Intro To 7th Chords Using A Practical Example Guitar

I'm aiming this at the beginner who just wants to learn a few chords (In this case 7th's) to add flavour to their playing.

Intro To 7th Chords Using A Practical Example Guitar
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This one is especially for mizzt. mp3 examples are available here (4.1mb zip file). Through this -ahem- 'lesson' I'm going to refer to the following practical example using four chords : C - A - D - G. (Progression is in the Key of C).
 CMaj AMaj DMaj GMaj
e|----3----5----5----3----| 
B|----5----5----7----3----| 
G|----5----6----7----4----| 
D|----5----7----7----5----| 
A|----3----7----5----5----| 
E|----X----5----X----3----| 
If you need fingerings of the various shapes please use a chord dictionary/chart (e.g. http://chordfind.com/). I also have not gone into inversions (variations). As we go along we'll 'flavour' these basic major chords using Major7th, Minor7th and Dominant7th chords so our ears can get a feel for the sound. Example 1. Play the example using only the major chords detailed above. Sounds kinda 'pop'? Crank up some overdrive, add some strumming patterns and you could go into punk-ish/indie rock? Example 2. Let's start with a Dominant 7th chord. These are commonly used in Blues progressions, occasionally used in Jazz, Flamenco, Pop, etc... as well. Typically referred to as 7th's, they are not to confused with a Major7th - they sound completely different (imho). Ok, Substitute all four major chords with (Dominant) 7th chords: C7, A7, D7, G7. From a standard major chord fingering, you'll only have to lift a finger for each chord to make it a Dominant 7th. In the last example I'll show a slightly different version of a Dominant 7th chord.

 C7   A7   D7   G7 
e|----3----5----5----3----|
B|----5----5----7----3----|
G|----3----6----5----4----|
D|----5----5----7----3----|
A|----3----7----5----5----|
E|----X----5----X----3----|
Now sounding a bit bluesy? That's the 7th note within the chord. Example 3. Let's dig into the Minor7th now. Substitute all four Dominant7th chords with Minor7th chords : Cm7, Am7, Dm7, Gm7. I personally enjoy throwing the odd minor chord into a progression, especially a Minor7th for contrast.

 C7   A7   D7   G7 
e|----3----5----5----3----|
B|----4----5----6----3----|
G|----3----5----5----3----|
D|----5----5----7----3----|
A|----3----7----5----5----|
E|----X----5----X----3----|
Ok, sounding a bit soulful maybe? Although now, the last chord (Gm7) sounds odd to me in this particular progression. Example 4. Right, onto the Major7th chords. Substitute all four chords with Major7th chords : CMaj7, AMaj7, DMaj7, GMaj7. I don't often use a Major7th - except where Dominant7th or Minor7th just doesn't sound right and a Major chord isn't interesting enough. The fingering is similar to a Dominant7th, except you are adding a note (finger) back to the shape.
CMaj7 AMaj7 DMaj7  GMaj7 
e|----3-----5-----5-----3----|   
B|----5-----5-----7-----3----|   
G|----4-----4-----6-----4----|   
D|----5-----4-----7-----4----|   
A|----3-----7-----5-----5----|   
E|----X-----5-----X-----3----|   
This sounds jazzy to me, although the AMaj7 sounds out of place now? Example 5. Putting it all together. This is something I use to remind me of the different flavours of 7th chord and demo it to friends who'd like something simple to play : CMaj7, AMin7, Dmin7, G7 (extended with a extra 7th note on the B string).
CMaj7 AMin7 Dmin7  G7  
e|----3-----5-----5-----3----|
B|----5-----5-----6-----6----|
G|----4-----5-----5-----4----|
D|----5-----5-----7-----3----|
A|----3-----7-----5-----5----|
E|----X-----5-----X-----3----|
To my ears, all the chords sound like they belong in a chilled jazz-ish progression and nothing sounds particularly 'out'. There is a solid theory reasoning for this, but more importantly my ears like it. (And that is because it follows the basic 'guidelines' of Chord Movements in the Major Key - In this case we are in the Key of C). Rainy days - Just a quick demo of a possible use of this progression. (And I feel very rusty playing it!) A few thoughts: 1. Knowing a lot of chords and scales is useful, but not critical. Your ears are as useful as theory and practising your theory using practical examples is (imho) the key. 2. Listen to something that inspires you. Use your ears, figure it out. Practice with a metronome (or drum loop) and don't rush. 3. Using fragments (partial voicings) of chords is common. Once you know a shape experiment with playing two/three note pieces of the chord. (Two or more notes played together constitutes a chord). 4. A fretboard is not a intuitive place (unlike a keyboard) - you'll have to know where the notes are - so theory can be useful (e.g. chord shapes and scales). 5. Inversions (variations) of chords are cool. They are differing ways of fingering the notes that make up chords. E.g. you can play a variety of Dominant 7 chord shapes around the fretboard that all sound slightly different because the guitar IS NOT a keyboard - strings differ in gauge (thickness) and deliver a different sound (e.g. a open string vs fretted string, a wound bass string vs a plain treble string).

