Seventh chords can make an excellent addition to your piano repertoire, as they can be found in much popular music and help to broaden your harmonic range.
To create a seventh chord on piano, begin with a major triad and add an additional seventh note an octave above it – this creates the dominant seventh chord.
Major 7th chords are among the most frequently encountered seventh chords and can be found across many genres of music, particularly jazz and R&B. They add depth and emotion to songs by combining the first, third and fifth tones with an additional tone octave above them – creating depth and emotion within songs.
On sheet music and lead sheets, chords that result from changes are written as Cmaj7; any variations, additions or deletions should also be superscripted like Cmaj7b7.
These chords can also be found in classical music and even popular songs that don’t necessarily belong to jazz or R&B – you just need to know how to play them! Like other major chords, major seventh chords follow the formula 1 3 5 b7 wherein each seventh note of the chord has been flattened by one semitone to produce tension or instability while always returning back to tonic chord (I). All seventh chords originate as triads with an interval of one seventh from root.
Seventh chords are incredibly popular across multiple musical genres. More complex than a regular major or minor triad, they can take many shapes or inversions when played, highlighting different notes within the chord itself. Two commonly encountered forms are major and dominant seventh chords.
Other seventh chords you might come across when playing are less commonly seen; an example being the minor seven flat five chord, popular in jazz and Latin music – making this chord easy by starting off with a minor seven chord and flatting its fifth note by half step (lowering it).
Each 7th chord has specific qualities that define its sound, known as note interval qualities. These can range from diminished to minor to diminished-major-flat to dominant to perfect to augmented; and are determined by examining its first, third and fifth notes from its major scale diagram (above). Below is a table listing these interval short names/abbreviations and where applicable
The dominant seventh chord is one of the most versatile 7th chords and often used. It can be played as either an unrooted voicing, with added root and fifth notes to create tension or by shifting up or down by half-step to produce different tones and sounds.
Most textbooks define chords by the types of triad and seventh chord they contain, often described using interval quality (diminished, minor, major, perfect and augmented).
This chord’s most widely known version is C7; to alter it further, flattening out its fifth (lowering it by one semitone). This change creates what’s known as a half-diminished seventh chord – very useful when looking to change up your triad and dominant seventh chords! For instance, The Rolling Stones used B7 chord in “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” while Blue Oyster Cult made use of G7 in their hit song “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” These examples demonstrate how these simple chords can create such distinct music!
The half-diminished 7th chord is a diminished chord composed of a minor third, diminished fifth and minor seventh notes. Its bass notation is 6/5/3; sometimes also known as viio7 chord.
As with other dominant seventh chords, it can also serve a minor seventh chord function in major keys. When used this way, usually only its root note will be played, making the chord function similar to an viio7/V chord in this instance.
Discover more about piano chords with our popular course Piano Triads – Major, Minor, Diminished & Augmented Chords (Level 2) or check out this lesson, Five Essential Categories of Seventh Chord Progression. Additionally, for helpful tutorials, weekly lessons, practice tips, free video lessons downloads, downloadable resources and more visit our resource page – thanks for reading – have fun practicing seventh chords together & start a new chapter of music together!