If C major is the scale for a C chord (the I chord in the key of C), then why does F sound terrible over a CMaj7 chord?

Curious if anybody checked out the audio/notation example I posted yesterday . when you factor in the synth brass track, it’s basically non stop maj7 with the 4th, with many add4 voicings in the guitar (usually some instrument is playing the 7 as well, so we are getting that tritone.) If looking for add4 voicings on guitar there are a whole bunch of them there.

audio example:

–> lots of 4th on maj7

–> (notation)

Putting aside overall aesthetic and just focusing on “does it sound wrong” or “does it sound like the ‘bad’ kind of dissonance” I’m curious what people think - in part because there’s a difference between “this will sound dissonant” and listening to something asking “does this sound dissonant to me?”

Ultimately I’d imagine our interest is in the sound more so that the rule.

Through transcribing I’ve often found that things that didn’t sound dissonant or “wrong” then looked pretty funky once I put them on paper. A classic example of that is in the “we don’t need no education” solo at the end, Gilmour briefly plays a B natural note while the synth plays a Bb major chord, and he does not resolve it up or down a half step. I think for a lot of folks if they saw that on paper in another context they’d comment that it is wrong and will sound bad, but obviously very few people either notice or care about that particular clash in that super famous solo, and Gilmour’s usually revered as one of the most melodic/pleasant of all the classic rock guitar greats, so it’s not like the effect produced was super jarring and chaotic.

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My response to you followed listening to the track. Thanks for sharing and have a good weekend.

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ah yes, because of the threading I didn’t catch that it was a response to the track.

But then that’s kind of a thing I was getting to - does F sound bad over Cma7…or do E and/or B sound bad over Csus4…or does it all work just depending on context…

the low registers thing, put an F on the bass of a Cma7 and it’s actually closer to an F ma7 sound (and something I kind of like, actually)

Obviously just chillin on an F while somebody does a Cma7 strum can be harsh, but all these things are about how one uses them

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I don’t think that chord you guys are describing is a C. It’s a third inversion Fmaj7. A fifth describes that particular chord. Which chord tones are represented? For C it’s the root and third. For F it’s root ,fifth and major 7. Just because C is the bass and in this case an octave doesn’t make it a C major.

Dead giveaway. There’s an F in chord.

Playing an f over a Cmajor sounds like shit.

I started to, then quickly realized I was going to want a guitar to follow along and really understand what I was hearing, and I was taking a couple minutes break from work and didnt want to get THAT distracted. I’ll try to come back to it though. :+1:


A C chord contains a G as the major third. The F is a single whole tone away from the major third making them very close in the scale. The 4th normally replaces the 3rd i.e. suspended 4th chord. Move the F an octave higher and it becomes an 11th which can sound better as it is further away from the 3rd. Also, the third provides the mood or a chord, happy (major) vs sad (minor) and adding the 4th interferes with this.

E is a C chord’s major third. G is its 5th.

F is a half step away from the major 3rd (E) which is even closer than a whole tone. That’s why it is so dissonant sounding.

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I think the flat 9th interval of say E4 to F5 in the context of a C major chord is generally considered/accepted as more dissonant than a half step E4 to F4.

that is, chord on the left is less common than chord on the right:

I’ll confess to abusing the shit out of that Badd4 voicing - you’re right, it’s got this awesome spacey droning qwuality to it that isn’t discordant at all. Shifting the fretted notes down to A for, um, I guess that would make an Aadd9 with the E and B ringing above, sounds so cool that I have to consciously not do it every opportunituy I have, too.

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As in martial arts, we must learn to play the barre chord shape thingy with the open E and B strings so that we learn that we don’t have to play the barre chord shape thingy with the open E and B strings, and instead only use it when it is absolutely necessary.


I’ve seen all sorts of answers and ideas here; some of which question the basic premise that F sounds bad over a CMaj7m, and, as most jazz texts advise, is an ‘avoid’ note. But I consider this a “given,” since the entire question is based on this premise.
My ideal answer has not been presented here, and it’s an answer that satisfies me completely, since I go by my ear, and therefore seek harmonic stability.
My answer involves questioning the C major scale itself. Is it the most stable and consonant scale if what we want to do is reinforce the key area of C? Would some other scale starting on C do a better job of reinforcing the harmonic area of C?
You could reverse this, of course, and ask “Does a C maj7 chord reinforce the key of C as a “I” function?” I think it does, just as a G7 reinforces the dominant V step in the key of C.
If these things are true, then where does “F” come from in a C major scale? How is a scale created? Is there an underlying principle of generation which produced the C major scale?
I think this goes back to the Pythagoran principle of “stacking” fifths. This would be C-G-D-A-E and so forth. You change the order of intervals, put them back “in the octave,” and get C-D-E etc.
This principle can be demonstrated “by ear” also. Go to a sustaining keyboard, such as an organ, and begin playing these stacked fifths: C-G-D-A-E-B----F? No, that’s a clunker, a tritone, and not a fifth. It should be F#, not F.
But if we start on F, we get F-C-G-D-A-E-B, then repeat. That makes a 7-note scale that is a perfectly consonant stack of fifths. And it happens to be a Lydian scale, and it happens to work with an F maj7 chord.
This is what George Russell was talking about. Jazz is based on harmonic principles, and on what sounds best.
Traditional tonality is not; it’s designed for modulating, and for restless movement.

Though, to be fair, a F# against a Cmaj7 isn’t an especially, value-neutral here, “consonant” sound either, though a bit more so than Fsince you don’t have the tritone beating between the B and the F. There’s an aergument that the “base” scale for modes should be the Lydian and the Ionioan for this reason… but I kind of wonder if the issue here really is jusy as simple as this is the very last pitch you get, stacking fifths off the tonic, if you’re deriving a scale off stacked 5ths, before you start to fill in the gaps of the chromatic scale, and accordingly its relationship with the tonic is maybe a little more tenuous than other pitches.

At any rate, playing an F over a C chord, not a Cmaj7, sounds totally fine, if somewhat unresolved, which makes me think it’s really more about the relationship between the maj7 and the 4, and that this is more of a tertiary harmony thing, stacked thirds rather than stacked fifths.