September 15, 2010

Rickenbacker - Full Circle

I joined my first band in 8th Grade, supposedly to play bass. There were two other guitar players, along with a very talented drummer. – One guitarist had just gotten a Farfisa keyboard and wanted to play that, which was fine with the rest of us, as it was great to have a keyboard in the band. The other guitarist, having lots of money and not a lot of rhythm, got a Rickenbacker 12-string guitar, and couldn’t play it. So, he wound up as the bass player and I got to play a Rickenbacker 12-string, during the heyday of Roger McGuinn and that distinctive 12-string sound of the Byrds, the Turtles, and so many of the 60's groups. My fingers and ears never again felt comfortable with just 6 strings.

Eventually the band members went separate ways, and I said a lingering goodbye to the Rickenbacker. From that time on, I've always been a 12-string player. Over the years (with the famous Manny's and Bronen's music stores nearby in New York), I acquired a multitude of 12-string guitars, some later sold, and some being keepers to this day. These included a Vox Teardrop, Hagstrom electric, Guild acoustic (still a favorite!), Yamaha electric, Ovation Adamis, and at least 5 others that have come and gone. But I never had a Rickenbacker --- until today. I came across an offer I couldn't refuse, so here it is. It feels just like it did back in 8th grade, with that same great sound, except I hope I can play it a bit better now.

...Bill Pere

September 11, 2010

Sept 11 Reflections

Sept 11, 2010: Having spent so much time in lower Manhattan as a child, it hit home especially hard as I watched 9/11/01 unfold on TV that morning. A week or so later, I started to write a song about it, and after a day or two, I had parts of a verse and chorus set to music, some assorted images, and pieces of other lines. To this day, it remains unfinished, as I came to find it had more meaning being left in fragments.

A short time later, Kay wrote her 9/11 reflection, "Because the Sky Fell Down", a wonderfully crafted song that captured much of what many of us wanted to say, woven in her own unique and artful way. I find it moving every time she performs it. It was recorded in Nashville and released in 2005

As the next several post-9/11 years unfolded, I wrote "I Am Erica" (using deliberate white space and oronym techniques to morph it into "I America"), released July 4 2008 on the "American Sampler" compilation and soon to be re-released on a 30 year retrospective album.

The songs we write, as well as those written by many of my colleagues, speak of the importance of tolerance by all people, for all people, of all beliefs, for all beliefs. Any type of extremism can only fan the flames of intolerance, and we've seen enough fire to last more than 3,000 lifetimes.

Music and songs can reach people in a powerful way, but still nine years later, it seems the lesson has not yet been learned, the message not yet heard. The music of the 1960's had tremendous influence on the social and political issues of those turbulent times. In this 21st century world of internet sound-bytes, the voices singing out on the important issues of our day are drowned out by pop, glitter, spandex, and pyrotechnics. Perhaps it is time to turn up the volume.

…Bill Pere

August 30, 2010

Remembering George David Weiss

The music world is a bit more silent with the passing of George David Weiss this week. One of all-time great hit composers ("What a Wonderful World", "Can't Help Falling in Love", "Lion Sleeps Tonight", and so many more), he was truly one of the best. He was a personal friend and mentor to me for many years. I first met George in 1980 in New Haven where he and Sheila Davis came up from NYC to teach us how to critique songs. Over the years, I had regular dinner conversations with George before his 15 appearances with CSA (we'd often meet at Friendly's) and we corresponded many times by letter (yes, the handwritten kind). In 1994 he wrote a personal endorsement for me recommending that I be appointed as Connecticut State Troubadour, which I was that year. He always commented on how much he appreciated the songwriting articles I wrote, which he said "finally made it all understandable" for him. He will be missed.

Here is his full Obituary:

George David Weiss, who authored such signature pop songs as Elvis Presley's “Can't Help Falling in Love" and Louis Armstrong's “What a Wonderful World," died Aug. 23 of natural causes in Oldwick, N.J. He was 89.
Weiss served as President of the Songwriers Guild of America for many years. He studied at the Juilliard School of Music before working as an arranger for the bands of Stan Kenton and Vincent Lopez.

