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Author Topic: The "seventh" chord in British traditional music  (Read 7929 times)

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Chris Ryall

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The "seventh" chord in British traditional music
« on: August 18, 2010, 08:01:45 AM »

New-topicked from right hand chords ...
There's also a widely-held view that seventh chords aren't appropriate for British traditional music.
That is a new one to me.   I always thought the reason why there is a low D pull on the G row is precisely so that you can play a D7.  maybe this needs to be a new topic.

Your wish is my command!  Bit of preliminary chord theory though ...  
"Seventh" is an unfortunate (ambiguous) choice of name.  There are actually two issues

1. Dominant 7ths are probably OK. In a music style a fundamental divide is between modal harmony where only the notes of a diatonic scale are used (that's most folk tunes) and tonal harmony .. the whole of the rest of music. The discriminant is a different use of 'dominant' chord, which is actually chord five in the series of diatonic (folk scale) notes.  In a modal folk scale that's the only dominant used (we don't risk the dark VII lochrian chord starting on note 7)

  So on our G row G1,A,B,C,D5,E,F#,G we take Theo's D and then alternate notes - D,F#,A,C = a  D7 chord

The key to the sound is that {F# with C} are exactly 3 whole tones apart. As far away from each other harmonically as you can get. They ring together and force 'resolution' back to G. Hence 'dominant'.  If you don't believe this - leave out the D and A completely and just play those two notes. Same effect -it just begs to resolve ...

2. The 'seventh' issue is different in my view. It's perhaps easier to illustrate in D (on a D/G)  

  Pull the A7 chord AG row + C#,E,GD row - quite 'folkie' and resolves to D push...

Now simply move that middle finger onto the G row.
You now play A,C,E,G - which is a Dminor7typo Aminor7 chord. It has no 'tritone'. It's stable.

But the Am7 sounds a bit mushy and jazzy. I suspect it's this chord that is arguably 'untrad'?
« Last Edit: August 18, 2010, 01:20:37 PM by Chris Ryall »
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LJC

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Re: The "seventh" chord in British traditional music
« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2010, 08:52:47 AM »

Some musings on 7th chords (I didn't see the original thread!).

I don't think that there is anything intrinsically wrong with a 7th or m7 chord used in English trad. Where I do think people have a problem is when guitars start playing obviously 7th based accompaniments which can give a very American chord progression feel.
I think this is just down to:

a) a lot of American influenced guitar music (Blues/Country/etc)
b) an easily identifiable 7th chord sound, which is then easily linked to a specific style.
c) many accompanists I have heard use very simple open chords, which get boring very quickly (but then, so does relentless omm-pah)

The very layout of the melodeon makes playing a 7th chord more of an exception which has to be hunted out, meaning that it is used for effect rather than a fail safe chord.

A good majority of ETM which has backing chords or harmony is built on very 'safe' major scale harmonies, and although the 7th chord fits in here, the sound is a little more edgy and perhaps is avoided because of this.

I don't think that m7 chords sound mushy or jazz - as the only way to play an Am or Bm containing chord on a regular tuned DG box I think they can serve to add real interest and colour as long as they are played in a sensitive manner. Because they require the bass button to be depressed as the same time as a chord button there is the opportunity for them to become muddy if the two button combination is held for too long or subjected to an unintentional bellows reversal creating an unpleasant chord change.

And an inflammatory controversial statement to finish with, but why is it regarded 'untrad' to push the boundaries of a trad instrument, technically, melodically, harmonically?
« Last Edit: August 18, 2010, 08:56:10 AM by LJC »
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george garside

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Re: The "seventh" chord in British traditional music
« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2010, 10:07:52 AM »

Some musings on 7th chords (I didn't see the original thread!).

I don't think that there is anything intrinsically wrong with a 7th or m7 chord used in English trad. Where

quote


nothing intrinsically wrong with 7ths or any others provided they genuinely add to the proceedings & both the player & anybody listening /dancing or whatever is of the swamae opinion.  Personally I like the sound of 7ths and therefore use them quite freely on  my 5 row sstradella but manage quite well without them on 4 row stradella. On Dg there is only the occasional oportunity without torturing yourself  so they get u;sed very occasionaly.  Using the same reasoning I tend to minimise the use of minor chords (and playing in minor keys) because I don't particularly like the sound of them aalthugh to many players minors are the bees knees.

