Clark JM Jazz Mandolin
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Sage Wisdom

"Good improvisation communicates harmonic progression melodically. Effective melodies manipulate harmonic content through the use of guide tones and preparatory gravity notes, masterfully woven in systematic tension, release, and transparent harmonic definition."

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November 15, 2012 | Minor 7th Chord Streams. Under the hood.

We introduced our up-the-neck chord patterns of minor 7th chords last week in the 2nd of our series of repeatable versions of 7th chords, or "streams." We trust you've had the chance to dig into them already and have noticed how easy they are to move up, down, and across strings, and in recognizable sequences. We're taken the time to show you a little more this week on how these relate to each other and repeat.

Recall we talked about inversions with our Dominant 7th Chord Streams, mentioning how you could label the forms based on the lowest sounding string (bass) in Root, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd inversions, designating the 1, 3, 5, and 7 of the chord. If you ever take institutional music theory, this is how you'd analyze and label chords. In jazz and pop slang, you would do this by calling out the bass note this way:


In order, these are Root, 1st inv, 2nd inv, and 3rd inv. As we mentioned, in mandolin chording, the bass note is kind of irrelevant because it's being sound out by a lower instrument in the ensemble. Our point was to let you know with 7th chords, there are only 4 inversions. If you were to go up a hypothetic neck of infinity, each of them would repeat again, 12 frets up (one octave).


Looking at last week's m7 (with connecting) chords, each of the lines starts with a different of the four inversions. Remember, that's ONLY four inversions. You can move this around to all twelve keys, and it isn't that hard to do, practicing these either in the cycle of 5ths (Am7, Dm7, Gm7, Cm7, Fm7, Bbm7, Ebm7, Abm7/G#m7, Dbm7/C#m7, F#m7, Bm7, Em7), or simply moving the patterns up one fret, and then down one fret. You have all 12 possibilities there.

Boo yah!

The connection
Physically, you'll notice the connecting chords are simply the m7 pattern moved up two frets. We pointed out last week, they are the four inversions of the ii7 chord (Bm7 in the key of A minor). The classically trained musician will be reaching the arm in the air from the back of the class screaming, "What about the iim7b5? The iim7b5?" because technically in a minor key, the 5th scale degree is flatted. In A minor, the Bm7 chord would have a lowered 5th, F natural, but in jazz, it's more common, especially in modal jazz, that you'd keep the raised F#, unless you were using the chord to prepare for a V7 chord, the 'ii7b5-V7-I' cadence.

Don't get hung up about it, though. We've gone on record saying you can overthink minor scales and modes. We like to introduce all our exercises in minor as more a nebulous Minor/Dorian environment.

Here are some examples of well-known Modal Jazz standards:
So What
Maiden Voyage
Cantaloupe Island
Little Sunflower
Black Narcissus
Freedom Jazz Dance
Take Five
My Favorite Things

Link to last week's PDF of the above for you to download and practice:
pdf_sm.gif Minor7thChordStreams.pdf

Vamps. Minor modal
Static Changes: Connecting Chords
Minor Fun
Minor Blues: Fresh patterns
Connecting Chords

Posted by Ted at November 15, 2012 11:56 AM

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