Ultimate Learning Zone


JAZZ CHORDS                                    aka HIGHER DISCHORDS/CHROMATIC CHORDS


First some theory


Chords are made up of three or more notes played at the same time. Triads are built up from the first, third and fifth of the scale, eg C major:


(C)           D             (E)           F              (G)           A             B             C

(1)           2              (3)           4              {5}          6              7              8


Now a bit more theory


There are three possible sevenths from each tonic (the note that gives its name to the chord), a MAJOR seventh, a MINOR seventh and a DIMINISHED seventh.


A MAJOR seventh is twelve semitones away from the tonic, eg:


C    C#    D    D#   E    F    F#    G    G#    A      A#     B     C


1     2      3     4      5     6    7       8     9     10      11      12    13


} C     Major 7

A MAJOR seventh chord, then, is one which you would expect from the key signature of the music you are playing. This is why you often get a MAJOR 7 on chords I and IV - they both fit the key signature. Eg, in the key of C major:


(C)   C#   D   D#   (E)   F   F#  (G)   G#    A      A#     (B)    C


(1)    2      3    4      (5)   6   7     (8)    9      10    11      (12)   13


Similarly E is 12 semitones away from F, so F major 7 is made up of FAC & E

Remember that neither of these chords stray from the key signature. Both chords only contain notes from the C major scale. MAJOR sevenths are always specified, eg C maj 7, CM7 or the capital M can be replaced by a triangle.


A MINOR seventh is 11 semitones away from the tonic. In Baroque and Classical music you could often find a minor seventh added to chord ii. In C major, chord ii is D minor:

} D Minor 7


D     D#     E     (F)     F#     G     G#     A     A#     B    (C)     C#   D


(1)    2       3      (4)     5       6       7      (8)     9       10   (11)    12   13



At the same time you could often hear a DOMINANT seventh chord. This is chord V (the Dominant) with an added minor seventh interval. In C the dominant chord is G major, so the chord here is made up of the notes G,B,D and F. The chord does NOT have an F#, the chord comes from the KEY of C major NOT G major. After classical times seventh chords were used more freely without reference to the key signatures of the music, so that in Rock and Jazz today you can find minor seventh intervals added to any triad, not just chord ii or V. This is a very common chord in most music today and so the type of seventh is not normally shown, so E7,B7,G7 all indicate a triad with an added MINOR seventh interval.


A DIMINISHED seventh interval is 10 semitones away from the tonic:


C     C#     D     D#     E     F     F#     G     G#     ?


1      2       3       4       5     6      7        8     9      10


BUT        this note? cannot be an A because we are looking for a diminished SEVENTH.




As we know 'A' is a SIXTH from C. A Seventh from C must be B something. In this case we call the note B DOUBLE FLAT (Bbb), This is the meaning of the term DIMINISHED - the interval has been made smaller (diminished) by one more semitone than the MINOR 7th. In practice, of course, 'A' sounds the same as Bbb (usually) but it doesn't help us you understand the chord to call it 'A'! (this all becomes clearer when we realise that George Elliot was a woman)


Most often you find a diminished seventh chord on the leading note of the scale. In C major the leading note is B the chord is formed as you would expect with the root, third, fifth and DIMINISHED seventh:


(B)           C             (D)          E              ( F)          G             (Ab)


(1)           2              (3)          4              (5)           6             (7)