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dom 7 (#11) or (b5) chords

jimvencejimvence Austin, TX✭✭
edited November 2013 in Licks and Patterns Posts: 73
I've been working on A Night In Tunisia, which got me to thinking about dominant chords with the altered fifth. In tune (as played in D minor), it features A7b5 (altered V over the D minor) in the theme, and Eb7#11 in the Interlude. This got me to thinking about the dominant seventh chord with the flatted fifth?

First question -- for practical purposes, do you think of the b5 or #11 as the same chord?

I believe the theory goes that a dom 7 b5 means the chord should have all its fifths flatted, where the dom 7 #11 says the chord can have both a natural fifth as long as you have a flatted fifth as well.
That is all well and good for piano players that can hit up to ten notes in a chord, but for a guitarist, I think of them as the same chord.

Second -- what pattern, arp or scale come to mind when improvising?

Back to Night In Tunisia, since the A7b5 is a resolving dominant (and in theory allows the natural fifth), D minor works, especially with an added b9 (Eb) to emphasize the b5 of the A7.

The interlude's Eb7#11 is not acting as a "V" chord. So I am looking at the whole tone scale (over Eb in this case). But I prefer learning chord arps, and what seems to work best in this case is to take the four note dominant 7 arp a flatted fifth away (Eb7 ~ A) and flat the fifth of that (so E becomes Eb). It basically becomes a four note whole tone scale.

In a time constrained issue, if you were building up your skill over this altered chord type, what one scale, or arp pattern do you like?


  • AmundLauritzenAmundLauritzen ✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 236
    Here's my take on it.

    7#11 is a lydian dominant sound.

    That scale has the fifth and sharp 11.

    When I play on such a chord, I usually hear melodic minor kind of lines(lydian dominant comes from melodic minor).

    Usually, such a chord is used when you extend the IV minor to I cadence to make a II-V.

    In Cherokee we find Ab7 going to Bbmaj7. 7#11 is implied here, and modern jazz players will usually play that. But what really happens is Ebm7 Ab7 Bbmaj7. But you can add and remove II-V's to lone dominants as you wish in jazz.

    Look for where the chord goes. If it resolves up a whole step like in Cherokee, it is a lydian dominant kind of sound. In this case, you can play a 7#11 because it will sound right.

    However, to me a 7b5 can be many things. It can simply be a chosen decoration for a dominant on any scale degree. It can be a V7, a secondary dominant or a tritone sub of any of those. The b5 can be put on any dominant chord as decoration because you can always tritone sub a dominant.

    Always look what comes before and after a dominant chord. Speaking of that, in bebop jazz, diminished chords are often rootless dominants. Look before and after to determine which one it is.
    Bbmaj7 Bdim Cm7 F7 for instance, is a II-VI7-II-V7 where the G7 has been replaced with a Bdim chord. But beware: in gypsy jazz and swing tunes, diminished chords were often used simply as passing chords with no function whatsoever. Just a side note there on the diminished to emphasize the importance of context.
  • Most people in jazz theory, any of the arranging books I have and my take is that a sharp 11 chord also has a perfect fifth in it somewhere ...or at lest a space for one :mrgreen: and as Amund says indicate a different harmony stucture. Remember there are no hard and fast rules ONCE YOU KNOW AND CAN USE the rules of harmony...whether aurally or both theoretically and aurally.

    If someone doen't get that...thats ok is just a limitation on how and what one can say.

    IMO They are quite different chords and certainly some would say a sharp 11 also has a 9 and b7 note in them . In small combo jazz and on guitar quite often what ends up getting played are the important colour notes and the root and fifth for bass and maybe bottom note of guitar.

    A 7b5 chord is quite a different beast from a Mi7b5 chord.

    Added as edit....Didnt see Amunds post....great words there too.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
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