How to Play Seventh Chords on Piano

Most chords start by starting on major scales and then altering their seventh note by dropping it by a semitone to produce major seventh chords that feel both tense and powerful.

Our first chord will be the Major 7th Chord, an easy chord to construct as it simply involves adding B, which is the seventh note of our scale, onto a major triad.

Major 7th Chord

Major 7th chords are four-note chords composed of a triad and an interval of a seventh above its root note, making for more dissonant chords than major and minor triads but used to add emotion and color to songs, often found in jazz, blues, R&B music.

To play a major seventh chord on piano, begin by creating a standard major triad consisting of the root, major third and perfect fifth notes. To create the major seventh, we lower third and seventh by one semitone so they become flat (b). This creates a chord which looks the same but sounds different.

This chord is easily identified by ear, often written as maj7 on sheet music. It provides a great introduction to 7th chords as it builds an excellent foundation for more complex progressions.

Dominant 7th Chord

Dominant seventh chords are one of the most frequently encountered in music, particularly jazz. These chords tend to generate tension via dissonance before eventually returning back to their tonic chord.

Dominant seventh chords are an integral component of blues music and especially boogie-woogie piano. Learn to play an basic 12-bar blues progression using dominant seventh chords with our free Bouncie Boogie lesson in Skoove.

These chords are built upon dominant triads but feature an additional minor seventh above the root to produce dissonance that often evokes feelings of sadness or anxiety.

Diminished seventh chords are another key chord found frequently in jazz. These chords offer the opportunity to experiment with tone modulation since they can be played in any major or minor key – just keep in mind that depending on the key of your song they may need to be sharpened or flattened a semitone or two for optimal use.

Minor 7th Chord

Minor 7th chords combine elements of both major and minor scales. A perfect way to add variety and interest to any progression, minor 7ths can work across genres and musical settings. Just like dominant 7ths you can stack crunchy tones (such as the b9, #11 or 13) onto them for additional texture and dimension.

To play a minor 7th, simply take your root note and add an interval of a minor seventh to it. Keep in mind that musical intervals are determined by alphabetic relationships rather than actual distance between semi-tones.

Seventh chords are an integral part of most piano players’ musical vocabulary and can help add tension, warmth or soulfulness to your piano playing. Most pianists begin learning four note chords using these seventh chords first. In this quick tip video you will discover five essential categories of 7th chords as well as how they’re constructed.

Half Diminished 7th Chord

A half diminished 7th chord is a type of dominant seventh chord with an additional flat 9 interval, distinguishing itself from regular dominant seventh chords by lacking an identifiable root.

To gain an understanding of how this chord is constructed, it can be helpful to refer back to the piano diagram below. This illustrates note interval numbers from A major scale notes as well as any sharp(#) or flat(b) accidental names that may need to be added when needed.

Seventh chords are an integral part of music, especially jazz, R&B and blues. They add depth and emotion to a triad, adding tension and complexity to its soundscape. Learning these chords will take your piano playing to another level – give this lesson a try – soon you’ll be playing them effortlessly!