His early stage efforts included the music for Sammy Davis Jr.'s 1956 Broadway vehicle “Mr. Wonderful." His later legit shows included “First Impressions" and “Maggie Flynn."

In 1961, Weiss co-authored “Can't Help Falling in Love," an adaptation of the French standard “Plaisir d'Amour," with producers Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore. Included on the soundtrack for Presley's film “Blue Hawaii," it rose to No. 2 on the national charts; Presley used it in later years as a closer for his live shows.

Weiss, Peretti and Creatore also collaborated on an adaptation of South African musician Solomon Linda's “Mbube." The Americanized version, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight," became a hit in successive versions by the Tokens, England's Karl Denver and Robert John.

Penned with producer-writer Bob Thiele, “What a Wonderful World" was not a success for Armstrong on its initial single release in 1968. However, it reached the top 40 in 1988 after it was used in the pic “Good Morning Vietnam," and became a standard thanks to constant employment in films, TV and advertising.

Weiss' other well-known compositions included “Lullabye of Birdland" (written with jazz pianist George Shearing), “Wheel of Fortune" (a 1952 smash for Kay Starr) and “Stay With Me" (a memorable vehicle for R&B singer Lorraine Ellison, penned with producer-writer Jerry Ragavoy).

His other screen credits included the Disney cartoon features “Melody Time" and “Fun and Fancy Free," Presley's “Wild in the Country," “Gidget Goes to Rome" and “Murder Inc."

July 30, 2010

Role Call - You Are Bartholomew Cubbins

"In the Beginning, Bartholomew Cubbins did not have 500 hats. He had only one hat." -- Dr Seuss

In the traditional music business model, you, the songwriter or artist would be under contract to a large record company and publisher, who would then call all the shots. In today’s world of Independent artists, YOU are the one who puts others under contract to you.
The key is to know
(a) what types of roles/tasks need to be done
(b) which ones you can do yourself
(c) which ones you need to engage others for
(d) how to find the right person(s) to do the tasks you want to contract out.

There are three parts in the journey from creative inspiration to released recording. These are:

Creation – (Songcraft): the process of conceptualizing, creating and crafting the song, including getting critique and making revisions.

Realization – (Studiocraft): the process of taking the finished song from paper (or in your head) to fully arranged master recording and/or performable piece

Proliferation - (Salescraft and Stagecraft): the process of getting copies ofthe song as widely disseminated to as many people as possible through a recording or live performance

Within these three phases, a number of different things must happen, each requiring different types of skill sets. Each related group of tasks that must be done comprises a role. In big label, big budget projects, each role may have a dedicated person (or more than one person) doing those tasks. For the typical Indie artist, all the roles are filled initially by you. These are the many hats you have to wear. The reason it often seems so daunting is that the knowledge and skills you have will fit some of the roles, but not others, and when you come to a point where those roles need to be filled by skills you don’t posses, you feel adrift.

If you know what each role is, when it is needed, and the skills required, you will be able to make informed decisions and you will be able to continue to move ahead with much less stress. First, let’s take a look at some of the key roles required to get a song from beginning to end.


Actual songwriting occurs in the Creation phase. Realization involves arranging, recording, and production, while Proliferation centers around distribution, performance and promotion. Each of the roles above is a combination of creative elements and technical elements, but the skill sets and objectives for Realization and Proliferation are different than those for the initial creation of the song.

A song is traditionally and legally defined as a melody and lyric. For purposes of this discussion and the Creation-Realization-Proliferation paradigm, Creation means the initial writing of a melody and lyric, along with (optionally) the initial accompanying chords. Anything beyond that (for example when the rest of the band or the producer starts adding parts) becomes elements of Realization, i.e. deciding stylistic elements of how the song will be arranged and produced. As songwriters, we want to be able to create a lyric and melody which, if sung a capella or in any stylistic arrangement, will always stand on its own as a well-crafted song. That is how a song gets covered by many artists across several different styles.

As a self-contained Indie artist, you may indeed have to wear all 500 hats, but while you are acting as a songwriter, you have to deal with only four roles: Lyricist, Composer, Idea Generator, and Sounding Board. Remember that one person can fill more than one role (e.g., you write both the music and the lyrics) or one role can be filled by more than one person (e.g., two people collaborate on a lyric).

