The seventh chord is an essential way of adding mystery and transcendence to music. Similar to other tertian chords, sevenths are constructed by stacking major third intervals on top of a basic triad chord.
Seventh chords are an essential element of many popular songs across genres and styles, being used in more than 35%. There are five types of seventh chords:
The major seventh chord (maj7) is one of the most widely used seventh chords on guitar. These chords consist of major triads with an additional major seventh interval above their roots that create melodious tones which tend to be perceived as less dissonant than dominant seventh chords.
A major seventh chord (maj7) can be created in two ways, either by stacking thirds or by adding an extra note above the fifth (maj7) to an already established major chord structure – for example converting G major chord into Gmaj7 simply means adding B note above fifth in basic chord structure.
Bread’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” showcases the Gmaj7 chord with an energetic acoustic guitar and bass that brings its romantic yet soothing quality to life, along with major sevenths found throughout jazz songs and blues tunes. Try playing along yourself to experience its soothing yet romantic qualities! Major seventh chords can also be found in many jazz tunes and blues tunes.
A dominant seventh chord (commonly referred to simply as 7ths) is created by adding a lower seventh note above the root note of any chord. In order to create this type of chord, one needs to know how to play major triads – for instance G, C and D in C major; adding diatonic thirds gives rise to G7 (G, B and F natural).
As these chords offer dissonant tones that lend themselves well to blues music, they also fit well in more contemporary genres such as rock.
Elvis’ hits feature A7, B7 and E7 dominant seventh chords which give his music its distinctive sound, providing you with plenty of opportunity to move to it. Meanwhile, other examples such as Rolling Stones’ “(Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” with its G7 chord and plenty of cowbell, provide more inspiration.
This chord type may be less popular than its major seventh counterpart, yet still present in jazz and other light genres. The minor seventh has a sweeter sound and denser texture compared to its major cousin.
Build minor seventh chords from stacked thirds or by adding an additional note to a major seventh pattern – for this latter approach use a flatted 7th that is half-step lower than what would normally be found in major seventh.
Addition of an additional note is often done to produce a sus or suspended sound, where our ears desire hearing the 4th or 2nd resolve back into the third of a chord. These chords are written as m7 but known to musicians as Csus4 or Cmsus4, due to their dissonant qualities; adding one may weaken its stability of a tonic triad.
Half Diminished Seventh
This chord can add tension before moving onto your tonic chord, sometimes sounding dark and minor while at other times more energetic and major – it’s definitely useful in your arsenal of seventh chord voicings!
The key distinction between this and a regular diminished triad lies in its perfect 5th interval being flattened a semitone and being marked off using the “o” symbol as indicated above.
This chord shares its root with a minor 7 b5, so once you understand how to construct one it should be simple to build another drop 2 seventh chord using its root note as its basis. As is typical with drop 2 seventh chords it has an adjustable shape so can be played anywhere across the neck; simply choose which fret best suits where you want the root note of the chord to sit in terms of root note placement.