I introduced diatonic 7th chords a few weeks back and this week I want to focus on one chord type in particular, the minor 7th chord. In this lesson I will talk about the intervals involved in it’s construction and give three of my favorite bass lines that use these chord tones.
If you remember the previous lesson, diatonic minor chords were built from the 2nd, 3rd and 6th degrees of the major scale.
You may see this chord notated a few different ways, here are the common variations you will find. I will use the C minor 7 chord as an example.
C minor 7 C-7 C min.7
Intervals of the minor chord
The minor 7 chord from any point has a root, a minor 3rd, a perfect 5th and a minor 7th.
A root to a minor 3rd is 1 whole step and a 1/2 step or you could think of it as 3 half steps. On your bass it is the 3rd fret up from your root if you’re on the same string, if you’re crossing strings then it’s one string over and two frets back.
The minor 3rd is also referred to sometimes as the flat (b) 3, in this case, it doesn’t mean it is a flatted note necessarily but just lowered (flattened). I’ve also seen it written like this -3.
A root to a perfect 5 is 3 whole steps and a 1/2 step or 7 half steps. The perfect 5th is also 4 half steps away from the minor 3rd. On your bass, the perfect 5th is one string down and 2 frets up from the root. Also note that the 5th is on the same fret as the octave. The octave is just the higher version of the root. You will see this root, 5, octave pattern in thousands of bass lines in every style.
The minor 7th is 5 whole steps away from the root or also 10 half steps (I would never think of it in half steps). The minor 7th is 1 whole step and a 1/2 step from the perfect 5th. It’s good to look at the relationship between this interval and the octave as well, the minor 7th is a whole step (2 half steps) away from the octave.
Below I have notated the c-7 chord tones, the tablature indicates two different ways to play it.
Here are three different bass lines that use the minor 7 chord tones. I’ve listed the intervals (chord tones) above each note.
First is the tune “Money” by Pink Floyd. One of my all time favorite classic bass lines. This line is in an odd meter, it’s in 7/4 time as opposed to the more typical 4/4. In 7/4 time there are 7 beats in every measure instead of 4 and the quarter note still gets one beat. This bassline flows so easily it barely seems to be in an odd time. Also note that he’s using swing 8th notes here. Swing 8th notes are notated the same as straight 8th notes. Whenever you have swing 8th notes it should be notated on the music to swing them, like below where you see the symbol above the first few notes.
Listen in MP3 format Money
“Give it Away” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Listen in MP3 format Give it Away
My final example of the use of the minor 7 chord is in ”Come on Come Over” by Jaco Pastorius. Jaco starts this groove on the b7 and does a little chromatic climb up to the 8ve. He then hops down to the b3 on beat 4, Jaco not only uses the chord tones in this groove but also adds in a scale tone and a chromatic passing tone, the sharp (#) 4 between the 4th and 5th.
Listen in MP3 format minor-7-chord-tones-Come-On-Come-Over
I hope you enjoy and find useful these exercises on the minor chord. This chord and these chord tones can be found in so many songs in all different styles and is one of our major building blocks in bass line construction.
Enjoy your BASS!!!