20 November 2015

Post 298: MAJOR 6th AND MINOR 9th

Think of a chord containing the notes C - E - G - A. Which chord is it?

C6th, of course. But it is also the chord of A minor 7th (in its first inversion).

Knowing this can be very helpful if you are trying to keep your playing as simple as possible or if you are improvising over a chord progression at high speed.

You can make things even simpler if you omit the 'A' in the chord above. Your audience will not notice. It means you can play the chord of C major when the music asks for A minor 7th. And you will get away with it!

Obviously this applies right through the scale. Examples:

For B minor 7th you can substitute D major.
For C minor 7th you can substitute Eb major.
For D minor 7th you can substitute F major.
For E minor 7th you can substitute G major.
For F minor 7th you can substitute Ab major.

And so on.

In traditional jazz, you come across the progression:

VIm7 / I  |

This is exactly what I'm discussing. It's good to know you get away with playing it simply as:

  I  |

But please keep this secret just between you and me. I don't want to be accused of encouraging laziness!

And we don't want to get into Big Trouble with the British government's Jazz Band Regulator - OFFSTOMP.
P.S. Since writing the above, I have received this helpful message from Tom Corcoran:

This is an interesting post about chords that are technically different but sound the same. One of the first things uke players learn is Am7=C6, which is the four open strings in standard uke tuning.

This website has some good information on synonym chords (that's a new term I just learned). I now see why Am7=C6; both chords contain the same notes, but in a different sequence. The diminished chords on the uke are also a good example of synonyms where the same chord shape and position can apply to four different keys.


Thanks, Tom. I like that notion of 'synonym chords' - it's new to me too. And that is a website we can certainly recommend.

And from Edward Desenne I have received this contribution:

I play both alto and soprano sax and clarinet, both transposing instruments. That means that if I play a minor third below concert pitch on my alto sax pitched in Eb I will play the same note as in concert pitch.

To play a C Major chord in concert pitch I need to finger an A minor 7th chord as notated in music on my alto sax, which is a tricky chord to finger on alto saxes, which is played more easily in second inversion. However if I wish to play an Eb minor 7th concert pitch chord I just play up a minor third a Major C chord on my alto sax, it's easiest natural scale.

That is why the easiest, natural scales for the alto sax are concert Eb, Ab Bb, E, F but the clarinet, trumpet, tenor sax and all instruments pitched in Bb only need to rise one whole tone in order to play the same note as in concert key. The fingering for playing most scales on tenor sax is much easier on alto sax and with a larger tonal range over the octaves, but sometimes the pitch of the alto corresponds better to accompany the female voice. End of my lecture!!!!!!