This chord serves an under-appreciated role in pop and electronic music, showing up in one of two ways. The chord C-E-G-A, for instance, can be a major sixth chord if the C is the root, or a minor seventh chord if the A is the root. The Beatles’ “Fool on the Hill” opens with a D major sixth chord, while their “You Never Give Me Your Money” opens with an A minor seventh resolving to a D minor seventh. Derek May’s “Strings of Life” explores non-functional harmonic territory, spending a good deal of time on an E minor seventh chord. Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights” features a prominent synth stab on a B minor seventh, and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” made popular by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, opens on a B minor seventh with the A in the bass—yet another possible deployment of the chord, this time in the service of the slick voice leading that follows.
The Minor Seventh
Major Sixth (in inversion)
Symbols & Abbreviations:
m7,-7, 6 (in inversion)
Diatonic, Melodic Minor, Octatonic