Guitar lessons for beginnersUnderstanding Seventh Chords For Guitar

Understanding Seventh Chords For Guitar
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So you’ve got the hang of major and minor chords and how they’re constructed, but seventh chords are confusing you a bit.  Adding just one note multiplies the tonal possibilities of a chord.  But once you understand a couple simple ideas, 7th chords will be just as easy as good ‘ol major and minor.

First, let’s talk about chord symbol notation.  What’s the difference between G7, Gmaj7, Gm7, and all the other variations you see?

Two easy points to remember:
The letter by itself means major ie. G = G major
The seven by itself means a minor 7th ie. G7 = G major triad with a minor 7th

Second, let’s talk about intervals or the distance between two notes.  For most intervals there is a major and minor version.  Major and minor 3rds or 6ths for example.  Here we’re going to just concentrate on the 7ths.  

Two more easy points to remember:
A major 7th is always a half step (one fret) below the root of your chord.  So if your chord root is a G, then the major 7th is an F#.

A minor 7th is always a whole step (two frets) below the root of your chord.  So with the same root of G, your minor 7th is an F natural.

So, with that stuff in mind, let’s look at the different 7th chord variations we can come up with.

G7 = G major triad with a minor 7th = G B D F

Gmaj7 = G major triad with a major 7th = G B D F#

Gm7 = G minor triad with a minor 7th = G Bb D F

Gm(maj 7) = G minor triad with a major 7th = G Bb D F#

Things get slightly more involved when we add in diminished and augmented chords.  In augmented and diminished triads, it’s the 5th (the top note) that controls those tonalities.  Here’s our possibilities:

Gaug7 = G augmented triad with a minor 7th = G B D# F

Gaug(maj7) = G augmented triad with a major 7th = G B D# F#

Gdim(maj7) = G diminished triad with a major 7th = G Bb Db F#

G half dim 7 = G diminished triad with a minor 7th = G Bb Db F
(Special note on this one.  Jazz players will call this a Gm7(b5).  That looks like a more complicated way of doing it, but it’s more effective than using half diminished because it gives an instruction instead of you having to remember what “half diminished” means.  So you play a Gm7 – G Bb D F – then flat the 5th – B goes to Bb).

Gdim7 = G diminished triad with a fully diminished 7th (we take it down another half step, one fret) = G Bb Db Fb

Just remember those couple of points from the beginning about the notation.  Then practice spelling out each version of the 7th chords for each possible root.  Put them on the fret board and you’ll be on your way to 7th Heaven!

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