• Exposed: The Minor Seventh Chord From An Advanced Musician’s Perspective

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,Piano,Theory

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    In today’s lesson, we’ll be taking a look at the minor seventh chord from the advanced musician’s perspective.

    One of the reasons why every serious musician should be interested in learning more about the minor seventh chord is that in the classic 2-5-1 chord progression, the scale degree chord of the second degree of the scale is the minor seventh chord.

    In addition to that, the minor seventh chord is one of the three most important scale degree seventh chords in the major and minor key – the other two being the major seventh and dominant seventh chord.

    Before we go into the advanced musician’s perspective to the minor seventh chord, let’s do a review on it.

    Quick Insights On The Minor Seventh Chord

    Although we’ve covered the minor seventh chord in a previous lesson, it is important for us to get started by refreshing our minds on it.

    The minor seventh chord is the chord of the first degree in the natural minor scale. For example, in the A natural minor scale:

    …the minor seventh chord can be formed on the first scale degree (aka – “the tonic”), which is A:

    “Here’s How It’s Formed…”

    Using the pick-skip technique, the A minor seventh chord can be formed by picking A:

    …skipping B and picking C:

    …skipping D and picking E:

    …picking F and picking G:

    Altogether, we have the A minor seventh chord:

    Beyond knowing what the minor seventh chord is, let’s go deeper and expound on these words:

    • Minor
    • Seventh
    • Chord

    The Term Minor – Explained

    Musical elements like scales, intervals, chords, chord progressions etc., can have either of these characters:

    • Major
    • Minor

    Due to the fact that the character of a key can either be major or minor, the chord of the first degree of a key usually takes on the character of the key. Hence, the use of the term minor here suggests a possible relationship with the minor key.

    The Term Seventh – Explained

    Intervals and chords are can be quantified using cardinal numbers like first, second, third, etc.

    The term seventh is used to describe a chord [or interval] that encompasses seven degrees of the scale.

    The A minor seventh chord:

    …we came across earlier, encompasses SEVEN tones of the A natural minor scale:

    …from A to G:

    The Term Chord – Explained

    A chord is a collection of three or more related notes (agreeable or not) that are played or heard together.

    A minor seventh chord:

    …consists of four notes that are related by the A natural minor scale:

    …and third intervals.

    The notes of the A minor seventh chord:

    …are the first, third, fifth, and seventh tones of the A natural minor scale:

    …and are apart from each other by third intervals. A to C:

    …is a third interval, and so are C to E:

    …and E to G:

    Let’s proceed into our main focus in today’s lesson – the breakdown of the minor seventh chord into mutual third intervals.

    Intervallic Breakdown Of The Minor Seventh Chord Into Mutual Third Intervals

    The minor seventh chord can be broken down into mutual third intervals. For example, the C minor seventh chord:

    …can be broken down into the C minor third interval (C-Eb):

    …and the G minor third interval (G-Bb):

    These third intervals:

    C-Eb

    G-Bb

    …are the intervallic components of the C minor seventh chord.

    Advanced musicians consider the minor seventh chord as a combination of two mutual third intervals, and it helps them in the A & B voicing of the minor seventh chord.

    The A & B Voicing Of The Minor Seventh Chord

    Voicing is the consideration of the notes of a chord as voices – soprano, alto, tenor, and bass voices.

    Due to this consideration, the notes of a chord are rearranged using certain techniques (commonly known as voicing techniques) and the A & B voicing technique is one of those techniques.

    In the A voicing of a chord, the third tone is played before the seventh tone, while the seventh tone is played or heard before the third tone in the B voicing of a chord. Using the C minor seventh chord:

    …as a reference, in the A voicing of the C minor seventh chord:

    …the third tone (which is Eb):

    …is played [or heard] before the seventh tone (which is Bb):

    In the B voicing of the C minor seventh chord:

    …the seventh tone (which is Bb):

    …is played [or heard] before the third tone (which is Eb):

    Altogether, the C minor seventh chord can either be played in its A voicing:

    …or its B voicing:

    How Mutual Third Intervals Help Advanced Musicians To Switch Between The A & B Voicing Of A Chord

    Advanced musicians find it easy to switch from the A voicing of a given minor seventh chord to its B voicing because they have a proper understanding of the mutual third intervals it’s made up of. For example, the C minor seventh chord:

    …is made up of the C minor third interval:

    …and the G minor third interval:

    When the C minor third interval:

    ….is played before the G minor third interval:

    …this produces the A voicing of the C minor seventh chord:

    Conversely, when the G minor third interval:

    …is played before the C minor third interval:

    …this produces the B voicing of the C minor seventh chord:

    “Let’s Take Another Example…”

    For example, in the A voicing of the G minor seventh chord:

    …where the G minor third interval:

    …is played before the D minor third interval:

    …playing the D minor third interval:

    …before the G minor third interval:

    …produces the B voicing of the G minor seventh chord:

    Following the same procedure, advanced pianists switch from the A voicing of any minor seventh chord to its B voicing by changing the order of the third intervals.

    Final Words

    From what we’ve learned so far in this lesson, I’m doubly sure that you can break up any minor seventh chord into mutual intervals, and also switch from the A voicing of any given minor seventh chord to its B voicing with little or no effort.

    We’ll continue this discussion in another lesson – see you then!

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as a music consultant and content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with thousands of musicians across the world.

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