A seventh chord can be defined as the next set of intervals obtained when stacking major thirds above a root note, and is most frequently found as major, minor and dominant seventh chords.
To play an open dominant seventh chord, simply bar all five top strings with your first finger and slide your second finger along them to block. We will also discuss two movable shapes.
What is a Seventh Chord?
Seventh chords can be formed by adding an interval of a seventh (11 half steps) above the root note of a triad. For instance, in a C major triad (C-E-G), we can add a B note to create a Cmaj7 chord – depending on its quality this determines its character.
Notation for seventh chords on a staff is represented by roman numerals with an extra symbol that indicates it as a seventh chord. When used, this symbol corresponds to the chord’s root note as well as any accidentals present in its key signature.
Addition of seventh chords adds new depth and color to triads, giving them new life. From the cozy warmth of a major seventh to its edgy tension in diminished seventh chords, these chords serve to convey emotion and tell stories through music. There are five types of seventh chords: Maj7, Min7, Dim7, Dom7 and M7b5, each offering its own special sound and emotion.
A major seventh chord is one of the most frequent compositional elements. This chord consists of a major triad with an additional note added at its peak; an easy way to think about this structure would be imagining two parts to it – one is its base triad while its top part contains its major seventh interval.
The major seventh chord can create a romantic feel when played, often being used by musicians to bring songs into a more dramatic direction. Jazz musicians have also popularly utilized this chord; Erik Satie made great use of it when writing Gymnopedie No. 1.
The major seventh chord (usually abbreviated as “maj7”) can provide an invaluable foundation for your progressions. By mastering its variations and practicing it regularly, you’ll develop an adept technique and set of progressions.
As its name implies, a minor seventh chord is comprised of both major and minor triads. You’ll commonly find these 7th chords in popular music such as pop or jazz as well as classic romantic pieces such as Debussy’s Clair De Lune that utilize this type of 7th chord.
On sheet music or lead sheets, this chord usually bears an “m7” symbol atop its root note; alternatively it could also be written as Bmi7 or Cm7.
To create this kind of chord, draw the root note on the staff and add any accidentals required by its key signature. Next, draw an F, A and C snowperson representing notes a third, fifth and seventh above its root note.
A dominant seventh chord, as its name suggests, is constructed on the fifth scale degree. Composers often employ dominant seventh chords on their own as they have natural tension due to the interval between third scale degree and flat seventh scale degree (for instance: C to G or A to D).
The two most frequently seen open dominant 7th shapes are the backwards D major and E major shapes, both of which are easy to learn since they resemble major chord patterns you already understand.
Whenever you want a fancier voicing, extensions such as flat 9’s and sharp 13’s can help create less-tense dominant 7th chords that help create smoother resolution between them and their roots.