While reading the Jazz Guitar Chord Mastery book by Joseph Alexander, I've encountered a passage that is not 100% clear to me. I would be very thankful if you might help.

Guitar tab chord voicing

Playing a m7b5 chord on the sixth of a minor chord creates a Minor 6 chord quality. In the above example we create a m6 sound by playing m7b5 on the sixth (D) of the original m7.

So the original m7 is F#m7 chord, am I right? Since the 6th step of F#m7 is D. I'm a little bit confused here because previously an Fm7 chord was mentioned.

Many thanks for taking your time reading this!

4 Answers 4


This passage is unnecessarily complex in my opinion but he is talking about the non-diatonic major 6th of F minor, not the diatonic minor 6th of F# minor.

The m7b5 chord can actually be considered a 3rd inversion of a m6 chord, case in point:

Fm6 is F Ab C D

Fm6 3rd inversion is D F Ab C

Dm7b5 is D F Ab C, identical to Fm6/D

The chord in your diagram is this chord, but with a C as the lowest note, C F Ab D.

So what he is saying in essence is a m7b5 chord played on the (natural) 6th degree of a minor chord sounds like a minor 6th chord built on the tonic (So does a minor 6th chord built on the tonic). Seems like too much information to me.

Some think of m7b5 chords as a m6 with the 6th in the bass. It is a valid way of looking at them. I personally do not since a m7b5 is a naturally occurring vii chord built from the major scale and is a chord with a R,3,5,7 like all other 7th chords. It also often functions as a ii chord of a ii-V-i, especially in jazz. I’m also a bass player by trade and nature and I prefer to spell things from the root when it makes sense to do so.

At the end of his explanation he says “original m7” but I believe he meant “original minor” since there is no Eb anywhere.

  • Thanks a lot for such a detailed answer! Sadly I'm still a little confused :) You wrote that he is talking about the natural 6th of F minor. But isn't it Db, not D? basicmusictheory.com/img/f-minor-scale-on-piano-keyboard.png I probably miss something crucial here)
    – ZenBerry
    Apr 17, 2021 at 8:16
  • 1
    By natural 6th I was referring to the major 6th, I understand your confusion and apologize, some people (me included) sometimes refer to intervals as natural and flat as opposed to major and minor. I will edit my answer to major and minor 6th. Apr 17, 2021 at 8:32

So the original m7 is F#m7 chord, am I right?

You are correct: the original chord is F#m.

Then we create F#mb5: F#,A,C,E (C=b7 of F#).

(When I read your question I was relating a minor to Am as I recognized the shape of the Am chord 123 on the 2nd,3rd and 4th string.)

The minor 6 quality must be referring to Am6, ( A,C,E,F#) and I pretend the author is confusing by mentioning D (6th above F#). This chord shape doesn't contain any D at all.

In the above example we create a m6 sound by playing m7b5 on the sixth (D) of the original m7.


I didn‘t see the remark: 9 fr.

So my assumption above is wrong. As this Am6 shape is transposed to fret 9 the tones E,A,C,F# are transposed 8 semitones up:

C,F,Ab,D = Fm6 (F,Ab,C,D) which is equivalent with the m7b5 of D (D,F,Ab,C).

  • 1
    The voicing shown is a Fm6 or Dm7b5 though. Apr 10, 2021 at 8:39
  • O.k. I‘ve overlooked the remark: 9 fr. Apr 11, 2021 at 20:48

Sometimes two chords contain the same notes, but have quite different harmonic functions.

Sometimes the 'wrong' chord symbol is used for (probably mistaken) convenience.

For instance, take the common progression Bm7(♭5), E7, Am. A standard 'cycle of 5ths' progression. Some publishers seem to think a m7(♭5) chord is 'hard' and prefer to call it Dm6. Same notes - B, D, F, A, But it's very often seen over notation that clearly shows an B root.

WRONG! But you'll come across it, a lot.

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  • That Dm6 is less wrong than writing Bm7(b5) while knowing that it will result in Bm or Bm7 chords being played by guitarists. There's no wrong, there is only wrong for a purpose. What is your purpose. Maybe the publishers could add a graphic explanation box about those chords though. And Dm6/B wouldn't have been any more complex than the E7(b9) after it, IMO. Apr 17, 2021 at 9:05
  • But will a beginner guitarist understand Dm6 any better? We've both seen the queries here about whether Dm6 includes a Bb - the 'minor 6th'.
    – Laurence
    Apr 17, 2021 at 11:54
  • At least they won't play an F# note. Maybe they'll play Dm which works perfectly well, just the B - E bass motion will be missing. It's not necessarily even beginners, it can be fairly accomplished players who just haven't studied theory. In my experience, in pop/rock circles it's more common that guitarists do not know or don't care about the flat five. I also do not get how anyone writes the flat five in parentheses, as if it wasn't important. It's much more important than the "7". Bdim would do the job there, Bm7 doesn't. Apr 17, 2021 at 13:40
  • Are we REALLY discussing how to dumb down chord symbols for beginners who can't read?
    – Laurence
    Apr 17, 2021 at 17:50

The "original m7" must be Fm7. The sixth for F-rooted chord symbols is D, and Fm6 is F - Ab - C - D, which has all the same notes as Dm7b5, just in a different order.

Maybe the following chord diagrams can demonstrate it visually. If you move the Eb in Fm7 down to D, making it an Fm6, it becomes the same shape as one possible fingering for Dm7-5.

Fm7 Fm6 Dm7-5 Bb9

If we add a Bb bass note, we get a Bb9 chord, and you can see the same Fm and Fm6 shapes there. It's useful to know many alternative shapes for chord inversions, so you might spot similarities between differently named chords visually, even without analysing the note names and different enharmonic spellings.

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