Seventh chords play an integral role in musical composition across almost all genres. Similar to triads, seventh chords can be built from a basic root chord with notes stacked a third above it (imagine drawing an extra-long snowperson).
Evaluating the interval relationship between these stacked thirds can give you valuable information about the quality of a chord. Keep this guide close at hand to support your fingers’ musical endeavors!
Major seventh chords consist of the root, third and fifth notes from a major scale arranged as three separate note blocks, written as Cmaj7 on sheet music or lead sheets and commonly heard throughout popular songs. They’re one of the most commonly found seventh chords today – you may hear them quite frequently in contemporary music!
To form a major seventh chord, begin by taking any major triad and adding a major seventh note above it. Play this chord using the first, second and third fingers of your right hand to perform this chord.
Major seventh chords possess a warm tone, making them suitable for many forms of music, from contemporary pop and rock, through classical pieces by Debussy such as Clair De Lune. You may also hear these chords in various jazz, blues and R&B genres. A major seventh chord can add depth, emotion and complexity to your playing and should definitely be considered when choosing which chord to use!
Substituting major seventh chords with major triads is an excellent way to add emotional resonance to your piano playing, so much so that major seventh chords are commonly found in romantic-era piano music or modern piano ballads.
When writing out a major seventh chord on sheet music, its symbol (known as an M7) must always accompany it. Any changes or additions to this chord quality are superscripted accordingly.
A minor seventh chord can be created using any major triad and adding an interval of the major seventh above its root note – here, a C major triad would work perfectly – followed by taking that major seventh above root and lowering it by half-step – this creates your minor seventh chord with flat fifth! Inverted minor seventh chords may also be available should you prefer your notes to resolve more quickly.
A dominant seventh chord combines both a major triad and the interval of a minor seventh above it to create tension that then tends to resolve into its tonic (I) chord. To experience and hear this type of chord in action, check out Skoove tutorial of Coldplay’s “A Sky Full Of Stars”.
An easy way to construct a dominant seventh is to combine any major triad with a flatted seventh above it; for example C triad + B flat = C dom7.
This chord can be found frequently in blues music as well as popular and rock songs due to its mixture of major and minor sounds – making it particularly versatile. Additionally, you will often encounter it associated with minor scales in classical music; you can read up more on all four other types of seventh chords here if desired!
Half Diminished Seventh
Diminished chords create an unnerving and foreboding sound that works wonderfully as harmonic tension-builders and passing chords between scale degrees.
Like major and minor triads, diminished triads are constructed in threes (1-3-5). However, unlike their major and minor counterparts, diminished triads differ by having the seventh note flattened instead of raised so as to function as a dominant chord (but diminished one) within a minor key.
To create a half diminished 7th chord, simply combine a minor third and a flat fifth into an enharmonic notation of your key’s major scale.
Let’s consider an example of a Bm7b5 chord in minor minor. This chord can be created by adding a minor third above and below its root note, yielding Gbdeg7 or Cdeg7(b5) on a piano diagram. These intervals form an entirely symmetrical harmonic quality which allows us to easily construct other half diminished 7ths of any key.