As major and minor triads do, seventh chords help set the mood and texture of piano music from all genres, as well as provide the basis for chord progressions.
Addition of a seventh note can add depth and hint at tension leading up to its home chord. We will explore two types of seventh chords during this lesson.
Major seventh chords are typically the first four note chords that most students discover, as they’re easy to create from basic major triads (C, E and G) combined with adding the seventh note of any scale above it – or, flattening this seventh to create a dominant seventh chord.
Common applications for chord progressions can be found in popular music genres like pop, rock and R & B; however, they can also be found in jazz, blues and film music genres.
To play a major seventh chord, start by playing a root position chord, with your right thumb on middle C and left pinky on an octave lower than C, as a two-note chord (or “root position chord”). Add any seventh of any scale above for an eight note tetrachord chord (tetrachords are four note chords used to form four note harmonies or “tetrachords”) using this rule – any major seventh chord in any key will look something like this: C, E G and B
Seventh chords are among the first four-note piano chords many musicians learn, as well as being very widespread across popular music. You’ll often encounter them here!
They’re created by adding a major seventh interval above the root of a triad, creating four notes known as tetrachords; for instance, C major seventh chord is made up of C, E, G and B notes.
Minor 7th chords may seem intimidating at first, but once you understand their basic structure they’re relatively straightforward to play. To create one we use the root of a major triad as its starting point and add an octave up minor third.
Reduced 7th chords can create a dramatic, sinister sound. To do so, we combine minor thirds, diminished fifths, and minor sevenths above the root note; these chords can often be written as Cdim7, Gdim7 or Fdim7 to give your song an extra oomph! These powerful chords add dimension and impact!
Dominant seventh chords are constructed by adding a flat seventh note to major triads, creating an unstable chord with an unstable feel and wanting to resolve into a major chord five steps away. Dominant sevenths also give music an impressive power and tension-filled sound when used properly – you will often find these chords used in Blues, Rock and modern Pop songs; Romantic-era piano pieces such as Debussy’s “Claire de Lune” also use dominant sevenths frequently.
To play a dominant chord on the piano, start with your root triad (comprising of first, third and fifth notes of any given scale), and add a flat seventh note above it. From there you can play it using only three fingers from your right hand – first, second and third fingers of either hand.
This chord can be identified on sheet music as C7. Additionally, this tone may also be known as its A-Vibrating or B-Vibrating versions.
As can be seen, the formula for creating a suspended chord differs slightly from that for regular seventh chords but remains straightforward: simply double your root note and move it down two keys (half steps). Position your thumb on the same key as your root and count until you hit your second note of playback; place another finger there until all sus2 chords have been played – add bass note octaves as usual after this process has completed itself.
Suspended chords are striking in that they seem suspended in midair, waiting for resolution of their home chord. Suspended chords can create tension before getting to an ending chord, and in classical music may even prolong resolution to add drama and make the ending more dramatic.
Seventh chords are one of the first four-note piano chords most players learn, often used in blues and jazz music but also occasionally applied elsewhere.
A seventh chord can be created by adding a major interval (11 half steps) above the root of a triad. There are three types of seventh chords:
Major Seventh Chord
The major seventh chord is an accessible four note chord found across various musical genres including pop, jazz and blues. Most people start learning this type of seventh chord early because its keyboard-friendly nature makes it accessible.
To play the major 7th chord, start with your right thumb on middle C and left pinky on an octave C above it. Next, lower that upper C by one semitone to B to create your major 7th chord.
Here is an effective pattern you can follow to discover all major seventh chords. All it requires is taking any major triad (composed of the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes from your scale) and adding in an altered seventh note lowered one semitone lower.
This formula applies to all major 7th chords in any key, so keep it in mind when learning chord symbols on lead sheets.
Minor Seventh Chord
Seventh chords bring emotion and tension to songs, yet can be challenging to play due to their dissonant nature. Once you learn how to produce these chords, however, they’ll open up an entirely new world for your piano playing!
Minor seventh chords are constructed by adding a minor 7th note to a minor triad, creating an emotionally rich yet less lonely sound that often finds usage in Romantic piano music as well as modern jazz or piano ballads. This type of chord can also be found in Romantic songs of this era as well as jazz.
To play a minor seventh chord, begin by placing your fingers on the root note as usual, before adding three fingered on middle note and fourth on top note of triad triad. Playing this minor 7th chord should be easier than you think: just remember that major 7th has two notes lowered by half step for minor 7. Once memorized it should come easily!
Dominant Seventh Chord
This is one of the most frequently found seventh chords in music, appearing frequently in pop and rock songs as well as jazz and blues music. Because it contains more notes than basic major or minor triads, however, mastering it takes practice and patience to achieve.
An effective approach for learning major triads and adding the 7th note (B) to them is by first becoming acquainted with major triads, before gradually adding in dominant seventh chords such as C7 on sheet music or lead sheets.
The added 7th note is an integral part of this chord’s sound, creating an upward motion towards its tonic chord that makes it ideal for chord progressions and modulations as well as harmonizing tonic tones in scales.
Diatonic Seventh Chord
Though you won’t often come across them in Rock, Heavy Metal or Early Medieval music genres (such as Rock), seventh chords are an indispensable component of many other styles of popular and jazz music – and luckily are relatively straightforward to play!
Once you understand major and minor triads, learning seventh chords on piano shouldn’t be too challenging. Simply practice them using different song contexts such as twelve bar blues for best results.
Learn the fully diminished seventh chord, commonly referred to as an o7 chord. Composed of a diminished triad and its own diminished seventh, this chord adds tension or modulates quickly between chords; you may have encountered these chords during jazz improvisation improvisation sessions; to hear this chord in action take a look at Coldplay’s “A Sky Full of Stars” Skoove tutorial as a good example.