Skip main navigation
We use cookies to give you a better experience, if that’s ok you can close this message and carry on browsing. For more info read our cookies policy.
We use cookies to give you a better experience. Carry on browsing if you're happy with this, or read our cookies policy for more information.

Skip to 0 minutes and 9 secondsNow in jazz as well, there are three principal chords. The analogue of the major triad is called C major 7. It's a four note chord, because it consists of the major triad at the bottom to which you add the major seventh. The scale that goes with it is the same scale that goes with C triad, namely the Ionian scale - the "do-re-mi" scale.

Skip to 0 minutes and 38 secondsIn classical music, this is sometimes thought of as a dissonant chord because it has B in it and the B and C give you a crunch sound that sometimes isn't very pleasant.

Skip to 0 minutes and 53 secondsBut in jazz, we're very used to that sound. If we finish something and the final chord is C major 7,

Skip to 1 minute and 4 secondsthen the B natural is a very pleasant sounding device.

Skip to 1 minute and 14 secondsThen the analogue of C minor triad is:

Skip to 1 minute and 20 secondsand this time we add to it the minor seventh, the flattened seventh B flat, and that chord is called C minor 7. The scale that goes with it? Well the way I like to think of scales generally is to relate them to the Ionian scale, the Ionian mode. And so what we've done to get this chord is to flatten the third and flatten the seventh. If we do that to the Ionian scale, flatten the third

Skip to 1 minute and 47 secondsand flatten the seventh, we get:

Skip to 1 minute and 52 secondsIndeed that is the most used of the four possible minor scales that exist. That's the most used in jazz and it has the name of the "Dorian mode". It's called a Dorian mode because, in fact, it's B flat major scale rooted on C. Hence it's a mode, but we'll look at that in more detail later on. What I'd like you to remember is that you take the major scale, you flatten the third, you flatten the seventh, and that gets you your principal scale of C minor seven. Then we come to the third chord, which in classical music is called the dominant seventh because it's a passing chord. It takes you to the tonic which in this case is F.

Skip to 2 minutes and 32 secondsBut as we know, in jazz C7 is the blues chord. It is one of the most important chords because it is at the basis of the blues.

Skip to 2 minutes and 46 secondsIf I play a blues and the final chord is:

Skip to 2 minutes and 51 secondsit does not then have to move to F. What's the scale that goes with it? Well we know that we can have the American blues scale,

Skip to 3 minutes and 6 secondswhich consists of the root, the flattened third, the fourth, the flattened fifth, the fifth, the flattened seventh, and the octave. And the advantage of that, as we've seen, - that particular scale - is that you can use that one scale throughout the whole of the blues sequence and it simplifies things greatly. However, we also have available to us the 7th scale itself which is taken from the Ionian scale. and is what do you get when you flatten the seventh.

Skip to 3 minutes and 39 secondsIndeed, we can add the Ionian scale itself

Skip to 3 minutes and 44 secondswith the natural seventh. So what we get if we take those three scales and we superimpose them, is this scale.

Skip to 3 minutes and 57 secondsIn fact, it's sometimes easier to say which notes are not included. The notes which are not included in the full blues scale is D flat (in this case) which is the flattened second, and A flat, which is the flattened sixth. In fact, in some contexts, you can include those notes as well. But as far as the full blues scale is concerned, they are missing. So we have all these notes. But we have to be a little bit careful about the major seventh. Because

Skip to 4 minutes and 26 secondswhen we play the major seventh with the underlying chord of C7 we get a discord, a rather nasty discord. That's known as a minor ninth. And a minor ninth, generally speaking, the ear just doesn't like.

Skip to 4 minutes and 40 secondsYou know, you get this Les Dawson effect: so how does it go now?

Skip to 4 minutes and 53 secondsSo if you just put your hands on the keyboard and play a random set of notes and it doesn't sound all that nice, it's very often because there is a minor ninth in there somewhere which is causing the ear to reverberate. However, the major seventh is in but it needs to be used with discretion. When I write out the scale, I often put the major seventh in parentheses to say it can be used but it must be used carefully. It must be used as a passing note. You can't finish a phrase or important line with that note. It's used to get up to the tonic or the minor seventh - the flattened seventh.

Skip to 5 minutes and 41 secondsThere is one very nice example of this - of using the major seventh - in a blues by Charlie Parker called "Au Privave." This is blues in the key of F.

Skip to 5 minutes and 52 secondsAnd I'll just play the tune.

Skip to 6 minutes and 18 secondsNow the very first phrase has got the major seventh in it. And then the third phrase

Skip to 6 minutes and 29 secondshas again got the major seventh in it.

Skip to 6 minutes and 33 secondsAnd later on, there is one bit (at the end) that goes: You see, it's taking you to the tonic note.

Skip to 6 minutes and 44 secondsSo the major seventh is in, but it must be used with caution.

The three principal chords and scales of jazz

Having learned about the basic chords of classical music, you will now find out about their analogues in Jazz.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Learn Jazz Piano: I. Begin with the Blues

Goldsmiths, University of London

Contact FutureLearn for Support