Now suddenly I find out this is not so.

I'm confused. Please help.

Here's an example:

The opening verse of Bensonhurst Blues goes like this:


Bay Parkway wonder


You're such a success


Your pretty secretary, ha


She say you are the best


Your face always smiling


Say you sure paid your dues


But I know inside

E Am

You've got the Bensonhurst blues

Note that E major (and not even E7) is used as the fifth chord. What am I missing?

  • 1
    Is your example intended to show what you thought was a typical example (given that it does contain a major V chord)? If so, what would be an example of a song that surprised you? Jan 15, 2017 at 11:05

3 Answers 3


In minor it would be uncommon to see a major seventh chord for the fitfth; You will mostly see V7 (dominant seventh) and v (minor triad) Think about the a natural minor scale for a moment. You have all natural notes A B C D E F G and E is the fifth. When you build a seventh chord off the notes in that scale, you get: E G B D a minor triad with a minor seventh, therefore resulting in a minor seventh chord. However, it is common to raise the seventh of the scale, resulting in the Harmonic Minor Scale A B C D E F G#. When you build a triad on that you get E G# B D which is now a dominant seventh (this form is most used). I'm not going to go into the detail, but in Jazz they build the chords off the Melodic Minor Ascending Scale - food for thought.

  • Well, isn't the dominant also the fifth? V7: major seventh, no?
    – Ricky
    Jan 15, 2017 at 4:19
  • 1
    @Ricky No, a major seventh is different than a dominant seventh. Ex. C7 (the dominant seventh) => C E G Bb versus Cmaj7 (major seventh) => C E G B... play them. They sound very different even though there's only one note difference. They also have a very different function in music Jan 15, 2017 at 5:30
  • 1
    @Ricky Maj7 means the chord has a natural seventh within the chord. V7 means the chord has a flat 7 within the chord. See: lotusmusic.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/… for more info.
    – John
    Jan 15, 2017 at 6:34
  • A minor key will hardly ever have a minor dominant chord. The lack of a raised leading tone will take away a lot from the cadences.
    – Neil Meyer
    Jan 15, 2017 at 11:06

I think the problem is in terminology. Yes, the 5th note (V) is the dominant note in name. In the key of A, and Am, the dominant note is E. Because chords are built on scale notes, and because there are different minor scales, there are also different V make ups. Using notes from natural and descending melodic minors (same scales!) E, G and B make up the dominant chord. Using harmonic and ascending melodic, the notes are E, G# and B. These are obviousle the triads. Either minor or major. The major is more pushy, and certainly gets far more use.

Now, terminology rears its head again. Getting on to the sevenths. 3 in common use. Minor seventh, major seventh and dominant seventh. Minor uses E,G,B,D. Major 7th uses E,G#,B,D#. Dominant 7th uses E,G#,B,D. Major 7th and dominant 7th both have that major sounding G#, but it's the D#/D that's crucial and confusing. Just listening will tell most people that the major 7th chord has no dominance - it's just not pushy enough.

In the song you feature, the V is E. It can just be E, it could be E7 (dom), that's up to the writer. What it won't be is Emaj7. And, theory wise, which messes up so many people, that D, which clearly doesn't belong in the key of E, is actually referenced in the key of Am, which is where the song is anyway!

  • This is superb! Please clarify further: what would be the difference between E7 and Emaj7?
    – Ricky
    Jan 15, 2017 at 15:18
  • 1
    It was already there! Edited to make easy read!
    – Tim
    Jan 15, 2017 at 15:25
  • So, like, a dominant seventh is, when all is said and done, is a major triad with a minor seventh, while a major seventh is a major triad with a major seventh. Right?
    – Ricky
    Jan 16, 2017 at 10:31
  • That's exactly so! Just to further confuse, there is a fourth. Uncommon, but worth knowing nevertheless. Named minor/major seventh. Clue's in the name! It's a minor triad with a major 7th note added. More often used as a stepping stone chord from minor to m7.
    – Tim
    Jan 16, 2017 at 11:08

The Major in Major seventh chord is not referring to the Major triad but the Major Seventh in regards to the root note of the chord. Both the Dominant Seventh and Major Seventh comprises of a Major triad, the only difference between the two is the seventh (The fourth note of the chord.)

The Dominant seventh has the seventh natural to the scale ie a minor seventh where the Major seventh has a Major seventh which would not fit in the key.

If you are talking standard harmony you would not use a Major seventh chord for the dominant as this will introduce a note that is foreign to the scale in the harmony.

When you operate under the structure of Jazz you can use Major seventh chords in a manner of the dominant but then you would either use the pentatonic scale or the appropriate mode.

  • Not sure jazzers use major 7ths in the same way as dominants. And if they did, the pentatonic would rob them of that maj7th note which they could otherwise use.
    – Tim
    Jan 15, 2017 at 11:49

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