In guitar chord theory part 1 we looked at major, minor and suspended triads (three note chords). In part 2 we learned how to construct augmented and diminished triads. These five chord types form the basis of all chords.
Today we're looking at a family of chords that contain four notes, known as 7th chords. These can be seen as primary extensions of the basic, three note triads we learned in the first two parts.
Learn how guitar chords work together in any key...
Click here to start now
In music theory, the 7th chords are (with their tones/intervals):
|Chord Name||Abbreviations||Chord Tones|
|Major 7th||maj7, M7||1, 3, 5, 7|
|Dominant 7th||7, dom7||1, 3, 5, ♭7|
|Minor 7th||min7, m7||1, ♭3, 5, ♭7|
|Minor major 7th||minMaj7, mM7||1, ♭3, 5, 7|
|Augmented 7th||aug7, +7||1, 3, ♯5, ♭7|
|Half diminished||m7♭5, ø||1, ♭3, ♭5, ♭7|
|Diminished 7th||dim7, °7||1, ♭3, ♭5, ♭♭7|
|Suspended 7th||7sus||1, 2/4, 5, ♭7|
Don't get confused at this stage with their names. Just focus on getting to know how each one is built and the unique sound each one creates. A lot of this knowledge will come naturally if you know the fretboard.Here's a useful introductory video on 7th chords and what the "7th" refers to...
Major 7th chords have been described as "dreamy" and relaxed or resolved (i.e. lacking tension) and are therefore often used for resolution in chord progressions.
Remember that a major triad was the Root, 3rd and 5th notes from the major scale? Well a major 7th chord is the triad with an added major 7th tone...
The Root (1), 3rd (3), 5th (5) and 7th (7) form a major 7th chord. For example...
Notice how it just uses those 4 tones (1 3 5 7), unmoved from the major scale.
Here's a common major 7th chord shape rooted on the A string...
don't have to include that higher 5th voicing on the high E string, but
the option is there.
Dominant 7th chords include a flat/minor 7th (♭7) instead of a major 7th (7). A way of visualising this is if you flatten the 7th from the major 7th position (its natural major scale position) one semitone (the equivalent of one fret).
Minor 7th chords are a minor triad (1 ♭3 5) with a flat/minor 7th (♭7).
I think you can see where we're going with this now!
In part 2, we looked at augmented triads (1 3 ♯5), well an augmented 7th chord is exactly that with an added flat/minor 7th.
Half diminished? Well, you'll know from part 2 how a regular diminished triad is made up (1 ♭3 ♭5). A half diminished chord is the diminished triad plus a flat 7th tone. It's a bit of a confusing name, I know! Just make sure you learn the elements that make up this chord to clarify in your own mind...
Diminished 7th chords involve the 7th being flattened twice from its natural major scale position. Incidentally, this puts it in the position of a major 6th. However, in the context of diminished chords (1 ♭3 ♭5) we label it as a double flat 7th (♭♭7), also known as a diminished 7th...
As I said at the beginning, don't worry yourself over why some of these chord names sound a bit confusing, just know what notes they involve and the sound they create.Just think of diminished 7th chords as minor chords with a flat 5 and double flat 7th.
In part 1 we learned about suspended triads, where the 3rd of a major or minor triad is replaced with the 2nd or 4th (sus2 and sus4 respectively).These triads can also be extended by adding the flat 7th (♭7). Starting with 7th suspended 4th...
Abbreviated as "7sus4", e.g. C7sus4, E7sus4, G7sus4 etc.
And here's a commonly used A string chord shape for a 7th suspended 2nd...
In the next guitar chord theory lesson we'll cover further chord extensions such as added 6ths and 9ths and creating "13th chords", stacking our chords even higher.
We only looked at the most common chord forms in this lesson. To truly dominate the fretboard with any one of these chord types, I highly recommend you spend some time studying the fretboard - this interactive fretboard learning software will make sure you don't bore yourself to death in the process!
Was this lesson helpful? Please let others know, cheers...
| Like This?
Subscribe & Learn More...
Subscribe to the fretjam newsletter below for updates and extras, plus grab your free copy of Uncommon Chords: 101 Vibrant Voicings You Won't Find on a Typical Chord Chart.