• Week 9: Minor Seventh Chord + Cheat Sheet

    in Chords & Progressions,Piano

    minor seventh chord

    In today’s post, we’ll be looking at the minor seventh chord.

    As you’ve learned in past lessons in this series, “seventh” refers to chords that encompass seven scale degrees.

    There are various classes of seventh chords and so far, we’ve covered the major and dominant ones.

    Welcome to week 9 of our FREE 16-week chord revival program.

    If you are just joining us, feel free to review the content of the first eight weeks:

    Week 1: Major Triads
    Week Two: Augmented Triads
    Week Three: Minor Triads
    Week Four: Diminished Triads
    Week Five: Major Sixth Chords
    Week Six: Minor Sixth Chords
    Week Seven: Major Seventh Chords
    Week Eight: Dominant Seventh Chords

    We’ll start out by defining the minor seventh chord, then proceed to its intervallic breakdown and formation.

    Definition Of The Minor Seventh Chord

    The term minor seventh chord is used to describe the chord built off the minor scale, whose size encompasses seven scale degrees with third intervals between chord tones (aka – “tertian harmony“).

    Permit me to show you a typical example using the A minor scale:

    Starting from the first degree of the A minor scale (A):

    …if we stack a third (C):

    …and another third (E):

    …and yet another third (G):

    …this would produce the A minor seventh chord.

    An Intervallic Breakdown Of The Minor Seventh Chord

    A chord is a collection of three or more notes.

    If we go ahead and breakdown these chords into two-note sets (aka – “intervals”)…

    If we breakdown the A minor seventh chord:

    …into intervals, here are the three intervals in relation to A, the root:

    A to C:

    …a minor third interval.

    A to E:

    …a perfect fifth interval.

    A to G:

    …a minor seventh interval.

    Let’s look at the properties of these intervals…

    The Minor Third Interval

    The minor third is the relationship in pitch between the first and third tones of the natural minor scale. Using the A minor scale as a reference:

    …the minor third interval is formed by the relationship between A and C:

    …which are the first and third tones, respectively.

    This quality of interval on the third chord tone determines the tonality of a chord, whether it is major or minor. It is this minor third interval that makes the minor seventh chord a minor chord quality.

    The Perfect Fifth Interval

    The perfect fifth is the relationship in pitch between the first and fifth tones of the minor scale.

    Using the A minor scale, the perfect fifth interval is formed by the relationship between A and E:

    This quality of interval on the fifth chord tone determines the stability of the chord. The major seventh derives its stability from the perfect fifth interval, which is said to be universally consonant.

    The Minor Seventh Interval

    The minor seventh is the relationship in pitch between the first and seventh tones of the natural minor scale. Using the A minor scale, the minor seventh interval is formed by the relationship between A and G:

    …which are the first and seventh tones of the A natural minor scale, respectively.

    Alternative Chord Formation Techniques

    Even though there are various approaches to the chord formation of the minor seventh chord, we’ll be covering the scale, interval, and chord approaches.

    You can add these chord formation techniques to the ones you’re familiar with to form the minor seventh chord in all twelve keys.

    Scale Approach to the Chord Formation of the Minor Seventh Chord

    The minor seventh chord can be formed using the natural minor scale.

    Using the A natural minor scale:

    …we can stack notes in thirds or using my favorite technique – the pick-skip-technique.

    We can pick A:

    …skip B and pick C:

    …skip D and pick E:

    …skip F and pick G:

    Playing all the notes we’ve picked out will produce a chord that spans from A to G:

    …exactly seven degrees in the A minor scale.

    “Let’s take two more examples using the natural minor scales of E and G…”

    The E natural minor scale can be subjected to this chord formation technique to produce the E minor seventh chord. I want to believe you’re familiar with the E minor scale (E F# G A B C D). Here’s how it works…

    We can pick E:

    …skip F# and pick G:

    …skip A and pick B:

    …skip C and pick D:

    Playing all the notes we’ve picked out will produce a chord that spans from E to D:

    …exactly seven degrees in the E minor scale.

    Here’s the second example…

    The G minor seventh chord can be formed from the G minor scale (G A Bb C D Eb F G) using the same approach. Here’s how it works…

    We can pick G:

    …skip A and pick Bb:

    …skip C and pick D:

    …skip Eb and pick F:

    Playing all the notes we’ve picked out will produce a chord that spans from G to F:

    …exactly seven degrees in the G natural minor scale.

    Attention: If you’re not familiar with the natural minor scale in all the keys, this approach will prove challenging, if not impossible. Endeavor to familiarize yourself with all natural minor scales if you must approach the formation of the minor seventh chord from the natural minor scale. Here are all the natural minor scales…

    C minor scale:

    C# minor scale:

    D minor scale:

    D# minor scale:

    E minor scale:

    F minor scale:

    F# minor scale:

    G minor scale:

    G# minor scale:

    A minor scale:

    Bb minor scale:

    B minor scale:

    Let’s move on to the next chord formation approach for the minor seventh chord.

