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  1. #1

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    In the old days of jazz, it seems like the tonic chords were minor 6 or major 6. Today people play both 6h and 7th chords as the tonic chord but it's a lot more common for these chords to just be automatically notated as major or minor 7th chords.

    Does anybody know when and why this happened? I guess in the post bop era people got a lot more used to the edge that 7th gives to tonic chords. That's probably more true for the major than the minor tonics. Is that the reason or is it just the laziness when writing charts?

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  3. #2

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    When I’m writing a chord chart for myself I usually write the tonic as the triad name and leave choice of 6th or major 7th up to the player. I’d only write 6th or major 7th on the chart if it’s essential to play one or the other.

  4. #3

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    So I think we are looking at the 60s. Certainly Kind of Blue popularised the more floating m7/m11 tonality for minor, and I hear major seventh chords in Jim Halls playing on the Bridge for instance; but I obviously haven’t checked out everything so I’d love to hear from others.

    However you can listen to Bix Beiderbecke records and hear them ending on major ninth chords... So ending chords were always more complex. Maj7#11 common in the 50s.

    And melodically, playing the seventh on major chords was in play since the 20s; so what you get is composite major seventh and higher chords all the time, but you don’t get the chord used as an accompanying sound.

    For this reason Errol Garners Misty doesn’t count..... He plays I Major triad one hand, iii minor in the other... NBD

    (But neat chronologies are often a bit suspect.)

    So what you are really asking is when did the accompaniment become reconciled with the improvisation, and to me that says two words - Bill and Evans.

    (major sevenths have been used for centuries of course but always treated as dissonances. Jazz relaxed that function.)

  5. #4

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    You might enjoy this article, "You've Been Taught The Wrong Chord Tones."

    You’ve Been Taught the Wrong Chord Tones | Jason Lyon on Music

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175
    In the old days of jazz, it seems like the tonic chords were minor 6 or major 6. Today people play both 6h and 7th chords as the tonic chord but it's a lot more common for these chords to just be automatically notated as major or minor 7th chords.

    Does anybody know when and why this happened? I guess in the post bop era people got a lot more used to the edge that 7th gives to tonic chords. That's probably more true for the major than the minor tonics. Is that the reason or is it just the laziness when writing charts?
    I think the style of music changed. A lot of swing/dance music probably needed M6 sounds. Ballads in jazz sound better with M7's although they may sound better ending with a M6.

    I don't know about minors. I don't know that many standards that start with a m6. Except Summertime, of course :-)

  7. #6
    Yes, I think it's useful to separate harmony and improvisation when considering the choice of 6th vs 7th for tonic chords.

    o Use of 7ths as tonics when comping. Maybe this even has two subcategories. The ending tonic chord vs other tonic chords in the form (Imin6 vs Imin7 for minor blues for example). Since the various dissonances in the ending tonic chords are also often used to create interesting effects.

    o Use of 7ths as emphasized notes during improvisation against minor or major 6 chords (note we are not talking about 7ths as passing scale notes).
    Last edited by Tal_175; 10-13-2020 at 04:02 PM.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes
    You might enjoy this article, "You've Been Taught The Wrong Chord Tones."

    You’ve Been Taught the Wrong Chord Tones | Jason Lyon on Music
    Ha I know Jason, haven't seen him for years...

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175
    Yes, I think it's useful to separate harmony and improvisation when considering the choice of 6th vs 7th for tonic chords.

    o Use of 7ths as tonics when comping. Maybe this even has two subcategories. The ending tonic chord vs other tonic chords in the form (Imin6 vs Imin7 for minor blues for example). Since various dissonances in the ending tonic chords are also often used to create interesting effects.

    o Use of 7ths as emphasized notes during improvisation against minor or major 6 chords (note we are not talking about 7ths as passing scale notes).
    SO, I'm thinking for the former (minor 6 with maj 7) - Billy Strayhorn.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1
    I don't know about minors. I don't know that many standards that start with a m6. Except Summertime, of course :-)
    Two, in fact. The original has Bm6 moving up a tone to C#m6 that acts like a dominant (F#9/C#). Far preferable to the min7-based faux-funky modal vamps wheeled out behind well-meaning chanteuses.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by PMB
    Two, in fact. The original has Bm6 moving up a tone to C#m6 that acts like a dominant (F#9/C#).
    Dunno, mate, all I know is Am6 - E7 (Bm6 on a hot day :-)), that does it for me. I have heard it, and played it, in Gm but that key sounds dull to my senses.

    min7-based faux-funky modal vamps
    Saints preserve us. I sincerely hope I'm never exposed to one of those

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes;[URL="tel:1067962"
    1067962[/URL]]You might enjoy this article, "You've Been Taught The Wrong Chord Tones."

    You’ve Been Taught the Wrong Chord Tones | Jason Lyon on Music
    thats sooo great , thanks that’s gold for me

  13. #12

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    I taught myself to play in the late ’50’s with the help of some books, starting with a book of folk songs by Richard Dyer Bennett belonging to my mother. I soon acquired several more books including the Mel Bay Orchestral Chord System, George M. Smith Guitar Method, the Mickey Baker books and Ronny Lee’s method book. All of these seemed to freely swap M6 & Ma7 so I just always did that and never found it to be a problem.

