7th Guitar Chords

Seventh chords add great hue and dimension to a progression – just take a listen to America’s “Tin Man” or Muddy Waters’ “Blues Before Sunrise”, for instance.

These chords feature a major triad with a minor seventh interval above its root note and produce a powerful sound, often represented with the 7(b9) or 7alt chord symbol.

Major Seventh

A major seventh chord, commonly abbreviated as “maj7,” is comprised of three consecutive triads connected by an added seventh note. While dominant seventh chords often produce more tension-filled tones, major seventh chords produce brighter sounds with an airier quality.

Listening to Erik Satie’s slow waltz Stardust on track 6 will provide an ideal demonstration of maj7 chords in action; its first eight measures alternate between Gmaj7 and Dmaj7.

Half-diminished sevenths are another type of seventh chord that create a sense of tension, by taking a diminished triad and adding a minor seventh (10 semitones above the root).

Drop 3 voicings get their name because they move the third highest note in close position chords a half step lower, creating three other chord shapes which can be played using different root notes. They make an ideal starting point when studying major and minor seventh chords.

Minor Seventh

Minor seventh chords (m7’s) can be an invaluable asset to your chord repertoire if you play jazz, particularly as part of a progression. Offering more color and flavor than their major seventh counterparts, minor sevenths can add depth and color to chord progressions while remaining easily moveable on the fretboard for different voicing options.

A minor seventh chord (m7) is created by lowering the third and fifth to create a minor seventh interval, one semitone below an octave. These chords can be found frequently used in ballads and bossa nova music to produce more reflective and soulful tones.

Minor 7 chords can also be used to construct minor 11 chords, commonly found in Wayne Shorter’s compositions. This chord features both major 9ths in its first octave and minor 7ths in its second, creating a pleasing dissonance in sound.

Dominant Seventh

Dominant seventh chords stand out with their distinctive sound due to the flattened 7th note, creating dissonance which eventually resolves back into tonic chords (Do) from within their scales. Similar to major seventh chords, dominant sevenths consist of major triads (1, 3, and 5) but differ due to the addition of seventh (b7) for their unique sound.

Funk music relies heavily on dominant seventh chords to give songs their energy and drive. One excellent example is Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel,” where these chords create the opening sequence with such powerful energy and presence.

To learn these chords, begin with an open A shape and gradually work your fingers up the neck until they form an A chord shape. When you are comfortable playing this chord in different keys, apply it to a basic 12 bar blues progression to help get comfortable playing these shapes throughout your neck! This will help ensure a more fluid experience!

Minor Seven Flat Five

There are some variations of seventh chords that don’t strictly fall under either major or minor categories, one such chord being minor seven flat five (m7b5). This chord can often be found used in minor keys like C minor where it functions as the diatonic II chord that resolves to dominant V chord. Conversely, in another application, it could substitute G7 chords to create an altered II-V-I progression for parallel minor keys like A minor.

The m7b5 shape is relatively straightforward to play – simply mutes any strings you are not actively playing with your fingers, and you’ll soon have a pleasant sounding chord! Try playing it with a simple chord progression for even greater effects! For larger hands, an alternate version with its root on the 5th string may work better; check out our Complete Chord Mastery guitar course to explore these harmonic knowledge bases rationally and practically!