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The minor seventh, the Dorian scale and basic third-based voicings

We introduce the minor seventh, the related Dorian scale and the basic third-based voicings.
I want to look at the minor seventh chord and its various voicings. So in root position the minor seventh chord
is built out of thirds: minor third at the bottom, major third above it, minor third above that. Relative to Cmajor7 you flatten the third and you flatten the seventh. Similarly, the scale that goes with it - if you relate it to the Ionian mode, the major scale - is what you get when you flatten the third and you flatten the seventh.
We can think of that as the Dorian mode of Bflat major because it’s got 2 flats in it - Eflat and Bflat - so it’s the same scale as B flat major, except it’s rooted on C. A scale that is rooted somewhere else is known as a mode. So it’s a mode of B flat major which is when you start on the second note of the scale. More of that later. As I said, there are 4 minor scales, but this is the one which is used predominantly in jazz - the Dorian mode. Let’s look at voicings. First of all root voicings.
Well we have the open seventh - the analogue of the open seventh for Cmajor7 is - using the root and the minor seventh, and the scale that goes with it. But that does not include the minor third so, strictly speaking, you should either play in the right hand the minor third, or imply the minor third to distinguish it from C7. The next rooted voice is the fifth tenth. I can just about play that.
So there is no B flat in that, again you can play it or imply it in the right hand. Finally there is the seventh tenth which I find a bit hard to play. I can hardly stretch it so usually I roll it,
catching it with the pedal if necessary: the root, the seventh and the minor third an octave higher - the flattened tenth - with the scale. This chord obviously has the third and the seventh in it so there is no requirement to duplicate those in the right hand. What I am mostly interested in are voicings. What we are going to do is the same as we did when we looked at Cmajor7 and we put the ninth in and then we looked at inversions of that. We do the same thing here. We take the minor chord, put the ninth in and we’ll look at inversions of that.
If that is the root position then taking the ninth we get this - called the first inversion. This indeed is one of the chords that we are going to look at - as a chord for Cminor7.
Notice that when we did something similar for C7 we omitted the G because we said that it sounded too consonant and because that’s what other people do. In this case - Cminor7 first inversion - we don’t leave out the G. You may ask why - I don’t know. It’s just that people tend to keep it in. Given the (aural) tradition that jazz is, we’ll keep it in too. Of course you can leave it out. Indeed you can leave out any of the notes and there may be contexts where you want to do that. But we’re talking about the basic voicings and we are going to relate things to the basic voicings. So Cminor7, first inversion, is one of our voicings.
Then we go to the second inversion. The third inversion - we get to our other voicing that we are going to use - the third inversion. First of all notice that they’re 4 note chords. If you think of Cmajor7 the third inversion there is a 4 note chord, but C69 isn’t - it’s a 3 note chord.
And the fingering: 5321 because sometimes we are going to want to use the fourth for thickening; 5321 - we might want to use the fourth for thickening.
Next, the scale that goes with it is - is our Dorian mode. Any tips on finding them? Not really - I suppose I know it’s a first inversion - I know the feel of the chord. It’s usually the feel of the chord that is the dominant way of playing theses things and I aim for it with the little finger of the left hand - finger 5. I know that it is going to be the third - the first inversion - it’s going to be the third of the scale. So for example, if I play an Fminor7, I go for Aflat the minor third of the scale and I get the first inversion.
Gminor7: I go for the minor third - the flattened minor third - which is Bflat and I play the shape and I get the first inversion for Gminor7. What about the other one?
The other one: first of all, it has this characteristic minor second crunch in it, so it’s again a kind of Bill Evans-type chord. I think again all I can say is that I aim for it with the little finger a tone below where I want to go. Do you remember when we got to our thirteenth shape with the little finger aiming for a tone below here - I aim for a tone below. In fact, notice that’s the key note and the bottom (two) fingers are one tone either side of it. I don’t know if that helps - but those are the voicings that I want us to look at.
In fact, we are going to delay further consideration of the minor scale, which we’re going to look at in the next session, because what I want to do now is show how this minor seventh can be used in a context which involves the major scale.
We introduce the minor seventh, the related Dorian scale and the basic third-based voicings.
You can download the chords and the scale for the minor seventh in PDF format at the bottom of this step.
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