths lessons) and chord synonyms (aug 23) if these ideas are new).

Root position m/maj7 chord = 1,b3,5,7
Am/maj7 = A,C,E,G#. (root position has 1 in the bass)

1rst inversion has 3rd in the bass.
Am/maj7/C = C,E,G#,A. What C chord is this?
C,E,G#,A = 1,3,#5,6
We could call this a C+6.

2nd inversion has 5th in the bass.
Am/maj7/E = E,G#,A,C. What E chord is this?
E,G#,A,C = 1,3,4,b6/#5
We could call this E+add4.

3rd inversion has 7th in the bass.
Am/maj7/G# = G#,A,C,E. What G chord is this?
G#,A,C,E = 1,b2,3,b6
We might call this G#+/b9, or G#+addb9.

So for I+6 we could substitute vi/maj7,
for I+add4 we could substitute iv/maj7,
and for I+/b9 we could substitute bii/maj7.


We often see m/maj7 chords written in songs, but there is a way to understand why they pop up where they do? Usually.

Recall, that we harmonized the harmonic minor scale to get the chords (triads):
(in the key of Am: Am-Bo-C+-Dm-E-F-G#o)
and the seventh chords:
(in Am: Am/maj7-Bm7b5-Cmaj7+5-Dm7-E7-Fmaj7-G#o7)

Where else do m/maj7 chords turn up in scales?

We create the following chords for melodic minor:
in triads: i-ii-bIII+-IV-V-vio-viio
in 7th chords: imaj7-ii7-bIIImaj7+5-IV7-V7-vi7b5-vii7b5

We see above the following chords for gypsy minor:
in triads: i-IIb5-bIII+-#ivosus2-V-bVI-vii
in 7th chords: imaj7-II7b5-bIIImaj7#5-#ivo7sus2-Vmaj7-bVImaj7-viibb7 (vii6)

In the major scale (and it's modes), there is nowhere to derive the chord from.
In the minor pentatonic scale (and it's modes), there is nowhere to derive the chord from. (these are the scale families we have considered so far)

You might use such information to find a context for a specific progression, or to use as a starting point for "outside" sounds (try playing a spanish major scale a perfect 5th above a m/maj7 whether or not it fits. How does that sound?)

So let's consider some progressions.

One of the most common uses of the m/maj7 chord is as a passing chord, where there is a voice descending from the octave of the minor chord, to the major seventh, to the minor seventh, and beyond. (i-imaj7-i7-...).
Try the following examples:
Em = 022000, Em/maj7 = 022040, Em7 = 022030
Am = XX7555, Am/maj7 = XX6555, Am7 = XX5555
Amadd9 = X07500, Am/maj9 = X06500, Am9 = X05500

A common progression in classical (and also mediteranean, spanish, latin musics) is i-V, or i-V7 (also i-iv7-V7) from the harmonic minor scale (which was created to facilitate this progression , or the V7 functionality in the minor scale).
Harmonic minor 7th chords: imaj7-ii7b5-bIIImaj7#5-iv7-V7-bvimaj7-viio7
(in the key of Am: i-V7 = Am-E7, and I-iv7-V7 = Am-Dm7-E7).
Try playing Am/maj7-Dm-E7-Am/maj7

One could consider the scales above (harmonic minor, melodic minor, gypsy minor) and make progressions out of their first 3 or 4 chords sequentially.

Harmonic minor
imaj7-ii7b5-bIII+maj7-iv7 (Am: Am/maj7-Bm7b5-Cmaj7+5-Dm7)

Melodic minor
imaj7-ii7-bIIImaj7+5-IV7 (Am: Am/maj7-Bm7-Cmaj7+5-D7)

Gypsy minor
imaj7-II7b5-bIIImaj7#5-#ivo7sus2 (Am: Am/maj7-B7b5-Cmaj7+5-D#o7sus2)

from the Harmonic minor, Melodic minor scales: i/maj7-V7
in the key of Am: Am/maj7-E7

It will help build up our ears to play such progressions and memorize how a imaj7-II-bIIImaj7+5 progression sounds, etc. so that we recognize them when we hear them.

Next lesson is on the diminished seven chord.

Christopher Roberts

How do I change all those numbers to letters (for notes, chords, etc.)? Here's a transposition chart simianmoon.com/snglstringtheory/guitar/8theory3.html

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Last updated September 26, 2002
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