But an extra note is often added to these major and minor chords -
called a seventh
- giving the chord a more complex quality.
before, I'll take you through some simple ear training exercises that
will help you identify when the chord being played is a 7th chord. This
skill won't just help you with transcribing music by ear. It'll also
help you work out which notes/scales are best for soloing (we'll get to
The name 7th refers to a particular interval (note, essentially) added
to the basic major or minor chord. If you haven't studied
yet, don't worry as this lesson is more about recognising the different
7th chord qualities by
ear. You could theoretically call them whatever
What's important is that you can pick out this 7th in
the chord and identify which type of 7th chord it is. I know that
sounds difficult, but the more you expose the auditory part of your
brain to it, the more discerning you'll become.
There are four main types of seventh chord - major seventh, dominant
seventh, minor seventh and minor major seventh.
Major 7th Chord Ear Training
Major 7th chords are major chords with an added major 7th
interval (so 1 3 5 7).
You'll hear them used in music all the time.
Rather than me
explain what they are in theoretical terms, start by taking a listen to
this clip of a normal C major chord followed by a Cmaj7 (C major 7th)
They almost sound identical.
How would you describe the quality of the second chord compared with
the first? Dreamier? Prettier? More emotive? Those are my descriptions,
but you'll no doubt have your own. This is about associating the sound
of the chord with a descriptive response, an identifier in the brain.
Listen again, but this time I'm going to emphasise the major 7th of the
Go back to that first clip again and try to pick out that major 7th in
a similar way to how I emphasised it in the second clip. You can hum the 7th if you like to help.
theoretical terms, the major seventh is always one semitone below the
of the chord. So in C
major, the major 7th would be... B.
Take a listen to the C root and major 7th of B in isolation before
bringing the rest of the chord in...
I start by emphasising the major 7th in Ebmaj7. I then play the chord
as normal - try to keep your ear focused on that major 7th tone...
Dominant 7th Chord Ear Training
Another commonly used variation on the major chord. Dominant 7th chords
add a minor 7th
to major chords (so 1 3 5 b7).
I know that's kind of confusing, but
again let's focus
on what they sound
Again, I'll start by playing regular C major followed by C7 (C dominant
Has a much more "bluesy" feel than the major 7th to my ears. Less
relaxed. More unstable.
Again, I'll emphasise that minor 7th interval in the chord...
Whereas a major 7th was only a semitone down from
the root, a minor 7th is one whole
tone down from the root. So in C7,
the 7th would be... Bb
This time let's hear Ebdom7,
but I'm going to isolate the root and minor 7th before bringing in the
rest of the chord...
7th Intervals in Chord Shapes
Like in the previous lesson, you can develop your ability to hear these
7th intervals by playing some simple 7th chord shapes and isolating the
7th. You'll probably
already know some (or all) of these...
= major 7th b7
= minor 7th
Distinguishing Major 7th and Dominant 7th Chords by Ear
To further internalise the distinction between maj7 and dom7, we can
listen to the two chords played consecutively on the same root. Try and
follow the movement of the 7th
when the chord change happens. We're moving from maj7 to dom7...
Can you hear how the 7th moves down one semitone from the maj7 to b7?
That's the only difference between the two chords. The more you can
internalise this difference, the better.
Finally, we need to test our ability to distinguish between the two
types of 7th chord, and regular major chords, in different consecutive
positions. In the following
clips, each one playing three chords, try to identify whether each
chord played is a basic major chord, major 7th or dominant 7th. Answers
in the small print below each clip...