Traditional music is , to me, all about making tunes come out the way you want them to  & not to necessarily follow chords that have been added  somewhere along the line to  a tune  composed  eg for fiddle

george
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Rees

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Re: The "seventh" chord in British traditional music
« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2010, 03:14:13 PM »

As a one row melodeon player with no IV chord in the left hand, a seventh is what happens when pulling IV in the right and V in the left.
No jazz, no mush, nothing arty farty, just an unavoidable feature of the instrument - play it loud and proud.
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TomB-R

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Re: The "seventh" chord in British traditional music
« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2010, 06:30:06 PM »

I think Chris's OP has the essence of it in that I can't see any reasonable objection to a chord that lies on the notes of the scale of the tune, (so it could occur in broken/arpeggio form in the tune.)
Whether it has to be playable on a one-row is another question! The F is there on the draw same as the G chord on a C one-row so it seems unreasonable to say no.

Or is no-one suggesting that's not ok?
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Howard Jones

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Re: The "seventh" chord in British traditional music
« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2010, 06:37:29 PM »

Oh dear! I seem to have started something here.  I should perhaps explain that my comment was not melodeon-specific, but a general one.

I've heard the view that for English music you should avoid the 7th chord so often that I thought it was widely known, and almost as widely accepted.  In my experience, most players on any instrument, guitar included, have tended to avoid 7th chords for traditional English folk, unless deliberately going for a more "sophisticated" accompaniment involving more complex chords.

Of course, it is a matter of taste, and I think LJC is right when he refers to the influence of American music, which in turn is more guitar-influenced and where 7th chords sound perfectly fine (to my ears), whereas they don't (again, to my ears) in English music.  This was an instinctive reaction on my part almost as soon as I started accompanying folk songs on guitar, and I would always substitute the 7th chord.

Maybe it's because American music is more rooted around a harmonic structure, whereas English songs were largely unaccompanied and developed a structure which is less dependent on chords (played or implied).

 

Chris Brimley

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Re: The "seventh" chord in British traditional music
« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2010, 07:03:47 PM »

Howard, the discussion has seemed to be about 'flattened 7th' chords rather than 'major seventh' chords - were you talking about both?  Some might say the comment applies to both.

Personally, I don't see anything wrong with adding modern ideas to old tunes, if it helps them. 
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Theo

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Re: The "seventh" chord in British traditional music
« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2010, 07:16:51 PM »

If you play a Chord to start in a dance then D7 is the classic chord for a tune in G.
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waldoB

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Re: The "seventh" chord in British traditional music
« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2010, 07:38:34 PM »

JK something to say about 7th's in the new tunebook.
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Chris Ryall

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Re: The "seventh" chord in British traditional music
« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2010, 08:07:59 PM »

As a one row melodeon player with no IV chord in the left hand, a seventh is what happens when pulling IV in the right and V in the left. No jazz, no mush, nothing arty farty, just an unavoidable feature of the instrument - play it loud and proud.

Rees, I'm absolutely gutted to hear you are to give up Blues.  Progression such as  B7 - C#7 - F#7 aren't exactly trad English, but I thought you'd definitively shown them to be trad Welsh  ::)
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Chris Ryall

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Re: The "seventh" chord in British traditional music
« Reply #10 on: August 18, 2010, 08:16:05 PM »

Maybe it's because American music is more rooted around a harmonic structure, whereas English songs were largely unaccompanied and developed a structure which is less dependent on chords (played or implied).

Actually - I believe the "English" style found it's Way in the early 70's under singer/players like Nic Jones, Tony Rose and Chris Foster. I didn't really understand their music at the time - but it is firmly rooted in simple modal scales. It avoids dominant V (AKA 'seventh') chords - and used 'sus' chords as substitutions. 