17 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    KG6_Steven
    One small problem... The chord progression you cited at the beginning of the article is not in the key of C as you claim. Two of the chords you listed are not in the key of C. The A and D chords are not in the key of C. In order for the A chord to be in the key of C, it must be an Am. The same exists for the D chord - it must also be a Dm. I think you're confusing the fact that in the key of C, there are no sharps and flats - C D E F G A B C. However, the ii, iii and vi chords in the key of C are minor. Your chord progression, in the key of C, should be C Am Dm G. The other thing you stated that is wrong, is that "two or three notes played together constitutes a chord." While we often call 2-note chords a power chord, technically, they are not chords. By definition, a chord must consist of three or more notes. Any music theory book will confirm this to be true.
    Hydra150
    Nah, that progression could well be in the key of C. As long as the tonal centre is the note C, and that C chord has a major 3rd, then the progression is in the key of C major, regardless of whether the other chords diatonically fit into that key. They're called accidentals, and they're nothing to be afraid of.
    Hydra150
    Although having said that if I were presented with that progression I'd say that it was in D, doesn't resolve to the C very well.
    KG6_Steven
    It certainly doesn't resolve to C very well and I'd even have misgivings about saying it resolves to D. In D, I'd expect the C to be a C#. The other chords fit in that key. At the very least, you'd have to watch what you're playing once you got to the C.
    Hydra150
    The b7 is a very common accidental, so the C instead of C# isn't anything to worry about.
    Carl LOG
    This is not a good one.. just by looking at the first paragraphs Either some ****ed up music theory going on there or the person writing this had no idea what music theory is xP
    xonty
    I think you should include the Locrian mode's 7th chord: -1- -0- -2- -0- -2- -X- (Bm7b5 used as example) which sounds pretty awful on its own but try it with the rest of the 7th chords (Cmaj7, Dm7, Em7, Fmaj7, G7, Am7, Bm7b5, Cmaj7)
    alliwant
    AMaj7 e|-5-| B|-5-| G|-4-| D|-4-| A|-7-| E|-5-| My fingers struggle with that... I know some basics on theory but a few things, as mentioned by others, don't make sense at the start. The last progression resolves the major-minor issues I had but the way the lesson is set up could be confusing for people who don't know much music theory. It's a good idea to highlight the 7th chords as they can be used to make some interesting progressions but I think the lesson needs a little work, nice try though.
    gypsyblues7373
    The Amaj7 and Gmaj7 you tabbed out are wrong; you have the fret positions on the D and G strings a whole step down farther than they should be.
    Rebel Scum
    Its just the text alignment thats wrong. I thought the same thing but then went back and looked at it. Its right.
    gypsyblues7373
    It looks like the Gmaj7 is correct now (or I'm losing my mind) but for Amaj7 for the D and G strings it should be at the 6th fret instead of the 4th.
    henrihell
    You're right. firstly I can't see a way for that Amaj7 to be played. Secondly, it's not the same shape as the Gmaj7, which it should be.
    gypsyblues7373
    I think it's just an honest mistake on the author's part...the way he has it tabbed out, it contains the 2nd interval of the chord (or 9th), so that doesn't make sense, and it also contains the 6th interval instead of the 7th...which makes it not a 7th chord. See my comment down below on the way to play the chord.