Seventh Chords on Guitar

seventh chords on guitar

Seventh chords can add depth and emotion to your chord progressions, from major sevenths being warm and comforting to diminished sevenths that bring tension and edge.

As with triads, seventh chords are four note chords that can be stacked in close spacing to form five distinct qualities of seventh chords:

Major 7th

Once you’ve mastered beginner guitar chords, seventh chords are a fantastic next step as they add great variety and flavor to any major or minor progression. There are four primary kinds of 7th chords: major, dominant, minor and half-diminished.

Major 7th chords consist of triads with added major 3rd and perfect 5th intervals above their roots, creating a jazzier sound than simple major or minor triads.

To create a major seventh chord, start from the root note in your key (for instance G major), count up to the first scale degree – in this instance F# – and find an interval between that note and your root note in order to locate its root note – your chord’s root note.

Drop 2 voicing can also help create major seventh chords, with its third highest note being dropped an octave from its original position in an open major 7th chord.

Minor 7th

Though you might not encounter it too often in songs, minor seventh chords can be extremely useful additions to your guitar chord repertoire. They add drama and tension to songs that may otherwise seem dull or flat.

Minor 7th chords consist of a minor triad combined with a minor seventh interval above their root note. They produce more dissonance than major seventh chords and may create feelings of urgency and tension.

There are various m7 chord shapes you can use in any key; Em7 and Am7 are two that we recommend using, with variations such as raised or flattened fifths to add emotion to the chord.

As these are both open position chords, it is recommended to practice them using a capo on the first fret (to create Fm7 or Am7), before continuing down further and adding drop 2 m7 voicings.

Dominant 7th

The dominant seventh chord is an essential part of rock, blues and funk songs, adding dissonant tension and creating dissonant sounds within progressions.

To form a dominant 7th chord, one must form a major triad with its root note, major third note and perfect fifth note, then add one flattened seventh note from their scale – this being the difference between maj7 and dom7 chords.

Dominant seventh chords can often be found as part of a circle progression, preceding tonic, supertonic and subdominant chords in order to achieve a robust sound that complements other chords well.

The shapes shown above are easy to play and provide an accessible sonic center to any voicing. They can also be moved up and down the fretboard for alternative voicings; you can turn a major 7th into a minor by flattening its third to produce a minor threerd effect.

Half Diminished 7th

Half diminished seventh chords are one of the ultimate passing chords, used as a connecting link between major and minor chords. They can also serve as an alternative dominant seventh, providing harmonic movement within your music.

Dim7 chords possess an unique property: they can be constructed using any minor scale. As such, they’re often referred to as shell voicings – memorizing these chords will enable you to improvise authentic guitar playing improvisation.

Diminished chords, like major and minor triads, are typically constructed using 3rds. If these notes are sharped (b) or flattened (#), different qualities will result in different chord qualities. To understand how to build diminished chords properly, a firm grasp on note interval names and their positioning on the fretboard must be developed; more information regarding this can be found in step one of this series.