This would tend to support our thesis?
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Howard Jones

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Re: The "seventh" chord in British traditional music
« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2010, 11:26:06 PM »

That's the kind of music I grew up on.  One of my early influences on guitar (I only took up melodeon much later) was Geoff Harris, who was in the Halliard before Nic Jones and ran my local folk club, and I also had a few lessons from Nigel Paterson, also of the Halliard, so there was a lot of that kind of stuff around me.  To me, 7th chords just sound wrong in English tunes, although as I said before they sound fine in American music.

I'm a seat-of-the pants instinctive ear player, and my knowledge of music theory is sketchy, so I've no idea whether I'm talking about flattened or major sevenths, or both.  I just go on what sounds right to me.  7ths just sound cheesy and obvious.

waltzman

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Re: The "seventh" chord in British traditional music
« Reply #12 on: August 19, 2010, 01:12:20 AM »

That's the kind of music I grew up on.  One of my early influences on guitar (I only took up melodeon much later) was Geoff Harris, who was in the Halliard before Nic Jones and ran my local folk club, and I also had a few lessons from Nigel Paterson, also of the Halliard, so there was a lot of that kind of stuff around me.  To me, 7th chords just sound wrong in English tunes, although as I said before they sound fine in American music.

I'm a seat-of-the pants instinctive ear player, and my knowledge of music theory is sketchy, so I've no idea whether I'm talking about flattened or major sevenths, or both.  I just go on what sounds right to me.  7ths just sound cheesy and obvious.


When you are talking about D7 in the key of G it would be the dominant 7th chord (b7).  It adds more tension (obviousness?) to the dominant chord to have that b7 in there pulling strongly back to the I chord.  A major seventh is more a 'flavoring' often of the I chord, commonly used in jazz tunes (along with the 6th).  I have heard ( I can't remember where) that dominant sevenths are very unwelcome in Irish music but then chords in general are looked at with disdain by many traditional irish players. 
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Chris Ryall

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Re: The "seventh" chord in British traditional music
« Reply #13 on: August 19, 2010, 08:17:57 AM »

Although it's common to use {base}7 notation for dominant, that's really just a shorthand within the 'major' scale - and convenient as that's what melodeons play automatically. The other notation is the jazz one that numbers the chords. So in 'G' .. G chord is I, A is II, and our D7 is simply called V.

But there are lots of other dominants in use in tonal music (that's music hall, spanish or gypsy harmonic minor, blues, Mozart, Beethoven..).  What they all have in common is that tritone. The tension between F# and C within our 'D7' chord is what forces the ear to G.

Just so we talk the same language ...

D7D F# GA Cjust Dmaj, but with a 'minor' 7  - so dominant
D(major)maj 7   D F# A C#    F# and C# are both in the D scale
this is the ultimate 'relax' chord in jazz
D minor 7D F A Cagain both F and C are in a D (minor) scale  
our 7th 'feels like a colour'

let's flatten that 5th note ..
D min7 b5 D F Ab Ctritone again, but its D fighting Ab!
this is the 'lochrian' VII chord
 -  it wants to resolve to Eb

we can still flattened our 7 note,
 one more notch .. [grunt, creak]
D min b5 bb7D F Ab BGadzooks two tritones!
D fights Ab and F now fights B

If you think the last (fully diminished) chord has no place in English music .. listen again to Kirkpatrick's 'Jump at the Sun'  ;).  

But back to D7 - you don't need the 'chord'. Just playing notes of F# and C together suffices

When you are talking about D7 in the key of G it would be the dominant 7th chord (b7).  It adds more tension (obviousness?) to the dominant chord to have that b7 in there pulling strongly back to the I chord.

... no major 3 + b7 .. no tritone .. no tension
« Last Edit: August 19, 2010, 04:40:14 PM by Chris Ryall »
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Guy

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Re: The "seventh" chord in British traditional music
« Reply #14 on: August 19, 2010, 09:01:49 AM »



Just so we talk the same language ...



I'm not sure we do....that's the only bit I understand!
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george garside

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Re: The "seventh" chord in British traditional music
« Reply #15 on: August 19, 2010, 09:10:09 AM »



Just so we talk the same language ...



