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Is there a difference between Cmaj♭7 and Cdominant7 chords? As far as I can tell they are the same, is one used more commonly than the other?

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    FWIW, I have never seen those, only "C7". Where did you find such chord symbols? Dec 7 '20 at 9:10
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    They're simply not chord names as we know them! Dominant isn't often used, as a simple '7' assumes it's dominant.Check answers for 'What are MA7 and MI7 chords'.
    – Tim
    Dec 7 '20 at 9:12
  • Thanks for the help. I’m very new to naming chords, “Cmajb7” was just something that stuck with me from a few years ago ‘cause it’s intuitive to me. But this advice has helped a lot :)
    – Zach Vesty
    Dec 7 '20 at 10:48
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    I don't understand downvoting of the question. The chord symbols are indeed wrong, but it doesn't make it a bad question, and the answer corrects the symbols. Dec 7 '20 at 15:24
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    @user1079505, I agree. I see too many downvotes apparently for no other reason than the OP posts a misunderstanding or has trouble wording the question. Questions are posted because the OP doesn't understand something. We have to read through the words and try to understand the problem. Dec 7 '20 at 16:49
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I agree with John's explanation, but I would like to point out one important thing, which is probably the cause of the misunderstanding in the question. The symbol Cmajb7 is not only uncommon, but it is actually a contradiction in itself. The maj in the symbol Cmaj7 does not refer to the quality of the triad but it refers to the seventh. So the correct parsing of Cmaj7 is C - maj7, and not Cmaj - 7. I think the question only makes sense if one uses the latter parsing, because then it would make perfect sense to specify what kind of seventh should be added on top of the major triad. However, with the correct parsing - and this is of course just convention - the symbol Cmajb7 is non-sensical, because it says: take a major triad C and add a major flat seventh majb7, which is of course impossible.

So the only common symbol for a C dominant seventh chord is C7, because it is understood that 7 stands for a minor seventh. If we want a major seventh, we need to use maj7, or, alternatively, any of the common symbols that indicate a major seventh chord, such as CΔ7 or CMa7. I personally only use CΔ7 and Cmaj7 because they never cause misunderstandings.

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    A lucid explanation. There's lots of confusion with the numbers, but if we consider the number to be more related to the major or minor bit, it makes sense. That's until we encounter Cm6...!
    – Tim
    Dec 7 '20 at 16:35
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    @Tim: Thanks Tim. Yes, it's all about knowing the conventions, but actually Cm6 and Cmaj7 both makes sense in the same system, because we need 'm' to denote the minor triad, and we just use 'C' to denote the major triad. In that sense it's clear that the 'm' in Cm6 does not refer to the '6' but to the basic triad.
    – Matt L.
    Dec 7 '20 at 17:04
  • Thanks for this answer (+1) and pointing out the contradiction, something I should have done. @Tim makes a good point, I’ve wondered in the past why 7 was chosen to mean m7 in chord symbols myself since any other extension, 6, 9, 13 are all major unless flattened. Then again chord symbols are not always an exact science! Dec 7 '20 at 17:08
  • @JohnBelzaguy: That's a good point. I guess nobody knows exactly why things developed that way, but I'd guess that a dominant seventh chord is just so much more common (in traditional folk music and conventional classical music), that it made sense to use a simple symbol for that only seventh chord that was used next to all the triads. Only when jazz started using seventh chords as basic harmonies did it become necessary to use other symbol in addition to '7', and '7' was already taken. When I started out I always used the mixolydian scale as the basis for understanding the naming of tensions.
    – Matt L.
    Dec 7 '20 at 17:12
  • @JohnBelzaguy - my guess is usage. By far the most common '7th' chord is dominant, so that gets the simplest label. But, do I feel a question coming on..?
    – Tim
    Dec 7 '20 at 17:12
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Technically they are the same thing BUT the spellings Cmaj♭7 and Cdominant7 are not used for chord symbols. if you want a chord that is spelled C-E-G-B♭ you simply write C7. That indicates Root, M3, P5 and m7. If you want C-E-G-B (M7) then you would write Cmaj7, although there are other ways to indicate a major 7th chord, such as ma7, M7 to name a couple.

