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A dominant 7th leads to a major 6th and a major seventh leads to the tonic, but what does the note in between the two lead to? If you could tell me what the maqam rules for that are, that'd be fine, or in general, but maqams are the only traditional way of using them.

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"Dominant 7th" means a seventh chord with major third, perfect fifth and minor seventh. I think you're just talking about scale degrees, so I would say that the minor 7th scale degree just falls to whatever form of the 6th scale degree is in the scale, not necessarily the major sixth specifically (although, all other things being equal, the resolution to the major sixth scale degree does tend to be stronger). But an interesting question once you clear up some of the terminology a bit. I hope someone has experience with this. –  Pat Muchmore Jul 3 at 17:22
I guess I was a bit unclear. I mean, "What is the strongest way to resolve a neutral seventh?" and I mean a minor seventh. It's confusing because I always think, "Well it's a dominant seventh chord, so it's got to have a dominant seventh," but I'll try to remember that in the future. –  Nick of Music Jul 3 at 19:15
I can't think of any neutral sevenths in Turkish maqam music. The most unmistakably neutral interval I can think is the second of the descending scale of maqam "Uşşak". In there, it's descending, ascending phrases use something closer to the major second. By the way the 24 tone equal temperament used in Arabic maqam theory is an oversimplification anyway. So, the neutral intervals aren't used as often as that theory suggests. –  cyco130 Jul 3 at 19:54
By the way, something close to the neutral seventh, the "harmonic seventh" (seventh harmonic) is used in barbershop quartet music. There, it's stable, doesn't lead to any other note. –  cyco130 Jul 3 at 19:57
I'm more talking about Arabic maqam. Maqam Jiharkah is the main Maqam with a Neutral seventh. I really don't understand Turkish Maqams, though, because neutral notes in just intonation are incredibly close to 24-tet, like a neutral third is 3 cents off of just intonation in 24-tet. A harmonic seventh is actually further away from a neutral seventh than the minor seventh. In fact, it's also known as a subminor seventh, but I did not know that it was stable and the fact that it is is fascinating. Thank you for the very useful info about Maqam Uşşak! What note does the neutral second resolve on? –  Nick of Music Jul 3 at 20:50

1 Answer 1

In classical music, sevenths are used as dissonances that demand certain resolutions. For instance, the chord C-E-G-Bb is a dominant seventh chord. The note Bb makes a minor seventh with the C and also a tritone with the E, causing a tension that makes the chord want to proceed to F major.

In maqams, on the other hand, everyone is playing minor variations on the same melody, so tension must be built and released on melodic terms. If there is a neutral seventh (example here) it can freely proceed to either the tonic or the sixth, according as the melody is ascending or descending. If descending, the sixth will have a strong tendency to proceed to the next stabler note, the fifth. The neutral third behaves similarly as a conduit between the second and fourth. Ultimately all notes gravitate toward the tonic (D in this excerpt).

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Thank you for your answer! So in maqams neutral notes are basically passing tones? Also, are all thirds and sevenths treated similarly or just neutral thirds and sevenths? Lastly, are fourths and seconds considered stable in maqam? –  Nick of Music Jul 14 at 2:26

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