I'm working through Mark Levine's Jazz Theory book... at the start of Chapter 2 (page 15 first example) where he introduces the ii-V7-I progression in Eb major, he writes a progression that goes F-7 -> Bb7 -> Eb(delta symbol).

According to the start of the book he says the delta symbol (looks like a triangle) after a chord means that it is a Major Seventh Chord. However, the EbM7 used in the progression outlined above contains an F nat instead of a D nat.

Wouldn't it be a Eb-add9 chord and not a Eb7 if you use an F natural instead of the D natural?

The notes are: (Eb,F,G,Bb)

Coming from a tonal theory background, I am genuinely confused at why jazz musicians consider a Eb-add9 the same as a EbM7?

4 Answers 4


Page 15, right! On a dark night it would pass for an Eb maj9. It's not the only place in the book with spurious chords/names. I've started compiling a list of questionable statements, etc, either they're inaccurate , not explained well, or I'm not reading them right. Having said, it's a well thought of book, and contains many nuggets.

The basic premise fot ii-V-I is using four notes for each chord, as opposed to triads. You'll notice in figure 2-1 the Fm7 has F, Ab, Eb and G - actually an Fm9 - the 5 of chords is often laid to rest. Then Bb7 is Bb9.

When you get to page 59, there's an interesting c7b9 chord, written with C# in the dots...

  • The real question now boils down to: was this a typo, or should take the idea of a 9th as a replacement for a 7th in this context? Nov 4, 2016 at 17:30
  • I found another possible example for your list: look at page 43 figure 3-24 He has a Gsus => G7 except he uses an a in both chords; This also seems like a typo because you get the notes (G,C,F,A) => (G,B,F,A) which would make me think it should be notated as a Gsus11 => G7add9 ? Nov 6, 2016 at 15:25
  • @KolobCanyon - thanks - I clocked the same sort on the following page some time ago! Surely, if something is being explained, accuracy or an explanation of why it's called that is needed. Typo? Who knows, but there seem to be quite a few.
    – Tim
    Nov 6, 2016 at 17:26
  • @KolobCanyon - he is very careless about spelling throughout the book. He just doesn't care about correct spelling-sometimes he just uses enharmonics that aren't really correct, other times it's hard to understand what he's talking about. Tim-remember we discussed this a while back? It's a good book for getting 'the lay of the land' but hard to nail down specifics there. That book gets the hype but after looking at quite a few, this one might be the best (not in ebook form): Bert Ligon-Jazz Theory Resources
    – Vector
    Mar 28, 2018 at 2:51

Jazz musicians don't consider an Ebmaj7 chord the same as an Eb add9 chord. However, in many situations both chords can be used as a I chord in a major key.

Let me add some general background information, and one good reason why in a certain situation you might want to replace the maj7 chord by another chord which doesn't contain a major 7th.

An EbΔ chord indeed means a major seventh chord (see this question and its answers); so you have the notes

Eb - G - Bb - D

In jazz, the I chord in a major key can come in different flavors. One option is the major seventh chord, another the sixth chord (Eb6, with a C instead of the D), yet another a major ninth chord (with the D and the F added), and others. In your case, the author seems to have used an "Eb add 9" chord, i.e., an Eb major triad with an added F. Depending on the octave of the note F, that chord could also be called "Eb add 2".

If the melody allows it, any of these chords can be used as I chord. One case where you would not use an Ebmaj7 chord as the I chord, but rather an Eb6 (or Eb add 9) instead is when the root note Eb is used in the melody, because then you'd get a minor ninth interval between the D in the Ebmaj7 chord, and the Eb in the melody (assuming that the Eb is in the higher octave). Apart from that case, you can usually use any of the chords mentioned above.

  • I guess it may be because you explained the different flavours of a I chord in jazz, but didn't say why you thought Levine used it in the example instead of the quoted Ebmaj7. 'Tweren't me - I always give a reason, otherwise the exercise is like a broken pencil - pointless.
    – Tim
    Nov 4, 2016 at 17:25
  • @tim: Thanks for you comment. Anyway, I cannot know what Levine thought, and I don't have the book at hand to look at the example. I did give one frequent reason to avoid the maj7 chord in the last paragraph of my answer. This could also be the reason why the add9 chord is used, but that's just a guess. Otherwise, they can all be exchanged for one another, so any there need not be any specific reason other than that the author/composer just prefers one over the others.
    – Matt L.
    Nov 4, 2016 at 17:28
  • 1
    I think the crux is - why did he write the chord symbol Ebmaj7 above an obviously different chord written in the dots? It's an educational book!
    – Tim
    Nov 4, 2016 at 17:41
  • @Tim: If he did so, then that's a serious problem in such a book.
    – Matt L.
    Nov 4, 2016 at 20:26

The F would actually be a chordal ninth, not a sixth. (A sixth above Ef would be C.)

