Avoid Notes ② / Music Theory Lesson

Author: sleepfreaks

Avoid Notes of the IIm (IIm7) Chord

This time, lets go back into avoid notes.
With the knowledge of the 2 5 from our previous article in mind,
lets take a look at how to think of avoid notes in the 2nd major diatonic chord in this article.


There are 2 main ways to think of this concept.

Looking at it From a II V Perspective

First lets use the method from 2 articles before of “finding scale notes that are
a half-step above the chord tones” on the IIm7 chord.


Just from this alone, similar to the IVmaj7 it seems like there are no avoid notes.

Then lets listen to how Dm7 sounds with the non-chord tone notes (E, G, B) added in.

  • Dm7 + E
  • Dm7 + G
  • Dm7 + B

They all have complicated harmonies, but the
chord with B added to it has a particularly strong tension to it.

This is because the 3rd note (the m3rd’s F) and the B make a tritone interval.


As mentioned in our 30th article, tritones give tension to the V7 (dominant chord), and create a strong pull towards the tonic.

With this knowledge in mind, lets think back on the II V progression from our last article.

  • IIm7 → V7 → I
    Key=C Major Dm7 → G7 → C

The dominant to tonic style motion and the tritone
create a chord progression with a powerful flow.

What happens when we add the B to the IIm7 as well?

  • Dm7 with a prominant B added → V7 → I

Doesn’t it feel like the power of the II V I is lesser?

Previously, we mentioned that avoid notes are capable of taking away the function of the chord,
and this case is a prominant example of this.

If a tritone tension is found in the II chord,
it feels like it is “spoiling” the tritone twist that comes in the V7.

As seen, by making a tritone stand out other than the one used in the dominant chord,
the impact of the dominant chord is weakened
so it is best to avoid doing so.

In addition, though the B in the Fmaj7 creates a tritone with the root,
it is not classified as an avoid note.
This is because it is not a tritone to the chord’s 3rd (A).

  • Fmaj7 with a prominant B added → V7 → I

Though this has a very unique sound, the dominant-like feel is less prominant than the Dm7+B.

The V7 tritone includes the 3rd of the chord,
so this can be considered to create a more dominant characteristic in a chord.

To avoid weakening the power of the V7 dominant chord, avoid using a tritone that includes the 3rd.

The Perception that IIm (IIm7) has no Avoid Notes

Because many songs/genres/techniques use this ideal, you can think of
the IIm7 chord as not having any Avoid Notes.

That being said, because certain notes create specific harmonies,
they are sometimes called “care notes” (notes to take care when using).
Either way, it’s best to use them sparingly when you are still new to them.


Using Avoid Notes

When analysing melodies and chords, you may often find avoid notes and care notes being used.

In this case, try to figure out what makes it sound cool or comfortable in the song. For example,

  • It was used distanced from the chord (2-3 octaves)
  • It is a phrase/genre that utilizes the note(s) frequently
  • Using the note creates a specific mood
  • Adding the notes created a chord that sounds in between another chord

As mentioned previously, avoid notes aren’t forbidden by any means,
and their uses change over time, genre, etc.

Rather than simply “avoiding” them, perhaps we can think of them as “handle with caution” notes.

Article Writer: Kazuma Itoh

講師 伊藤
After moving to the USA at 18 years of age with a scholarship from Berklee, he completed a 4 year study focused on song writing and arranging there.
Using this knowledge, he works across a variety of fields from pop music, film music, and more.