The Lyricist role is the one which writes the lyrics. The Composer creates the melody and optionally, the initial chord accompaniment. These are well known and easily understood roles.

But where do the inspirations for songs come from? What ignites the spark to want to write about something ? This is the role of the Idea Generator. The one who has the “songwriter’s antennae” always extended, scanning life for moments to be captured in a sonic snapshot. Many songwriters generate their own ideas, from life experience, from an event in the news, from a line in a book or from seeing something on TV. But just as easily, it could be someone else who provides the key idea for a song. That person may not write a single lyric line or melody note, but they can provide the spark, the hook, the central premise that becomes a song.

In that case, they are acting as the Idea Generator. It is important as a songwriter to always remain open to all sources of inspiration. The person who insists on being totally self-contained may miss out on some great ideas that come from others. If someone else provides the idea for a great song, an idea is not a copyrightable entity, thus you are not required to credit them as a co-writer, but it may be good business and interpersonal etiquette to do so. That becomes one of your early choices. If there is one less co-writer, you get a larger piece of the pie. But will it cause hard feelings and possibly burn a valuable bridge? Like all choices in the arts, there is not an absolute ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ decision. -- just the one that seems right for you, and you can only make it if you stop to think about it.

The fourth role in the realm of Creation is that of Sounding Board. This is one role which is usually impossible to fill yourself, and it is an extremely important part of Creation. Sadly, many writers are afraid of this role and leave it out of the process, to their own detriment.

The Sounding Board is the person (or persons) whom you let hear your early versions of the song, or see the initial drafts of the lyric, to get feedback and constructive critique. The skills required in order for this role to be valuable to you are that the person(s) filling it have no reason to say they like or dislike your song for any reason other than its own merits. This means that your spouse, your mom, you dog, or your employee will not effectively fill this role (unless they are also a qualified music evaluator whom you know can be objective) A music professional, a knowledgeable teacher, a qualified songwriting coach, or a Songwriter Association provide good sources
of constructive feedback.

Think of Olympic athletes – how would they ever reach their full potential if they didn’t have a qualified, objective person observing them and telling them what was good and what could be improved. If all they ever got was a supportive parent or partner saying “good job!” and “great effort” to everything, without someone pointing out areas for improvement, there would be limited advancement of skills and no intensifying of inner drive. However, there would be that warm fuzzy feeling of affirmation, which everyone likes.

On the other hand, if all one ever heard is relentless criticism, which unfortunately can also come from parents and loved ones, there is no better way to kill motivation and creative spark. And in both cases, your eyes would certainly not be wide open to what could really be achieved. Only you can determine where the right balance lies for you. Many songwriters tend to avoid objective critique, but it is one of the surest, fastest ways to advance your skills.

In my years of song critiquing, I’ve seen so many writers bring fully produced studio recordings, representing significant time and money, to critique sessions. This is clearly outside the Creation-Realization-Proliferation paradigm, as a fully produced song is ready for Proliferation, while the Sounding Board role as it relates to critiquing the song (as opposed to the production), is part of the Creation phase. When good suggestions are made that would really improve the song, the writers are faced with unpleasant choices: go back to the studio and spend more time and money to make the improvements, or live with a song they know could be made better. (NOTE: The Sounding Board role in the Realization phase relates to input on arrangement and production. In the Proliferation phase, the Sounding Board offers input on marketing strategies or live presentation).

The simple way to avoid this rock-and-hard-place situation is to get your constructive feedback early in the process, before anything is fully committed to a final form. Then, adjustments are easy to make and don’t cost anything. Rewriting and revising is an integral part of songcrafting, thus its value lies in the Creation phase.

You are always in control of your artistic choices, even when the options come from a source external to you. It is not easy to offer up your creation for strangers to pick at, but to avoid critique is to deny yourself the opportunity to make choices, and if your head is in the sand, you cannot choose with your eyes wide open.

Once you move beyond the Creation phase, there are many new hats to wear, each with a different set of skills. Your choice is always

(a) Do I do fill the role myself, and

(b) If not, how do I decide who to get to fill it ? .

