Seventh chords can be difficult to identify without using a chart, so to identify one think about its major key signature and write out its notes: third, fifth and seventh above it.
Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, it is time to add seventh chords into your progressions. Let’s look at some common types of seventh chords.
The dominant seventh chord is an essential part of many styles of music, creating songs with its distinctive sound that you may recognize from R&B hits like Elvis’ Heartbreak Hotel or That’s All Right. This chord’s tension comes from its dissonant relationship between third and flat seventh.
Create a dominant seventh chord by starting with a major triad and adding a flat 7th. Additionally, this chord contains a tritone interval with strong potential to resolving to its tonic chord.
Below you’ll see various methods of playing dominant seventh chords. One is in close position where your thumb must play both strings with equal pressure while the other allows a bass walk technique without needing to use one string as your starting point. There are also examples of inverted versions of these chords.
Diminished seventh chords (di7) can be formed by stacking four minor third intervals – or three semitones – into a closed diminished triad shape. They can be created above any given note by counting up or down from that key until finding each pitch of their fourths stacked vertically.
Diminished seventh chords can be an effective means of signaling key changes due to their indeterminate nature; each note can be enharmonically interpreted as the dominant seventh chord for another key.
The fully diminished leading tone triad can be found in harmonic minor scales as well as major keys. While less popular than its other diminished chord counterparts, any serious guitarist should nonetheless be familiar with it. At its core, it functions as a transition chord connecting chromatically to notes of the following chord and may feature passing tones or appoggiaturas for added texture and complexity.
The major seventh chord is an instrumental sound often found in jazz music, boasting a very beautiful tone that can also be found in rock and other pop songs. While less popular than its counterpart, dominant seventh chord, which has darker overtones.
These chords are created by adding a major seventh chord to the root of a major triad, often written as either “maj7” or “Cmaj7” on chord charts.
As with other seventh chords, these seventh-tone chords can be constructed in various voicings depending on the chord type and root note of the triad used to construct them. You can find examples in a chord progression lesson in Skoove or review this guitar chord chart for further insight. As you become acquainted with their chord shapes and voicings, these seventh-tone chords will add new vibrancy to your guitar playing!
Minor seventh chords can often be found at the end of songs – particularly contemporary styles like blues and jazz, though classical pieces like Debussy’s “Claire de Lune” also use this type of chord to create emotional impact in their audiences. These chords possess a warm sound that helps build emotion within your audience.
Next lesson we’re going to learn how to create chords from the scale notes shown on the chart above. Each step in this lesson will take one scale note as its root and form a 7th chord; we’ll then identify its quality (diminished, half-diminished, majorminor-major, major-7th, or augmented major-7th by counting how many intervals (halftones/ semitones/ piano keys) exist between this root note and its 3rd, 5th and 7th notes within that scale scale.
Knowing how chords are constructed is crucial, since learning how to dissect larger chords will enhance both songwriting and improvisational abilities. By learning movable shapes in this lesson, you’ll be able to form all these chords using one simple basic shape – making them much simpler for playing guitar!