I'm not sure we do....that's the only bit I understand!


ear  ear!   ;D
george
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Chris Brimley

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Re: The "seventh" chord in British traditional music
« Reply #16 on: August 19, 2010, 10:56:34 AM »

Quote
D7 D F# G C just Dmaj, but with a 'minor' 7  - so dominant

Should that 'G' be A?

Thanks for your knowledgeable explanation, though, Chris - I've just tried them out on the guitar - my other music chums have been trying to get me to play mi7b5 chords on the bass, and your help has been great in working out what to do.

Just a chord-naming thing, though - I can't see why it was ever decided that a G chord for example with a flattened 7th in it should ever be shown as 'G7', when that would be a better name for 'Gma7'.  It's as if the blues came first, and grabbed the name, and only later did jazz musicians come along and want to play a 'real' 7th note with the major triad!

I've been trying unsuccessfully to find the music to 'Lark in the Morning' (that is, the song, as collected by RVWilliams in Essex in 1904, not the better-known Irish jig, or even the Irish song of the same name and many of the same words).  Although it was probably based on a modal structure whose name I wouldn't know (but hopefully Chris R will?), it contains what to my major scale ears is a beautiful flattened seventh note in it (which is perhaps why Maddy Prior liked singing it so much).
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Chris Brimley

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Re: The "seventh" chord in British traditional music
« Reply #17 on: August 19, 2010, 11:56:22 AM »

Howard, many thanks for sending me the piece of music.

So the blues was invented in England prior to 1905, it would seem!  Cool!
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ladydetemps

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Re: The "seventh" chord in British traditional music
« Reply #18 on: August 19, 2010, 12:01:18 PM »



Just so we talk the same language ...



I'm not sure we do....that's the only bit I understand!
I don't have a clue either. Might as well be in a foreign language.
...this is why I don't like/understand chords.

LDbosca

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Re: The "seventh" chord in British traditional music
« Reply #19 on: August 19, 2010, 12:07:29 PM »


When you are talking about D7 in the key of G it would be the dominant 7th chord (b7).  It adds more tension (obviousness?) to the dominant chord to have that b7 in there pulling strongly back to the I chord.  A major seventh is more a 'flavoring' often of the I chord, commonly used in jazz tunes (along with the 6th).  I have heard ( I can't remember where) that dominant sevenths are very unwelcome in Irish music but then chords in general are looked at with disdain by many traditional irish players. 

I don't know about chords in general being looked at with disdain, don't let the mustard board give you a skewed impression of this ;) It is true that Irish music often isn't based around chord progressions...meaning that progressions have to be fitted around it, making accompanying chord progressions a bit different to what would be found in some other music.

Though, since you say it, I reckon Dominant 7th chords are most suited to things like hornpipes that usually have a more definite chord progression than many reels and jigs.


When you are talking about D7 in the key of G it would be the dominant 7th chord (b7).  It adds more tension (obviousness?) to the dominant chord to have that b7 in there pulling strongly back to the I chord.

... no major 3 + b7 .. no tritone .. no tension


But there is a tritone...by b7 waltzman means minor seventh, i.e. D F# A C

Just a chord-naming thing, though - I can't see why it was ever decided that a G chord for example with a flattened 7th in it should ever be shown as 'G7', when that would be a better name for 'Gma7'.  It's as if the blues came first, and grabbed the name, and only later did jazz musicians come along and want to play a 'real' 7th note with the major triad!

G7 is a major chord with a minor 7th. Gmaj 7 is a major chord with a major 7th. If one were to see "G" on its own, one would presume that it is major. The most common occurrence of a 7th chord is in the dominant 7th, which is a minor 7th, so that's your "plain" 7 after it, giving G7. Gmaj 7 is more exceptional, so the maj is added to indicate that the seventh is major, not the first three notes of the chord. I don't know if I've said that clearly but that's why G7 is a dominant 7 chord.

If you called G dom 7 "Gmaj 7" then what would you call G major 7, Gmaj 7maj? ;)

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