These are important decisions for all songwriters and artists, and they are discussed fully at

...Bill Pere

Songwriter Organizations - What's Right For You?

In 1979, when I helped start the Connecticut Songwriters Association, there was no Internet, no one had heard of "Indie Artists", and there were relatively few songwriter support groups around. In this current day of thriving Indie music, and social media, there are new organizations, both real and virtual, constantly springing up, presenting themselves as support groups for artists and songwriters. How do you know which might be right for you, and which would not be a productive investment of your limited time and resources? I am asked all the time about Taxi, NSAI, SGA, ASCAP/BMI, Songsalive, Indiegrrl, CSA, WCS, PNSA, ASG, SongU, Indie Connect, and so many more.

Ask a hundred people what the role of a songwriters organization is and you’ll likely get a hundred answers. In practice, there are many different roles that such an organization could play, thus it comes down to how the organization defines and presents itself.

The three broad facets relating to songwriting are: (1) the art, (2) the craft, (3) the business.

What would an organization look like if it focuses exclusively on each of these?

(1) An arts-based group would be one which emphasizes and supports creative expression in any form, with little application of rules, guidelines, structure, or technique, and which does not judge or evaluate songs in any prescribed way. Members would be seeking affirmation, encouragement, and the opportunity to network with like-minded folks. “Success” is measured solely by the artist’s own internal criteria. Such an organization may be a non-profit entity, functioning as a support group, and discussing topics such as creative process and where to find local open mikes. Critique would not be a central part of the activities. Informal song circles might be structured this way. A common thread in these organizations would be that the songs can be writer-centric (expressive) rather than audience-centric. (communicative). Most of the members in this type of group are likely to be performers (singer-songwriters) as opposed to just writers who do not perform.

(2) A craft-based group would have much of the above, but would add a new element. Craft is often misunderstood, for when confused with the artistic focus as discussed above, it may perceived as “imposing too much structure”, “selling-out”, “compromising artistic integrity”, etc. But exactly what is “craft”? Consider the craft of woodworking – a woodworker is an artisan, and may create what he or she wishes without regard to any guidelines. However, one can certainly learn about such factual things as the nature of different woods; how to make smooth, secure joints; how to sand and varnish wood; how to use different kinds of hand tools or power tools, etc. This knowledge can be used to build skills which enable the artisan to bring craftsmanship to his or her art. The emphasis here is on education with the objective of providing tools to make the best possible product. . Individuals still have their own definitions of success and complete artistic freedom. These organizations may discuss rules and guidelines as they apply to craft (i.e. how), not art (i.e. what), and may evaluate or critique the execution of technique (i.e. how) without judging artistic value (i.e. what). Members may be seeking the same types of things as in an arts-based organization, with the added desire for education about tricks of the trade and seeking to create a more polished end product. Such an organization is likely to be a non-profit entity functioning as an educational group centered on optimizing music and lyrics. The perspective is that to successfully share songs in a competitive environment, the songs must be honed to be the best they can be, and be audience-centric (communicative), rather than writer-centric (expressive). Many of the members in this type of group are non-performing songwriters.

(3) A business-based group focuses on commercial outcome of the product. The emphasis is on whether or not it can sell, regardless of the underlying elements of art and craft. Success is generally defined in terms of tangible outcomes such as money or recognition, and members would be oriented toward this type of goal. Critique of products is done with commercial outcome in mind, and the information presented usually revolves around marketing and promotional strategies and tools. Such an organization is often organized as a business league, and though it itself may be non-profit, it will not typically have a tax-exempt status. Discussions may focus on production, marketing, touring, royalties, and generating income streams.

So where exactly would a songwriters organization fit? The answer is that a songwriters group can be any of the above, individually or in combination. It is up to the organization, but what is important for the individual writers is to make sure that their personal goals fit with those of the organization, or at least to be aware of where they differ.

When evaluating an organization to see if it is a good fit for you, visit the website, look at its history, its programs, and the people who run it.. There are national and international organizations with many chapters, and there are smaller regional or statewide organizations.(See for a directory).

In this Internet age, there are also many virtual groups who interact only online, some small, some large. Facebook and Yahoo groups are loaded with them. When it comes to support groups, bigger is not always better – it depends on the kind of access and individual attention you are seeking.

