Improvising and using Maj7#5 chords

The Maj7#5 chord is a great substitute for Maj7 chords if you want a more spicy or surprising sound. In this lesson I am going to tlak about how you can use the chord and about what you can play on it, illustrated by a few example lines.

Using the Maj7#5 chord

The Maj7#5 isn’t really used a lot in standards and is mostly something you add to a song to get a new sound in the melody or improvisation.  The sound is closely connected to minMaj chords and a maybe not the chord you’d expect at the end of a cadence or top of a chorus in a standard, which is why it is effective as a surprising turn.

Since it is a less stable chord than a normal maj7 chord we can choose to resolve it back to a nomal maj7, that happens very often. The other approaches where you somehow uses the #5 to resolve to the next chord in the song are a bit hard to list here because it can mean changing that chord too etc.

The examples in this lesson are all on a II V I in Bb where I resolve to a Maj#5 and then resolve that to a maj7 chord. THe cadence is shown here:

Improvising on Maj7#5 - ex 1

What to play over a Maj7#5 chord.

The most common approach to these chords is to view them as Lydian #5 chords, which means that we use the melodic minor scale to improvise over them. That scale is shown in example 2:

Improvising on Maj7#5 - ex 2

In the first line using this sound the Cm7 line is first an Ebmaj7 shell voicing followed by a descending chromatic leading note an a scale run. It then moves chromatically up to the 3rd(A) of F. On the F7alt  it is first a sort of F# min cliche followed by an Ebm7b5 in inversion. On the Maj7#5 the line is quite basic: a Bbmaj7#5 arpeggio followed by a scale run before it resolves to the 5th(F) of Bbmaj7.

Improvising on Maj7#5 - ex 3

So the line moves from the Cm7 away from the tonality on an F7alt and then almost back with the Bbmaj7#5 before finally resolving to Bbmaj7

A variation of the lydian #5 sound is to use a Triad Pair to play the sound. In G melodic minor you have a C and a D major triad which would give you a good set of pitches to use over this chord. Both when soloing but also when comping.

The line starts with a stack of 5ths from Eb and then descends down the scale. On the F7alt I am first using an F#mMaj drop2 arpeggio followed by another descend through that scale.  On the Bbmaj7(#5) the C and D triads are used interchaning, so first the D major triad followed by a C major 2nd inversion triad and then a D and an A from a D major triad before resolving to the 9th(C) of Bb.

The advantage of using the triads is that they are so strong melodies that you can almost string them together in a random way and still get a good, if slightly odd, melody out of it.

Improvising on Maj7#5 - ex 4

The last example is using another sound than melodic minor, it is using the Augmented scale. A scale that I have covered in some detail in this lesson: Augmented Scale. This scale is a symmetrical scale that you could see as being the notes you get if you combine the notes of three major triads a major 3rd apart. In the case of this key that would be Bb, D and Gb.

The line starts out with a scale line on the Cm7 which is first the scale in groups of three and then just descending further. On the F7 the line consists of a triad pair from the F#m melodic scale: A augmented and B major. On the Bbmaj7#5 the line is a pattern played on first the Bb, then the Gb and finally the D major triad. The last note then works as a resolution to the 7th(A) of Bbmaj7.

Improvising on Maj7#5 - ex 5

I hope you can use the examples and ideas I went over here to incorporate the Maj7#5 chord in your playing and add another chord sound to your vocabulary.

If you want to download a PDF of the examples I went over here for later study you can do so here: Improvising on Maj7#5

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