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On Jazzology chapter 2, exercise 6, example 2, I have to identify this chord (if it exists):

enter image description here

I thought that it was Cmaj7(b9). My train of thought was (from the lowest to the highest note):

C -> 1st
E -> 3rd
B -> major 7th
Db -> b9.

But I looked at the solution and I saw that the chord displayed is wrong; there isn't any such chord.

The only thing I can see that could be wrong is adding the b9 to a major 7th chord.

Am I allowed to add a b9 to a major 7th chord in Jazz?

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You're allowed to do whatever you want, really. But I get your meaning. :) –  Almo Aug 4 '14 at 14:29
Are you allowed to go outside after 9pm? ;) –  Grey Sep 5 '14 at 14:55

2 Answers 2

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Adding a b9 to a major 7th chord creates a very dissonant sound because the chord then has two different notes that are a half step away from the root. The resolution would be tricky because the b9 would want to go down a half step and so would the 7th and the root needs to go somewhere.

That being said however, I found a few voicing that sound good for it though and it seems it would work well as a non functioning passing tone. So I would go by the oldest musical saying around "If it sounds good, it is good.". As long as it fits wherever you put it, it should be fine.

When playing around with the concept I found going from a C9 then letting the D go down to a Db then going to an Fsus4 finally resolving to an F. Not the prettiest sounding progression ever, but I like it.

enter image description here

As for voicings, inverting the chord does not work. I did not find a voicing outside of root position that would work. Spacing out the root, 7th, and b9th really help pad the dissonance. Omitting the 5th also helps. The voicing I liked best is below and has all the notes.

enter image description here

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Could you post some of the voicings? –  Shevliaskovic Aug 4 '14 at 9:04

You can do whatever you want, which is the beauty of Jazz. It's more a matter of whether other people will still call what you're doing Jazz.

I've implied a flat 9 (which I generally consider an energized root rather than a lowered second) in a piece with a simple, whole-note melody within Db maj of Db-C-D-Db. This works to my ear (and is followed by G maj, E maj, Db maj, to give you some context).

It is going to have more 'dissonance', but this can work fine depending on how you do it. Playing those notes in different octaves and/or with different instruments whose timbres are distinctively different are two tricks. Avoiding playing the two notes together or moving among them quickly are two more. On the other hand, sometimes the extra tension among notes is something we want. Consider Jerry Lee Lewis's right-hand clusters in some of his soloing, or the tense, stabbing strings portion of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring (Dance of the Young Maidens).

Digressing a little, I think that a lot of Westerners, upon hearing a raised root, expect a minor 7th, but you can get a nice and unusual mood from having both a leading tone above and below, and providing the same for the 5th can work well with this, too. For example, C-C#-E-F#-G-G#-B-C .

Here's an example of this sort of thing, and note that if we were analyzing as Jazz we'd probably imagine a 9th which contains the elements you mentioned:

There are major 7ths in this piece, though not all of the 7ths are major. To feel how the notes play together, if you have the means you may want to run this piece through delay or reverb so that the +1 and -1 rub together.

Not all music picks either a major or minor 7th, 3rd, or raised 4th over a "perfect 4th" and sticks to it, and in fact I prefer to avoid this scale-derived nomenclature unless communicating with others who rely on it, as it engenders a mindset which encourages such adherences. To me it's more freeing to think in terms of scale degree while remembering the relative resonances between degrees. Some Jazz traditionalists seem to frown upon this and prefer the prevailing nomenclature.

One more I happened to notice after my last edit:

Very nicely expresses the idea of those two notes, at least one way of using them. Start at 4:30.

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