Chord Analysis: The Minor Major Seventh Chord

Our goal in this lesson is to analyze the minor major seventh chord.

Although the minor major seventh chord is not commonly used by gospel musicians, you can add it to the list of chords in your arsenal.

But beyond the application of the minor major seventh chord, it’s important to understand its quality, stability, width, tonal function, and chord symbol.

Let’s get started with a short note on the minor major seventh chord.

A Short Note On The Minor Major Seventh Chord

There are two key types —  the major key and the minor key. The minor major seventh is the 1-chord in the minor key.

In the key of A minor:

…the minor major seventh chord can be formed using any of these two scales:

The A harmonic minor scale:

The A melodic minor scale:

The first, third, and fifth tones of both scales are A, C, E, and G#:

…and that’s the A minor major seventh chord.

So, in every minor key, the minor major seventh chord can be formed when the first, third, fifth, and seventh tones of the harmonic minor and melodic minor scale in that key are played (or heard) together.

“Check Out All The Minor Major Seventh Chords On The Keyboard…”

The C minor major seventh chord:

The C# minor major seventh chord:

The D minor major seventh chord:

The Eb minor major seventh chord:

The E minor major seventh chord:

The F minor major seventh chord:

The F# minor major seventh chord:

The G minor major seventh chord:

The Ab minor major seventh chord:

The A minor major seventh chord:

The Bb minor major seventh chord:

The B minor major seventh chord:

Chord Analysis: The Minor Major Seventh Chord

We’ll be analyzing seven things about the minor major seventh chord and the goal of this analysis is to give you a deeper perspective to the chord.

Some of the things we’ll cover include:

Underlying scale

Class of harmony

Quality

Stability

Width

Tonal function

Chord symbol

Let’s do it!

Underlying Scale

The minor major seventh chord has two underlying scales: the harmonic minor scale and the melodic minor scale.

Using the A minor major seventh (as a reference):

The A harmonic minor scale:

…and the A melodic minor scale:

…are the underlying scales of the minor major seventh chord.

Its important to know the underlying scale of a chord because it helps in the formation of the chord and in improvisation as well.

Class Of Harmony

The class of harmony of any given chord is determined by the distance between successive chord tones.

When the minor major seventh chord is played in root position, the distance (aka – “interval”) between successive chord tones is a third interval.

The C minor major seventh chord has the following third intervals between successive chord tones:

C to Eb (minor third):

Eb to G (major third):

G to B (major third):

The class of harmony associated with third intervals is known as the tertian harmony. Suffice is to say that the minor major seventh chord is a tertian chord.

Attention: Tertian chords are unique because when played in root position, the distance between successive chord tones is a third interval.

Quality

The interval between the root and third tone of any give chord determines its quality.

In the case of the minor major seventh chord where the interval between the root and third tone is a minor third interval, the minor major seventh chord is classified as a minor chord.

The interval between the root and third tone of the A minor major seventh chord:

…which are A and C respectively:

…is a minor third interval.

Consequently, the A minor major seventh chord (and every other minor major seventh chord) is a minor chord.

Stability

Stable chords are chords that have this feeling of repose when played and the concept of stability varies from one chord type to another.

There are two things that determine stability:

  1. The interval between the root and fifth tone.
  2. The intervallic components of the chord.

The interval between the root and the fifth tone of a minor major seventh chord is a perfect fifth interval –which is associated with stability.

However, if the intervallic components of the minor major seventh chord is anything to go by, there’s an interval between its third and seventh tone that contributes to its dissonance.

In the minor major seventh chord, the interval between the third and seventh tone is an augmented fifth interval — which sounds dissonant. In the A minor major seventh chord, the interval between the third and seventh tones which are C and G#:

…is an augmented fifth interval.

If you put these two considerations together, you can say that although the minor major seventh chord is a dissonant chord (because of the interval between its third and seventh tone), it is a fairly stable chord because of the perfect fifth interval between its root and fifth tone.

Width

There are three classes of chords according to width:

Triads

Seventh chords

Extended chords

The minor major seventh chord is a seventh chord type because when played in root position, it encompasses a seventh interval. The A minor major seventh chord (in root position):

…encompasses A to G#:

…which is for all intents and purposes a seventh interval.

Tonal Function

The minor major seventh chord is the 1-chord in the minor key and can be transposed to the 4th scale tone in the minor key.

In the major key (let’s say the key of C major):

…the minor major seventh chord can be played as the 6-chord (the A minor major seventh chord):

…or the 2-chord (the D minor major seventh chord):

Chord Symbol

There are so many chord symbols for the minor major seventh chord and here are some of them:

mM7

mΔ7

Δ7

mM7

m/M7

m(M7)

minmaj7

m

m7

m7+

The list goes on and on.

Final Words

Beyond knowing what the minor major seventh chord is, we’ve analyzed it. In a subsequent lesson, we’ll be looking at its application in gospel harmony.

See you then!

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Chuku Onyemachi

Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. I started teaching musicians in my neighbourhood in April 2005. Today, I'm humbled to work as a music consultant with HearandPlay Music Group for musicians in Africa and beyond.

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