A Basic Guide To 7th Chords Part 1

7th chordsIn today’s free jazz tutorial we’re going to learn how to build and play basic 7th chords.

These types of chords are used in almost every single jazz standard, lots of rock songs, R&B songs, and even classical music too.

So, getting comfortable with them will be super beneficial! (Youtube video lesson, notation, and tips below.)

Learning these chords will also eventually help you build more advanced jazz harmony and play cooler jazz chord progressions.

Who This Chord Tutorial is For

This tutorial should help a lot of the people who visit this site and are more beginner jazz musicians.

For some of you with a bit more musical experience this should provide a nice refresher as well in basic chord construction.

Many of the articles on this site have been geared toward intermediate and advanced musicians but I think it’s important to help people learn jazz at all levels.

So, lets get started learning right now. First, watch the video below then scroll down for notation and more extra tips.

7th chords

(click to expand)

(Quick note: I mentioned 4 chords in the intro to the video above but in the video I only demonstrate 3 chords. There will be a part 2 coming out in a few days though with more advanced chords. Thanks)

How To Build and Play Major 7th Chords

1. The first chord in the video and notation above is the major 7th chord.

2. In order to help you build a major seventh chord you should first start with a plain and simple major triad under your hand.

(For example, In C these notes would be C-E-G. In D the notes would be D-F#-A)

3. Your next step is to find the root of the chord an octave above and double it. So, if you have a C chord the notes would now be C-E-G-C with the 2 C’s being played an octave apart.

4. Your final step is to bring the high note you just doubled (your doubled root) down 1 half step. So, now your notes for a Cmajor7th chord would C-E-G-B.

(Take a look at the chord chart above or the video to see this in action.)

5. You can apply this same formula to build a seventh chord in any key. It’s that easy!

6. I recommend you practice this chord voicing in all 12 keys and get very comfortable with them. They sound fantastic and they’re used all the time in music!

7. There are lots of jazz licks on this site to learn but if you want a sweet one to play specifically over this chord you can check out this major seventh lick lesson.

How To Build And Play Minor 7th Chords

1. The second chord we’re now going to learn is the minor 7th chord.

2. In order to help you play a minor seventh chord you should first start with a minor triad. For example, In the key of C the pitches would be C-Eb-G.

3. Your next step is to find the root of your minor chord and double it an octave above. So, if you have a C chord the notes would now be C-Eb-G-C with the 2 C’s being played an octave apart.

4. Your final step is to bring the high note you just doubled down a whole step. (You could also think of this as bringing the root down 2 half steps). So, now your notes for a C Min7 chord would C-Eb-G-Bb.

5. You can apply this same formula to build a minor seventh chord in any key. Pretty cool right?

6. As I mentioned above, it’s a good idea to learn this chord in every key. You should set a goal to be able to instantly play these chords if you see them in a chord chart.

It may take you a bit of time to learn these but I promise you the effort will be worth it! :)

7. If you want a lick that will work great over this chord and in a minor chord progression you should check out this Barry Harris jazz lick.

How To Build And Play Dominant 7th Chords

1. The last chord we’re  going to look at in this tutorial is the dominant 7th chord. If you see this chord written in a chord chart it will be look like C7, F7, or E7.

2. In order to help you play a dominant seventh chord you should first start with a basic major triad once again. For example, In the key of C the pitches would be C-E-G.

3. Your next step is to find the root of your major chord and double it an octave above. So, if you have a C chord the notes would now be C-E-G-C with the 2 C’s being played an octave apart.

4. Your last step and most important step is to bring your doubled root down 1 whole step. (You could also think of this as bringing the root down 2 half steps). So, now your notes for a C 7 chord would C-E-G-Bb.

5. Technically, this type of chord is called a dominant seventh chord but when musicians are referring to this chord they’ll usually just say “C7 or F7 or Db7″  and not “C dominant 7, F dominant 7, or Db dominant 7).

6. You can apply this same formula to build a minor seventh chord in any key. Pretty cool right?

7. As I mentioned above, it’s a good idea to learn this chord in every key. You should set a goal to be able to instantly play these chords if you see them in a chord chart.

It may take you a bit of time to learn these but I promise you the effort will be worth it! :)

More Resources For You To Learn Jazz

If you’re new to learning jazz you should also check out this beginner’s guide on how to play jazz.

It will give you a nice bird’s eye view on many of the necessary things you’ll need to learn jazz over the next couple years.

If you want to learn more about scales you should also check out this lesson on how to play major modes and scales or this lesson on useful minor scales.

You can also check out one of my review of the program Transcribe. I use this program all the time to help learn licks, chords, and solos off recordings.

For those of you who have more of a classical music background I recommend you read  my 4 tips for switching from classical to jazz.

 

Watch for the next lesson in this seventh chord series. We’ll be learning 3 new awesome seventh chords in that one. I’ll be releasing it in a few days.

Have fun learning these 3 chords in the meantime!

Update: The next lesson has been published. Click here to check out 7th chord piano lesson part 2.

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Steve Nixon is the proud owner of Freejazzlessons.com. He is a world touring jazz and blues keyboard player and educator.

Steve is the author of Premium Jazz Lessons Elite Membership (A comprehensive all-in-one online jazz piano course.)

He is also the author of the The Jazz Masters Method DVD (A study of 9 legendary jazz piano players).

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  • zenswim449

    i really appreciate your lessons and your talent. thank you so much for sharing them. you are a generous person!

    • http://www.freejazzlessons.com/ Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons)

      Thank you for saying that. It’s a pleasure to help Zen :)