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The suffix major (Maj7) is referring to the 7th and not to the chord quality.

So there is only C7 (major chord with minor 7th) or Cmaj7 (major chord and major 7th)

But yes, the C7 can have different functions:

In classical music theory the C7 chord has the function of the dominant resolving to the tonic F.

In blues the C7 is the tonic (on C major) and is stable even it has a minor seventh (blue note - also the subdominant isn't notated as F b7 in the Blues and Jazz notation. F7 means here a minor 7th). In classic IV7 is corresponding to F Maj7 in Jazz.

But the symbol is the same - like others comments and answers say.

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  • What would be the convention for naming C-Eb-G-Bb? If I understand correctly, Cmin7 would be C-E-G-Bb, C7
    – Zach Vesty
    Dec 7 '20 at 22:16
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    C-E-G-Bb is notated as C7 (=major third, minor seventh). Spelling C7 = dominant seventh chord. The chord symbol for C-Eb-G-Bb is Cm7 (Spelling: C minor seven (minor third, the 7 is minor too! but not specified - in contrary to the minor chord Cm with major 7th = Cm +7, in this case the seventh is clarified by a natural resp. a sharp sign. Dec 7 '20 at 22:35
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I think your intention is understood, and the chords would be the same, but you aren't following the chord symbol conventions.

It may help to understand the modifiers in chord symbols by adding parentheses which can be added to group the modifiers with the thing they modify. Normally parentheses will be added only to the chord extensions, but I will add them to all elements, just to illustrate...

Cmaj♭7 and Cdominant7

(Cmaj)(♭7)

  • Notice the maj modifies the root. The four triad types appended after the root letter: maj, 'min, aug, dim`. Depending on the notation system other symbols can be used, but they are still appended.
  • the modifies the 7, all the modifiers after the triad type are prefixed before the number

(Cdominant)(7)

The second chord is obviously meant to mean C dominant seventh chord. But, is the modifier 'dominant' for the triad (Cdominant)(7) or the seventh (C)(dominant7)? The problem is dominant isn't a modifier for either a triad type or a simple interval. It's not a 'dominant' triad. The triad part is major. The interval of a seventh isn't 'dominant'. Technically it's a minor seventh. 'Dominant' refers to the whole chord. Again, the meaning is clear, but that isn't a modifier of only one part of the chord.

The default values of all the elements - the triad type and the extensions - are those of a dominant V13 in a major key. Spelled in C major it would be G B D F A C E. In terms of intervals above the root it would be major third, perfect fifth, minor seventh, major ninth, perfect eleventh, major thirteenth.

That brings us back to...

(Cmaj)(♭7) where the maj is redundant, we know it by default. The is a bit tricky. Sevenths are minor by default, and in this chord symbols system means lower by half step, but surely you didn't mean to make a minor seventh a diminished seventh! I'm sure you meant it is lowering a major seventh to minor. But, as sevenths are minor by default, ♭7 is redundant too. You only need to write C7.

Watch out for some confusing points in chord symbols, like...

  • Cdim7 where dim could apply to both the triad and seventh
  • sharp and flat modifiers used as shorthand for 'raised' or 'lowered' even when an accidental isn't used in the actual spelling like Bmin7♭5 spelled B D F A with no flat.
  • sharp isn't used to raise the minor seventh, maj or a Δ get used, parenthesis help readability with things like Cmin(maj7)
  • alternate possibilities like C7♯5 versus Caug7 versus C7alt or C7sus4 versus C11
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  • 'Sevenths are minor by default'. That statement is unstable. Unless you mean ' any chord with a bare 7 means that 7th is m7'. It's only diminished 7ths that have that 7th dropped by a tone, which you know.
    – Tim
    Dec 12 '20 at 12:48
  • @Tim, I mean the number 7 means minor seventh, you need to add a modifier to the seven to get major seventh maj7 or diminished seven dim7, or one of the other symbols like Δ or o. If you look at groupings like this... Gm7 ...means (Gm)7 not G(m7) that parenthetical grouping is made clear by a case like (Gm)(Δ7). The m modifier mean minor for the triad not the 7. The 7 is understood to always be a minor seventh unless modified. I call that a default value. Dec 12 '20 at 19:14

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