Look specifically at the mission statement (if they don’t have one, it's a red flag). An example of a mission statement, from the Connecticut Songwriters Association ( is : “A non-profit, educational organization dedicated to improving the art and craft of original musical and lyrical composition”. That is a clear statement of purpose and all of the programs are centered around this mission – helping writers craft the best songs that they can, while defining their own personal goals and artistic outlets. A look at the organization's activities shows that it clearly acknowledges and addresses the importance of providing programs about the commercial and business. side of songwriting, but that is not the focus.

No matter what kind of group you decide is right for you, there is one overarching principle: Success comes from opportunity, and opportunity comes from involvement. Joining an organization does nothing for you unless you are prepared to fully involve yourself in it. Become a familiar face so that the rest of the members know who you are and what you do. Music is first and foremost a relationship-driven business, and being involved is what leads to opportunities to show others what you have to offer.

As an independent artist, you only have so much time, energy, and resources, so they need to be used in the best possible way. Involving yourself in a songwriter organization is an investment in yourself. Involve yourself fully, but be sure the organization it is one which fits your specific goals and aspirations. While there is allure in getting immersed in the business end of things, or in being part of an affirmation group, don’t overlook the importance of craft and critique in making your end product be the best it can be, to successfully compete for the limited amount of attention that is out there. Craft is often overlooked in the zeal to find affirmation or commercial success, but it sits right in the in the middle of that journey from creation to realization to proliferation, and thus it’s hard to get around it, or to get around without it.

...Bill Pere

May 15, 2010

Untangling the Maze of Music Conferences

I've had the privilege of presenting and mentoring at many conferences across the U.S. over the years -- not just music events, but business, technology and educator events as well. I often find first-time attendees asking some common questions: "Do I belong here? Is this the right place for me? How do I get the most from this?"

To help you decide what events to attend, it is important to understand what the name of the event tells you. Any event where a bunch of people get together or "convene" for a purpose is called a "Convention" There are three main types of conventions, and it is important to know the distinctions.

When people come together with the primary purpose of learning and sharing knowledge, it is a "Conference" in the true sense of the word. Folks are there to confer.

Workshops, panels, mentoring, and critiquing are front and center. Education is the event driver. This would be the case at events like the Independent Music Conference or the Singer-Songwriter Cape May Conference, which are geared mostly toward education, with performance as a secondary activity. The music professionals who come are there not to 'discover' artists, but to share their knowledge and mentor attendees who seek to develop their skills and careers.

When people are gathering with the primary purpose of performing, you have a "Festival". Think of the Newport Jazz Festival, the Kerrville Folk Festival, The Monterey Pop Festival, Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, or the Podunk Bluegrass Festival. These are clearly labeled as to what they are, and attendees know what to expect. Performance rules, and any workshops or panels are ancillary activities. The industry professionals there are frequently venue operators, booking agents or artist development folks, and even the educational workshops are slanted toward aspects of performance.

When people congregate around a theme of business, products, and commerce, it is an "Exposition", or "Expo". Vendors and their goods and services are the main attraction. Think of the Eastern States Expo (The Big "E"), the New England Music Exposition (NEME), or the NAMM Expo (National Association of Music Merchants). What we often call the World's Fair is actually called the Universal Expo, or the Great Exhibition.

Industry folks there are usually people with products and services to sell to the attendees.

This is not to say that any event of one type won’t have parts of the other two as well. Most of them do . It's a matter of which of the three elements -- education, performance, or commerce -- is most prevalent and prominent.

If you attend an event expecting a healthy dose of education and instead see everybody hawking goods or promoting performances and guerilla showcases, you'll be disappointed.

Similarly, if you are expecting a weekend of performances and find mostly panels or vendors, you'll feel you're in the wrong place.

So you need to do two things –

First, make sure you know what YOUR primary purpose is in attending a convention. Do you want PRIMARILY to learn, to perform, or to find products/services? No single one precludes the others, but there is usually going to be a primary motivation.

If you list networking as one of your key purposes, that's going to occur at any type of convention. The question is whether you want to network primarily with industry pros who are willing to help and mentor you, or with other performers and venue coordinators, or with providers of goods/services.