Adding upper extensions is pretty standard in jazz theory, so in this case the Efadd9 chord is considered more or less equivalent to the EfMaj7.

Edit: After looking at this example in my copy of the book, I wonder if it might actually be a typo on account of the treble clef ledger lines. Every other Maj7 chord on this page clearly has a major seventh...

  • What's really confusing to me is that it doesn't even contain the 7th. It would make total sense to me if it was an embellishment (e.g. contained the 7th and the 9th) but it is clearly labeled as a Major-Seventh chord but has no seventh Nov 4, 2016 at 17:19

A major (pun intended) consideration to keep in mind is the improvisational nature of jazz. When you look at a lead sheet like this one, you can bet that every chord written on the page will be played 10-20 times. If we play each chord with the exact same voicing (the exact same combination of notes) every time, it will quickly become boring. So instead of dictating too many details, chord symbols often give just enough information for the comping instruments the guidance to avoid wrong notes but the freedom to use many different voicings.

So, the chord E♭Δ can be "voiced" many different ways. Adding upper extensions like the 9th does not change the quality of the chord, and neither does taking away those upper extensions. In fact, any note from the relevant scale(s) can be added to or removed from the chord, and as long as we're avoiding certain notes (like D♭) that would change the chord quality, we're all set. That said, finding voicings that sound good--and knowing when to use them--is an art form in and of itself.

Removing the 7th and adding the 9th doesn't necessarily change the chord from being an E♭Δ chord, because the chords are established more broadly by the context of the song (e.g., what the other musicians are playing over that chord, what voicings were played over that chord in previous choruses, what chord famous recordings use in that measure, etc.).

  • 1
    Also, a note from the melody may be added or left out of a chord voicing. It seems like I often use an add9 or a 6 chord when playing chord melody on guitar if the 7th is in the melody over a major 7th chord (or even in the vicinity of a major 7th chord).
    – user39614
    Mar 28, 2018 at 2:36
  • It's said that, apart from the root (which gives a chord its first name). the other important notes are 3 and 7. 3 denotes (sic) major or minor, and 7 can be any one of three different notes. I'd have thought that if a chord is written Ebmaj7, then the D ought to be included, whatever else is there. Levine has, in my opinion, plenty of sloppily written items, and could explain a lot better than he does. I stopped using the book because of this.
    – Tim
    Mar 28, 2018 at 4:38
  • @Tim, I'm sure you're right that there are genres where, if the chord symbol is Ebmaj7, then the musicians and audience will expect the D. Factually, we can listen to a bunch of jazz records and hear that this isn't the case for many sub-genres of jazz. Pianists may not leave out the 7th on the first iteration through the form, but it happens frequently when comping over solos, etc.
    – jdjazz
    Mar 28, 2018 at 14:48
  • I'm sure you're right, too. But in those cases, why bother putting any more than 'Eb' against that bar? We can mostly tell what extensions will fit, by the context around it. My beef is that it's supposed to be an educational book, and if I was as vague (inaccurate?) with my students, they wouldn't be happy - and neither would I !
    – Tim
    Mar 28, 2018 at 15:05
  • @Tim, that makes sense to me and is a fair criticism. When I was learning rootless two-handed voicings for major chords, first I learned a voicing with the major 7th (G-D-F-Bb-Eb), and then I learned a quartal voicing with the 6th/13th in place of the 7th (G-C-F-Bb-Eb for Eb major). My teacher told me that the quartal voicing is a more modern sound, and it's still a good voicing for Eb∆ because it won't conflict with a soloist who is playing over Eb ionian. The interchangeability is an important lesson to teach early on, but it's important to explain the fact that interchange is occurring.
    – jdjazz
    Mar 28, 2018 at 15:17

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