    Interval Approach to the Chord Formation of the Minor Seventh Chord

    Let me take you back to the intervals we covered earlier…

    Minor third
    Perfect fifth
    Minor seventh

    Stacking these intervals in one octave will produce the minor seventh chord. Familiarity of these intervals in all the keys is crucial to the mastery of this method.

    Remember these intervals…

    The minor third is derived by the combination of the first and third tones of any given natural minor scale.

    The perfect fifth is derived by the combination of the first and fifth degrees of the natural minor scale.

    The minor seventh is derived by the first and seventh degrees of the natural minor scale.

    Using the E minor scale (E F# G A B C D E):

    …here are the intervallic components of the minor seventh chord:

    Minor third

    The minor third interval is formed between the first and third tones of the E natural minor scale, which are E and G:

    …respectively.

    Perfect fifth

    The interval formed between E and B:

    …which are the first and fifth tones of the E natural minor scale, respectively, is called the perfect fifth interval.

    Minor seventh

    The minor seventh interval is formed between the first and seventh tones of the E minor scale, which are E and D:

    …respectively.

    Stacking these intervals will produce the E minor seventh chord:

    Attention: Intervals are the building blocks of chords. You will do well to learn more about intervals if you want to have a deeper understanding of chords (aka – “harmonic structures”). If you are interested in learning as much as you can about intervals, click here.

    Let’s round up with the chord formation of the minor seventh chord using mutual intervals.

    Use of Mutual Intervals in the Chord Formation of the Minor Seventh Chord

    In this segment, we’ll be looking at an advanced approach to the chord formation of the minor seventh chord.

    This approach features the use of mutual intervals.

    The minor seventh chord can be broken down into two perfect fifth intervals. For example, the A minor seventh chord:

    …can be broken into two perfect fifth intervals. Check them out below:

    A-E:

    …and C-G:

    The placement of these perfect fifth intervals side by side (aka – “juxtaposition”) produces the minor seventh interval.

    Owing to the fact that these mutual intervals are identical (two perfect fifth intervals), your understanding of perfect fifth intervals in all the keys will help you through the chord formation of the minor seventh chord.

    For reference purpose, here are all perfect fifth intervals:

    C:

    Db:

    D:

    Here are the remainder of them…


    Eb:

    E:

    F:

    Gb:

    G:

    Ab:

    A:

    Bb:

    B:

    “Here’s How to Juxtapose Two Perfect Fifth Intervals To Produce A Minor Seventh Chord”

    Step 1Choose the note you want to form the minor seventh chord on.
    Step 2Determine the first and third tones of the minor scale of that key.
    Step 3Form the perfect fifth interval both on the first and third tones (your answer to step 2).
    Step 4Juxtapose the intervals derived in one octave.

    If you can follow steps 1 to 4 above, you can form the minor seventh chord using this method.

    Step 1 – Choose the note you want to form the minor seventh chord on.

    Our choice is A:

    Step 2 – Determine the first and third tones of the minor scale of that key.

    The first and third tones of the A minor scale are A and C:

    Step 3 – Form the perfect fifth interval both on the first and third tones.

    Formation of perfect fifth intervals on the notes we derived in step 2.

    We derived A and C. Check out the perfect fifth intervals on the keys of A and C:

    A-E:

    C-G:

    Step 4 – Juxtapose the intervals derived in one octave.

    The intervals A-E:

    and C-G:

    …are the perfect fifth intervals derived in step 3.

    If we place them side by side within the compass of an octave, here’s the outcome:

    A-E:

    …plus C-G:

    …equals A-C-E-G:

    If you follow the same procedure, you can reproduce the minor seventh chord in all keys.

    Chord Of The Day Quiz

    Who knows what chord the C minor seventh chord will produce over Ab on the bass?

     

    P.S.

    For reference purpose, here are the minor seventh chords in all keys:

    C minor seventh chord:

    C# minor seventh chord:

    D minor seventh chord:

    D# minor seventh chord:

    E minor seventh chord:

    F minor seventh chord:

    F# minor seventh chord:

    G minor seventh chord:

    G# minor seventh chord:

    A minor seventh chord:

    Bb minor seventh chord:

    B minor seventh chord:

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as a music consultant and content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with thousands of musicians across the world.

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    { 4 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Joe

    The Quiz chord is an A flat( G# ) major nine in root position.

    Reply

    2 Jaime

    I agree with Joe´s.

    Reply

    3 kratos

    Ab Maj9

    Reply

    4 Joseph

    hi Mr griggs, I really appreciate your good works and may God bless u abundantly. I’ve got some friends asking me to teach them how to play the piano, so I need a guide/outline like a step by step procedure on how to teach…thanks a lot.

    Reply

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