Second, you need to make sure that the event you are thinking of attending is accurately named, so that you get what you sign up for. Do your internet research to find out. Contact others who have attended. Don’t assume the name is correct.

Of the three types of conventions, the ones that create the most confusion are the conferences. Many conferences start out as truly educational endeavors, and then evolve over the years to become more performance oriented, with the educational components taking a lesser role. Always check out a conference agenda to make sure there is a full schedule of panels and workshops, and that the focus is still on education.

Size matters – but no necessarily in the way you think. Some of the best quality time with industry pros and the most valuable networking can be found at the smaller scale events. When you look at massive events like SXSW with 20,000+ people there, you're just a drop of water in an endless sea. If you're at an event of 200 people, you're much more likely to get individual attention from whichever mentors and professionals you want to meet. Don’t hesitate to ask event organizers what the typical size is of the event, if you can’t find out from the website.

Finally, check out an event's longevity. If it's been around for many years, it must be doing something right. For a long-running event, you can easily find others who have attended who will give you some feedback. However, just because an event is new doesn't mean it won't be valuable. Check the track record of the event organizer, and the backgrounds of the presenters.

When you decide on the right event for you, make the most of it. If you ask anyone there to listen to your songs,, do so with the expectation of constructive feedback, not just a pat on the back, and always have lyric sheets with you. Lyric sheets make you look professional and show that you respect the other person's time. Make your package look professional with all your contact info on each piece. It's a shame to see so many expensively produced CDs thrust into my hands that have unreadable fonts, no track times listed, no contact info, no titles on the disc, shrink wrap not removed, misspelled words, and sadly, artists who do not want to have those things constructively pointed out to them.

The biggest successes I've seen at conferences come not to those who attend primarily to perform, but to those whose primary purpose is to learn and to network. Specifically, many of the bands and individuals who are at conferences just for the performance aspect are absent during the day at all the workshops, panels, and mentoring stations. Attendees who do frequent the learning and networking programs establish relationships with people who can offer them career-advancing opportunities later on. I know this to be true, as I have been involved first-hand with many mutually beneficial business opportunities with folks whom I have met through my conference workshops and mentoring. And I've had little useful follow-up interactions from those who were there only to perform or to be "discovered". The real benefits from a conference come from the follow-up interactions after the event is over.

Think of it this way: At a conference, where the focus is on learning, the performance-only crowd sends a signal that they are there because they are the ones with something to offer and they don't need any professional or peer advice. The learners/networkers send a signal that the music pros and fellow-artists there have something of value to offer them. Which do you think will lead to more fruitful long-term relationships down the road in a relationship-driven business like music ?

For more:

...Bill Pere

March 8, 2010

Sail the C-Seven: Chord Naming

When I have a client who wants to learn about music theory, I make sure we spend however many sessions it takes so that they understand the essentials of chord names, and don’t ever get caught using that dreaded term "Dominant 7th chord".

The most confusing part of chord naming is understanding the use of "7".There is no chord type called a 'dominant 7th'. It's just "7" or 7th". The term dominant 7, which derived from misuse of classical music terminology, refers to taking the V chord in a scale (the major based on the 5th degree of the scale) and making it a 7th chord. But let's back up to basics of chord naming and get there more clearly (all examples below refer to the key of C).

The names of chord are based on the distance (interval) between the root of the chord, and each of the other notes in the chord (i.e. the name of the chord tells you what notes are in the chord).

If the root of the chord is C, the next highest note is usually a third, or the note "E", the third note of the C scale. If the interval is a major 3 (2 steps, or 4 guitar frets, C-E), then the chord is major. We don’t have to say "major" in the chord name, as that is understood by default. If the interval is a minor 3rd (3 half-steps or 3 guitar frets, C-Eb), then the chord is a minor chord, and we use the word minor in the name of the chord – Thus, the word MINOR in a chord name always refers to the status of the 3rd. If the 3rd is moved one half-step (fret) in the other direction, the interval is now a perfect 4th (C-F), and the chord is called Suspended or sus4. The third is changed to the 4th. "Sus" in a chord name refers to changing the 3rd to the 4th.

