we're looking at step 3 - how to solo over 7th
chords. We'll be following exactly the
same process as before, but this time we need to identify if the
backing chord is a major 7th, dominant 7th or minor 7th chord type.
This will further determine which scales and scale tones we can use in
The chord theory series looks at what 7th chords are
made of, so it'll help to understand these building blocks, but I'll
reference examples throughout this lesson.
Also, the more scales you learn, the better (see the scales
section), because you'll know exactly which type of 7th each scale
uses. Again, I'll reference examples.
over major 7th chords
Major 7th chords consist of the major triad: root
3rd (3) and
5th (5) plus
an extra tone - the major 7th (7).
They have a distinct sound, often described as "dreamy" that you should
train your ear to identify. Here are two of
the most common major 7th chord forms. Play them in various positions
up the fretboard to get to know its sound in any key...
7th chords are abbreviated with a "maj7" (e.g. Amaj7, Bmaj7, Cmaj7
etc.). So, if you see a chord written like this, you'll know what it is!
means whichever scale we choose to play over a major 7th chord, it must
either include the major 7th or not include any 7th at all. For
example, the Mixolydian scale contains a flat 7th (b7), so it wouldn't
be compatible with a major
The two most common major 7th scales are the major/Ionian scale...
Use the 4th wisely over maj7 chords as it can sound dissonant when
held. The 4th is most commonly used as a passing tone over these
chords, glancing over it and/or resolving to the 3rd.
...and the Lydian scale...
And because the major pentatonic scale doesn't include any 7th,
it'll be compatible with maj7 chords, as there's nothing to clash with
that major 7th tone...
Try any of these scales over the major 7th backing track below to
get an ear for their unique flavour. It's in the key of C# major, which
the root note of both the chord and any scale you use will be C#.
Dominant 7th chords are made up of the major triad (R,
and a flat 7th (b7),
sometimes called a minor
7th (although to avoid confusion with a chord we'll be
looking at later, I just call it a flat 7th).
A dominant 7th chord would be abbreviated simply with a 7 (e.g. A7, B7,
A few of examples of dominant 7th chord forms...
You can hopefully make an informed guess at what we're looking for in a
scale to solo over dominant 7th chords...
That's right, we're looking for scales with a b7! Scales that
complement the dominant 7th flavour.
For example, we could use Mixolydian...
Or something a bit more tense such as Lydian dominant...
Or Phrygian dominant...
Notice how the names of some of these scales suggest they are natural
dominant 7th scales. In music theory, the word dominant relates to
this flat 7th tone.
We could also use major pentatonic because, again, it doesn't include
any 7th so is effectively "7th neutral".
In a nutshell, when you solo over 7th chords, you should avoid playing
the major 7th over dominant 7th chords!
out these scales over the dom7 backing track below. This time we're in
the key of Bb (B flat) major, meaning our chord and scale root note is Bb.
As the name suggests, minor 7th chords consist of the minor triad: Root
minor 3rd (b3)
and 5th (5)
plus an extra tone, the flat 7th (b7).
In a minor context we can also call this flat 7th a minor 7th.
Minor 7th chords are abbreviated as "m7" (e.g. Am7, Bm7, Cm7 etc.).
Some common minor 7th chord forms...
Let's look at some flat 7th minor scale examples...
Dorian #4 (this is just Dorian with a sharp 4th tone)...
And minor pentatonic...
Have a jam over the m7 backing track below, using any of the scales
above. We're in the key of D minor, so the root note will of course
The term "minor major 7th" might sound conflicting, but all it means is
a minor triad (R,
with a major 7th (7)
as opposed to the minor 7th (b7)
more naturally associated with minor chords. This results in a very
unusual, harmonically tense sound.
Minor major 7th chords are abreviated as "mM7", the capitalised M
representing the major
7th (so AmM7, BmM7, CmM7 etc.)
Play the following chord forms in any position on the fretboard to get
a feel for this wonderful chord...
for choosing scales, we'll need a minor scale which uses the major 7th.
The two scales associated with this sound are harmonic minor...
...and melodic minor...
So, here we are again! Explore these scales over the mM7 backing
track below. Listen to how the major 7th enhances the overall feel of
We're in the key of Eb (E flat) for this, meaning our root note will be