    About 16-17 years ago a guy sitting in on ‘bone with my big band said he liked my playing and would I like to sub in his traditional jazz group for six months while his regular player dealt with medical issues? I had spent my whole playing life up to that point ducking that question—I’m really not a fan of that style of jazz. I have some set excuses for saying no, but he waved them off and and asked if I’d just attend a rehearsal. Since it turned out I knew several of his players from other settings and knew them to be excellent, I agreed, and wound up doing it for six months, as well as subbing with a couple of other trad groups a few times. About the first thing I learned doing it was that tonics needed to be M6. I mean really—every time I played a Ma7 it set my teeth on edge. It took me a bit to stop alternating them; I’m so used to starting tunes on a Ma7 that it was a struggle. My long-term solution to this problem was to go back to plan A and never play that music again.

    As for the referenced article, I’ve never found Ma7 to be the least abrasive playing any music since the ’30’s, jazz tunes or standards. It must just be from not knowing any better all these years.

    Danny W.

  14. #13

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    Setting history aside for a moment.

    As a tonic function chord, major sevenths are a bit of a tricky to use chord for a number of reasons. I think its best to see them as a colour you can use rather than a major chord for all occasions. They generally work best as IV chords, and as I chords you have to be a little careful... A C on a C major 7 can be an awkward sound, unless you really want that dissonance.

    Also, not all inversions are usable, third inversion is really not a tonic function sound to me.

    I think a lot of modern players like them for exactly those reasons!

    Sometimes the best move is to omit the seventh from tonic chords. Add9's are underrated!

  15. #14

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    When I went to my first Gypsy Swing session, I was immediately politely asked to play M6 instead of Ma7 or (God forbid) M7 chords. As dominants, ok, but the tonics were always 6th chords.

  16. #15

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    Also for trad/early jazz - straight major and minor is quite often a better option than 6th even... you need to be especially careful with m6's. I have been told off about this lol. 'Stop playing like a Gypsy Jazz guitarist' haha.

    But even later in the history of jazz - often voicings are much simpler than you think. Bud Powell's right hand was not so far away from Harlem stride... 10ths, 6ths, bare 7ths.... Monk of course, x100...

    What I have learned over the years ... be sensitive to voicings... Just because two chords share a scale, doesn't make them the same sound....

  17. #16

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    Minor 7th chords are easiest to play, though. Just a finger across the strings.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by docsteve
    Minor 7th chords are easiest to play, though. Just a finger across the strings.
    OTOH these shapes

    5 x 4 5 5 x
    x 2 3 2 3 x

    Basically do for everything that isn't a major or diminished chord... :-)

  19. #18
    If I'm playing over a Min7 tonic chord, I don't like the sound of the 6th. I tend to play b6. But I know a lot of people don't have a problem with 6th played against Min7. I have hard time.

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Setting history aside for a moment.

    As a tonic function chord, major sevenths are a bit of a tricky to use chord for a number of reasons. I think its best to see them as a colour you can use rather than a major chord for all occasions. They generally work best as IV chords, and as I chords you have to be a little careful... A C on a C major 7 can be an awkward sound, unless you really want that dissonance.

    Also, not all inversions are usable, third inversion is really not a tonic function sound to me.

    I think a lot of modern players like them for exactly those reasons!

    Sometimes the best move is to omit the seventh from tonic chords. Add9's are underrated!
    I try to follow Barry’s lead and play “the 6th on the fifth” for that Maj7 sound — G6 as a rootless CMaj7 gives 3rd, 5th, Maj7, 9th and avoids that “awkward” C.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcjazz
    I try to follow Barry’s lead and play “the 6th on the fifth” for that Maj7 sound — G6 as a rootless CMaj7 gives 3rd, 5th, Maj7, 9th and avoids that “awkward” C.
    Why would that be better than just thinking of the same chord as a "3 to 9" sub ? In other words Min7 from the 3rd...

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by princeplanet
    Why would that be better than just thinking of the same chord as a "3 to 9" sub ? In other words Min7 from the 3rd...
    In sub terms it isn’t any better, just a different way of describing the same structure (although potentially voiced differently), but in terms of a repertoire of available chord movement Barry’s formulation belongs to a broader and more consistent system of navigating through the harmony. G6 gives access to a different scale of chords than C6 although both contain Em7.

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Sometimes the best move is to omit the seventh from tonic chords. Add9's are underrated!
    G7Alt: xx3444
    C(Add9) xx2533

    Movement by a half step x 4!

  24. #23

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    Bit of contrary as well

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcjazz
    I try to follow Barry’s lead and play “the 6th on the fifth” for that Maj7 sound — G6 as a rootless CMaj7 gives 3rd, 5th, Maj7, 9th and avoids that “awkward” C.
    Yeah that's a really nice sound. That's the same thing as the commonly used sub iiim7 on I, Em7 on C in this case.

    I just like using the G triad as well. And the Em triad.

    As you say it gets rid of a lot of those problems.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175
    If I'm playing over a Min7 tonic chord, I don't like the sound of the 6th. I tend to play b6. But I know a lot of people don't have a problem with 6th played against Min7. I have hard time.
    m7 is a profoundly different sound to m6. In CST the 13th/6th is usually considered an 'avoid note' in Dorian (that is on a m7 chord)

    OTOH usually if you play b7 on a m6 chord, you resolve it down a half step to 6... maj7 on the other hand is cool.