So I was messing up with chords the other day and I came with a case where the chord could be both minor and major. I'm wondering if it can be true or if a chord is either, but cannot be both at the same time.

The chord I'm talking about is a Gmin(add♭13) which is also a E♭maj7. I'm playing it thus:

  • 2
    I would make a small distinction about your language. When I first read the title, I was thinking that you were trying to determine if a chord could have both major and minor thirds, arguably making it both major and minor with the same root. I found that the question is actually about analyzing a set of notes to determine which chord tone is the root, where one would make the chord major and another root would make it minor. This would be an example of how theory and analysis can be subjective and/or ambiguous. One could interpret it as either chord but convention makes the Eb most likely. Mar 11, 2015 at 16:33
  • I put in a chord diagram for your voicing. Please confirm that it’s what you meant. Mar 12, 2015 at 0:24
  • Yeah thank you! I'm from stackoverflow, hehe, I was not sure how to produce that diagram.
    – Jazzwave06
    Mar 12, 2015 at 0:34
  • @sturcotte06 FYI, we use an extension called jTab in code blocks. Mar 12, 2015 at 5:51

4 Answers 4


It depends on how you arrange the notes in a chord. The answer is yes, but not on all chords.

If you play a C major chord with a major 6th, you have: C,E,G,A. This is a major chord.

You can rearrange it to create an Am7 chord, if you put the A as the lowest note: A,C,E,G which is a minor 7th chord.

So, in your case, you can read your chord as Gm add b13 or Eb maj7/G (G as the bass); whichever works for you. Usually, you would see this kind of chord as Eb maj7/G rather than Gm add b13.

  • Perfect, thank you. Could this chord be used for a modal change, since it can be both?
    – Jazzwave06
    Mar 9, 2015 at 21:22
  • Sure; Eb could be the Ionian mode and Gm the Phrygian Mar 9, 2015 at 21:23
  • 1
    I would certainly say that it is much more common and more likely that you would call this chord EbMaj7, more specifically, EbMaj7/G, since G is the lowest note in your voicing. Add b13 is very uncommon to see, especially outside the Jazz world. Mar 11, 2015 at 16:27

The 13th in a minor chord becomes a 5th when it's flattened. So it reverts in sound to a component of the normal triad.; Thus the chord doesn't really exist. It is Ebmaj7, as you state.

Taking D6th notes and swapping them around produces Bm7, so the answer can be 'yes'.

At a tangent, the Hendrix chord, say, E7#9 could be construed as both a major and minor chord at the same time, certainly sound-wise, if not technically.

  • I'm not good with chord notation, but b13 is compared to the major scale. Taking what you just said, I'd call the chord a GminAdd13
    – Jazzwave06
    Mar 9, 2015 at 21:20
  • But you stated b13.
    – Tim
    Mar 9, 2015 at 21:22
  • 1
    I'm not from a musical background. The interval between the 5th and the 6th, in the major scale, is a whole tone. In the minor scale, it is a half tone. If I'm refering to the major scale, then I'm adding a flattened 6th. If I'm refering to the minor scale (which 6th is already flattened), i'd add a 6th. That's how I see it, sorry if I don't have the same notation as you =(
    – Jazzwave06
    Mar 9, 2015 at 21:24
  • I recently learned that in jazz, the base interval is seen as being from the major scale regardless of the triad. Contrast with classical chord naming where the triad name implies all the unaltered intervals above it. So A Cb E G# is Am(nat. 7) in jazz and Am(#7) in classical. Point being chord naming is far from standardized. Mar 10, 2015 at 17:17
  • @ToddWilcox - in A major, 3 is C#. Flatten that for minor, and it is C natural. Cb is equivalent to B. The chord should be A,C,E,G# to make what is known as A minor, major 7th. Default is, as you say, the major scale notes.
    – Tim
    Mar 10, 2015 at 17:54

Shevliaskovic and Tim are both right I just want to point something very important about how chords work in general. Because we build chords in thirds and we consider triads (3 note chords) to be the basic unit of a chord, the more notes you have the more triads you can break them into.

For example the E♭Maj7 is spelled:

E♭ G  B♭ D

We can make two different basic triads out of this which are:

  • E♭ major (E♭, G, B♭)
  • G minor (G, B♭, D)

These both are the basic building block of the you noted the chords (Gm(add♭13) and E♭Maj7) can be considered when naming a chord. Depending on what key you are in, where you are going, and where you are coming from one name will make more sense then the other.

As a result of the added tone you can see that both a major and minor triad can be derived and the resulting chord will reflect that whether you call it a major chord or a minor chord. As your chord get bigger in general you add "color" to the sound and the resulting sound is a combination of the sounds not just one or the other.

Another good example of this is the dominant 7th which build off C is:

C  E  G  B♭

We can make two different basic triads out of this which are:

  • C major (C, E, G)
  • E diminished (E, G, B♭)

In this chord we don't just want the typical major chord, we want the dissonance that diminished chord brings, but at the same time we want to be more stable which is found in the major chord. So the chord quality blend in a way we take advantage of.


Yes. Some said it depends on how you arrange the notes. Wrong. It depends on which note you have in the bass. Play a low C with your left hand and you will hear C6. Play a A and you will hear Amin7, no matter how you arrange notes in your right hand

  • 1
    Theorizing here: what if I invert the chord so I get the 5th as the bass?
    – Jazzwave06
    Mar 11, 2015 at 15:23
  • Then you hear C6/G or Am7/G, depending on context Mar 11, 2015 at 15:46
  • 2
    Pedro - this is exactly what @Shevliaskovic said.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Mar 11, 2015 at 16:21
  • It depends on which note you have in the bass = It depends on how you arrange the notes in a chord. Mar 11, 2015 at 21:25

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