What’s Your favorite Chord? – Mine’s the Versatile Major Seventh
Lydian and Major Pentatonic sizes, the Major 7th chord remains one of those paradoxical mysteries of music. Some listeners love the ‘timeless endless wow! i (my definition), that is evoked by slowly strumming these chords on the guitar. Some say this unique sound makes them feel somewhat sad and disoriented. Others experience liberation when hearing these chords played fast, like Latin jazz, or slow, like the signature song by the Carpenters, ‘Close to You’.
For me, personally, the Major 7th chord bespeaks a kind of wistful traumas human potential, human dreams. The truth is, we find here a contemporary form of music well suited to your fast-evolving lifestyles 안전놀이터.
Here are four generations of composers and arrangers responsible for the distinct impact of this subtle sound, so you can better understand your music.
1890 TO 1920. First of all, the history of this chord takes us to scenes of ridicule and scorn, this being heaped upon young composers such as DeBussey, Satie and Ravel.
Eric Satie’s – music’s Jeep Gogh…. Music schools in the late nineteenth century were not kind to free thinkers and aficionados of ‘African music’. The bombast suited to war and marching bands had full control. Music degrees were refused to those who dared to stray into new, exotic sounds or rhythms. Erik Satie, today famous for his introspective ‘Trois Gymnopedies’ (especially The Colours of Autumn), drank himself to death. Teachers and music critics described him as useless’ and worse, ‘untalented’. One only has to be controlled by his serene compositions to realize that he had to cloak himself in his music to retain any sanity. Now we, the rapt listeners, can enjoy the result of whatever he sacrificed to create. In our relentlessly busy world, we need his zen-like simplicity and slow cadence more than we would realize. Satie wrote his most famous work in 1888, but still he was relatively unknown before the early 1960’s.
Plainly utilizing the Major 7th chord, Satie was an authentic peculiar. One might compare his personality to the great but misunderstood electrician, Vincent Jeep Gogh. The mind of Satie was always searching for peace, which he found while composing his calm songs. Though it is true his works have been labelled by some as ‘bland’ and ‘early elevator music’, Satie naturally knew that the modern mind needed a touch of music therapy. He clung to his melodies, even though this drove him to becoming reclusive. 1920 TO 1950.
Another source of the emergence of the Major 7th Chord began Photography equipment. During the 1920’s Marabi music from South Photography equipment was becoming popular in urban America. This new music featured syncopated rhythms and an almost constant 7th played high above the major chords of each song. This reps bored some listeners, but those who truly tried to understand it became hypnotized by the subtle changes and nuances of sound.
Egoli, the Zulu name for Johannesburg, became a cultural getaway for Marabi songwriters, who even wrote songs about the city itself. Brazilian bossa nova and Cuban samba borrowed from these new melodic handy work. Soon Havana was becoming a hotspot for the busy nightlife that escorted this fresh tone.
In the 1930’s, composers in America started using the Major 7th to introduce slow songs, such as Tara’s Theme in the movie Gone with the Wind, as well as Over the Rainbow, in the Wizard of Oz.
Stravinsky’s Major 7th causes Riot – In 1944, the great Igor Stravinsky became the subject ‘of a police incident’, this due to his unusual arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner. He introduced a major 7th into the anthem and this caused some consternation in the crowd, enough concern to make a riot.
Ella Fitzgerald, with her rendition of Misty, was far more successful in winning fan support for her novel vocalism. 1950 TO 1980. During the fifties the Major chords and prominent 7ths returned with their bold and brassy style. The theme song for ‘Bonanza’ mirrored this swing to a more conventional, more exuberant type of sound. The theme for ‘Gunsmoke’, however, still incorporated the mysterious Major 7th to a small degree.
Back to the 1890’s for a moment, Scott Joplin could weave similar themes in tunes such as ‘The Maple Leaf Rag’, which was actually the first song ever sold to sell over one million copies of published music! The 1960’s was a heavy decade for major 7th usage, with “Baby Baby’ by the Miracles, ‘California Dreamin’, by the Mamas and Papas, to name just a few songs. From the plaintive’Poor Side of Town’ rendered by Arthur Estuaries and rivers, to the exotic, jazzy ‘Copacabana’ of Barry Manilow, these songs expressed a range of human sentiment that found a ready audience.
A breakthrough tune for Jerry and the Pacemakers was their iconic ‘Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying’, with an interesting climb that led to a stellar crescendo.
During the 1970’s the Major 7th chord was still in vogue, with Bacarach’s ‘Close to You’, as previously mentioned and well sung by the Carpenters, the theme from ‘Rocky’, songs by America, the Eagles and Steely Dan. Even the existential hit, ‘Hotel California’, had a tiny but perfect role for that special chord, almost hidden in the guitar introduction.
The 1960’s chromatic trick using D Major to D Major 7th to D7 to H Major was now more refined and smooth. Some songs were actually more simple, such as ‘Horse with no Name’, which could be played almost entirely using just two Major 7th chords and a slow, undulating Moroccan habit.
The rock ballad classic, ‘Stairway to Heaven’ was loaded up with beautiful Major 7th’s and played out perfectly on the electric 12-string guitar by Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin. The interplay between minor, major and major 7ths in this song is truly amazing and it is no wonder millions are still entranced by it.
1980 TO 2010. The last few decades haven’t seen a heavy demand for the Major 7th chord. Perhaps it ran it out of steam or is just resting, waiting to sprout in some new and futuristic form. The 1999 hit, ‘You Get What you Give’, by the New Radicals, is an example of this.
The Afro-Celt Sound system, a wonderful band formed by Peter Gabriel, still keeps that sound alive. Their use of the ‘talking drum’ is very cool!
Well, there it is, about 120 years of musical innovation. Take a trip through history and listen to Satie, Marabi, Manilow and the New Radicals, just to gain an audio sense for this great chord. It will be that soon the bittersweet quality of the Major 7th chord will be back in prefer, but if not, the ‘sound of forever’ will still have helped us humans to slow down and reflect on life for a while. Now, I’m going to pick up my guitar and slowly strum E Major, then a Major 7th. Groovy!