Chords: Seventh Chords You Gotta Know

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A Seventh Chord is typically a four-note chord that includes some kind of 7 in its chord structure…

Here is a gallery of the five most commonly-encountered seventh chords: Major, Minor, Dominant, Diminished, and Half-Diminished…

Major Seventh

  • Chord symbol: Cmaj7, CM7, or CΔ7
  • Chord structure = 1-3-5-7

A great way to develop your chord vocabulary is to relate new chords to chords you already know. For example, notice that Cmaj7 is a C major triad (something you already know) plus one more note: B.

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piano-ology-chords-seventh-chords-you-gotta-know-major-seventh-keyboard

Listen… and notice the colorful, sweet, dissonant, jazzy quality of the major 7 chord compared to the major triad…

FYI, the Major Seventh chord is most often used in two ways:

  • Tonic Imaj7 chord in a major tonality.
  • Tension chord (examples: IVmaj7 in major tonality or bVImaj7 in minor tonality)

You will learn lots more about chord functions when you study chord progressions.


Minor Seventh

  • Chord Symbol: Cm7, Cmin7, Cmi7, or C-7
  • Chord Structure: 1-b3-5-b7

Notice that Cm7 is a C minor triad (something you already know) with one more note (Bb) added.

piano-ology-chords-seventh-chords-you-gotta-know-minor-seventh-notation
piano-ology-chords-seventh-chords-you-gotta-know-minor-seventh-keyboard

Listen… and notice how the additional note Bb adds some color to the already dark minor triad.

FYI, the Minor Seventh chord is most often used in two ways:

  • Tonic i7 chord in a Dorian or minor blues tonality.
  • Tension chord (examples: ii7, iii7, vi7 in major tonality and iv7 in minor tonality).

You will learn lots more about chord functions when you study chord progressions.


Dominant Seventh

  • Chord symbol: C7
  • Chord structure: 1-3-5-b7

The Dominant Seventh chord is commonly called just a “7” chord for short.

Notice that C7 is a C major triad (something you already know) plus one more note: Bb.

piano-ology-chords-seventh-chords-you-gotta-know-dominant-seventh-notation
piano-ology-chords-seventh-chords-you-gotta-know-dominant-seventh-keyboard

Listen… and notice the bright, but unstable, dissonant quality of the dominant seventh chord… like it needs to go somewhere.

FYI, the Dominant Seventh chord is most often used in two ways:

  • V7 in major tonality.
  • V7 in minor tonality.
  • I7, IV7, V7 in blues tonality.
  • secondary dominant (V7/x) in a major or blues tonality.
  • to set up a change in key center .

You will learn lots more about chord functions when you study chord progressions.


Diminished Seventh

  • Chord symbol: Cdim7 or C°7
  • Chord structure: 1-b3-b5-bb7 (Yes, that is a double flat!)

Notice that C°7 is a C diminished triad (something you already know) plus one more note: Bbb…

piano-ology-chords-seventh-chords-you-gotta-know-diminished-seventh-notation
piano-ology-chords-seventh-chords-you-gotta-know-diminished-seventh-keyboard

Notice the highly unstable, dissonant quality of the diminished seventh chord… like it needs to go somewhere:

FYI, the Diminished Seventh chord functions like a dominant seventh chord. It typically acts in either of three ways:

  • viio7 in a minor tonality.
  • secondary dominant viio7/x.
  • Tension chord that sets up a change in key center, typically to a minor tonality.

You will learn lots more about chord functions when you study chord progressions.


Half-Diminished Seventh

  • Chord Symbol: C∅7 or Cm7b5
  • Chord Structure: 1-b3-b5-b7

Notice that this is a C diminished triad (something you already know) with one more note (Bb) added.

piano-ology-chords-seventh-chords-you-gotta-know-half-diminished-seventh-notation
piano-ology-chords-seventh-chords-you-gotta-know-half-diminished-seventh-keyboard

Notice the unstable, dissonant quality of the half-diminished seventh chord…

FYI, the Half-Diminished Seventh chord, also called a “minor seventh, flat 5”, is most often used in two ways:

  • as part of a iiø7-V7-i chord progression in a minor tonality.
  • as part of iiø7-V7 secondary dominant.

learn more… Chord Voicing

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