The 5th in a chord is usually going to be a Perfect 5th or P5 (C-G) and if so, is not mentioned in the chord name. Like the major 3rd, it is the default (Thus a major chord - Root, Major 3rd, P5th) is just called by the letter name e,g,. "C". If we mess with the 5th, and move it down one fret, it is now a diminished 5th, and the chord name says (-5). If we push the 5th one fret higher, it is now an augmented 5th, and the chord name says "aug" or "+" . Thus, the chord C+ would mean C-E-G#, and the name C-5 would mean C-E-Gb.

Now, this brings us to the confusing 7. If we have a normal major chord, and add to it the note that is the normal 7th degree of the scale, the interval is a Major 7th and the chord is called maj7 or M7. CM7 = C-E-G-B. The major7th interval is always designated with "maj" or "M" If you reduce the M7th interval by one fret (e.g. from B to Bb) it is now a minor 7th interval. BUT, the word "minor" in a chord name is reserved to refer to the 3rd So we can't use the word "minor" to refer to adding a minor 7th interval to a chord. So what do we do? WE USE JUST THE NUMBER 7. Thus a 7 or 7th chord is root-Major 3rd-Perfect 5th-Minor 7th, or C-E-G-Bb. It has nothing to do with whether the chord is a dominant chord (built on the 5th degree of the scale) or not.

In the key of C, "G" is the 5th, so a G7 is the 7th of the dominant chord, but just as easily, F is the 4th, so an F7 chord in the key of C is the 7th of the Sub-Dominant, but no one ever says "F Sub-Dominant 7". D is the 2nd and a D7 is the 7th of the Super-Tonic but no one ever says D SuperTonic 7. It makes no sense, and is just a perpetuated misunderstanding of classical music terminology. (1 = Tonic, 2= Supertonic, 3=Mediant 4=Subdominant 5=Dominant, 6=Submediant, 7=Leading tone, 8=Octave)

Now what happens if you have a minor 3rd in a chord AND a minor 7th (C-Eb-G-Bb)? By the rules above, the minor 3rd is noted by the word 'minor', and the minor 7 by just the number 7, so you have Cm7. What if you have a minor 3rd and a major 7

(C-Eb-G-B) ? It is a Cm(M7). That name tells you every note in the chord. Similarly if you messed with the 5th, and had C-Eb-Gb-B you'd have Cm-5(M7).

You've probably seen the chord name "dim" or diminished. This means that EVERY interval in the chord is reduced one half-step. Thus a C7 (C-E-G-Bb) becomes

C-Eb-Gb-A (technically, the "A" is Bbb) and is called Cdim. In classical music, a diminished chord would not typically include the diminished 7th. Just the Root, m3rd, and dim 5th.

Other points to remember: Just a number after a chord name means that the chord includes every third interval from the root to that number, i.e "9" means Root, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th. An 11th chord means Root, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th. Depending on whether each of those intervals is raised or lowered, you would adjust the chord name accordingly.

C-Eb-G-Bb-D is root, m3, P5, m7, and maj9, and the chord name is Cm9. The "m" means the 3rd, and the 9 means both the 7th (NOTE that the "7th means the minor 7th, Bb instead of B), and the major 9. If instead you had C-E-G-B-D, it is now Cmaj9, as the "maj" indicates a major 7 interval, instead of a minor 7.

Last point: We commonly see chord names such as Cadd9. This means exactly what it says. It's a major chord (C-E-G) to which we ADD the major 9, which is D. (D is 9 because it is nine scale degrees above the root i.e., the octave C-to –C is 8 (C on the A-string to C on the B-string) plus one step to D is 9, which is why we stick our little finger on the 3rd fret of the B string while fingering a regular C to make Cadd9. Same concept on the keyboard.

There are many more chord names and variations, but the principles are all the same. The name of a chord, based on the distances from the root to each not in the chord, should tell you all the notes in that chord. – And there is NO SUCH CHORD TYPE AS A DOMINANT 7!

For more chord, scale, and rhythm theory, go to my book website,

...Bill Pere

"One of the Top 50 Guiding Lights of the Music Industry" - Music Connection Magazine"