C Major Sixth Chord: C6
The C major
sixth chord, or "C6," as it is known, is a perfect
example of how imprecise guitar chord terminology can be, at
least from a classical musician's point of view.
all," say the intellectuals. "It's just an A minor
seventh chord in first inversion."
probably nothing to you, but that's sort of the point. "A
minor seventh chord in first inversion" is too wordy and
complex for popular musicians, and so abbreviations were
couldn't get along without that chord, as did all the Big Band
C6 has a sweet,
almost too sweet sound.
And where did
it come from?
I see its use
by Bach, perhaps even Monteverdi, but then again Bach did just
about everything before anyone else had a chance to think of it.
first composer to really use it fully was Chopin, who made it
sound poignant rather than treacle sweet.
nineteenth century progressed, the C6 chord was relegated to the
perfumed world of salon music, and serious composers avoided it
like the plague. Ethelbert Nevin, the composer of countless
drawing room novelties, preyed upon the C6 chord as if it were
the answer to the secret of the lost chord.
But it fell
into disfavor until after the age of ragtime.
As jazz grew
and flourished, it discovered that sixth chords like the C6 had
a smooth, sophisticated quality. C chords were no longer full
enough, and C6 became a substitute. A C chord alone implied
solidity and church-like simplicity, whereas C6 was racy, modern
and hip, at least in the 1920s.
The sixth chord
fell into disfavor in the age of Elvis, for it sounded dated and
"Big Band." If you want to sound like Bing Crosby, go
ahead and use the sixth chord.
rediscovered it as a sort of tip of the hat to the past
("When I'm Sixty Four.")
And so the sixth chord
re-entered the modern repertoire of chords. But it still says
showbiz, thirties, Broadway, and Big Band.
The Cmaj7 chord is
considered far hipper and doesn't have the dated quality.
here to play with the C6 piano chord.