• How To Play Seventh Chords with Just Two Notes

    in Chords & Progressions,Piano

    seventh chords

    Seventh chords are chords that encompass a width of seven scale degrees.

    In the major scale of C:

    …the seventh scale tone is B:

    Therefore, the seventh chord formed from this scale should encompass this width:

    Formation of chords can be done by stacking thirds together.

    If you’ve seen past lessons on forming chords, you’ll know my easy way to do this – called picking and skipping. For example, in C major…

    …you can pick any note, C for example:

    …skip D (the next scale tone) and pick E:

    …skip F (the next scale tone) and pick G:

    …skip A (the next scale tone) and pick B:

    Alas, we’re on B. If we stack all the notes together:

    …we’ll have a chord that fits into the seventh chord class we covered earlier:

    This chord:

    …is the major seventh because of the scale it’s formed from (major scale):

    …and the width it encompasses:

    …a seventh.

    Seventh chords are typically four-note chords.

    For beginners who are struggling with major, minor, augmented, and diminished triads and inversions, playing seventh chords usually seems challenging. This is because, unlike triads that have three notes, seventh chords have four.

    In this post, I’ll be showing you, step-by-step, how to play only two notes on the right hand and still produce overall seventh chords.

    Formation of Scale-Degree Seventh Chords

    The major scale has seven degrees:

    Chords can be built from every degree of the scale (1st to 7th) using the pick and skip technique or any other technique that you’re familiar with.

    Here are seventh chords from the 1st to the 7th degree of the major scale:

    Chord 1 – C major 7th:

    Chord 2 – D minor 7th:

    Chord 3 – E minor 7th:

    Chord 4 – F major 7th:

    Chord 5 – G dominant 7th:

    Chord 6 – A minor 7th:

    Chord 7 – B half-diminished 7th:

    There are basically four seventh chord qualities in the major scale:

    • Major seventh
    • Minor seventh
    • Dominant seventh
    • Half-diminished seventh

    Even though the first three chords are used more often than the last one (half-diminished seventh), it is equally important for us to consider it as well.

    Let’s look at each seventh chord quality…

    Major Seventh

    This is the seventh chord of the 1st and 4th degrees of the major scale.

    There are so many approaches to the formation of the major seventh chord. One of the simplest is the addition of a major seventh interval to a major triad.

    However, to do this, you must be familiar with major triads in all keys and the major seventh interval too.

    Given the C major triad:

    …addition of the major seventh interval:

    …will produce the C major seventh chord:

    This is a simple chord formation exercise that can give you the major seventh chord in all keys.

    Let’s formularize it…

    Major triad + major seventh interval = major seventh chord.

    Minor Seventh

    This is the seventh chord of the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th degrees of the major scale.

    Similar to the chord formation we just did, you can form minor seventh chords by the addition of a minor seventh interval to a minor triad.

    Your ability to form minor seventh chords using this technique will require familiarity with minor triads in all keys, and the minor seventh interval in all keys.

    Given the C minor triad:

    …addition of the minor seventh interval:

    …will produce the C minor seventh chord:

    This is a practical chord formation exercise that can give you the minor seventh chord in all keys.

    Let’s formularize it…

    Minor triad + minor seventh interval = minor seventh chord.

    Dominant Seventh

    The technical name of the fifth degree is the dominant.

    Therefore, the term dominant seventh literally means the seventh chord of the 5th degree of the major scale.

    Using the same approach to chord formation, dominant seventh chords can be formed by the addition of a minor seventh interval to a major triad.

    Please note…

    We have mixed qualities here. Unlike what we covered earlier:

    Major triad + major seventh interval

    Minor triad + minor seventh interval

    …it is mixed here:

    Major triad + minor seventh interval

    …and this is what makes the dominant seventh chord unique.

    Given the C major triad:

    …addition of the minor seventh interval:

    …will produce the C dominant seventh chord:

    This is a reliable approach to chord formation of the dominant seventh chord in all keys.

    Let’s formularize it…

    Major triad + minor seventh interval = dominant seventh chord.

    Half-Diminished Seventh

    This is the seventh chord of the 7th degree of the major scale (aka – “leading note chord”).

    One simple approach to the formation of the half-diminished seventh chord is by adding a minor seventh interval to a diminished triad.

    However, to do this, you must be familiar with diminished triads in all keys..

    Given the C diminished triad:

    …addition of the minor seventh interval:

    …will produce C half-diminished seventh:

    Approaching chord formation from this perspective can give you the half-diminished chord in all keys.

    Let’s formularize it…

    Diminished triad + minor seventh interval = half-diminished seventh chord.

    Attention: Check out our 16-week chord revival program and learn more about chords and chord formation. In addition to that, you’ll get free quick reference guides and chord cheat sheets of the 16 chord types that vary from triads to sevenths, ninths to thirteenths. Check it out now.

    Now that we’ve highlighted the seven scale-degree seventh chords, let’s look at how to play each seventh chord quality using two notes on the right hand.

    “Who else wants to know more about skeleton voicing?”

    In a previous post, we considered the “skeleton in the ‘chordboard‘” where I not only defined the skeleton but its place in chord formation and chord recognition.

    In this post, we’re going deeper by exploring chord formation using skeletons. My desire is that someone out there will achieve more (by playing seventh chords) with lesser effort (just two notes).

    Skeleton Voicings of Scale-Degree Seventh Chords

    The two words that make up the term “skeleton voicings: are:

    Skeleton: The skeleton of a chord consists of its third and seventh.

    Voicing: This is the rearrangement of the notes of a chord.

    Skeleton voicing is a rearrangement of the notes of a chord in such a way that its third and seventh are isolated from other chord tones.

    A seventh chord has four tones:

    • Root
    • Third
    • Fifth
    • Seventh

    …and our goal is to play the skeleton of seventh chords by isolating the third and the seventh chord tones, and ultimately playing seventh chords with just two notes.

    Skeleton Voicing of Major Seventh Chords

    In the C major seventh chord:

    • C is the root
    • E is the third
    • G is the fifth
    • B is the seventh

    If we isolate the third and seventh:

    …from other chord tones (root and fifth):

    …we’ll have the skeleton voicing of C major seventh chord:

    After that, you can choose to add the remaining chord tones (root and fifth) an octave lower:

    …to produce:

    Just for reference, here are the major seventh chords in all keys:

    C major seventh:

    Db major seventh:

    D major seventh:

    Eb major seventh:

    E major seventh:

    F major seventh:

    Gb major seventh:

    G major seventh:

    Ab major seventh:

    A major seventh:

    Bb major seventh:

    B major seventh:

    Skeleton Voicing of Minor Seventh Chords

    In the C minor seventh chord:

    • C is the root
    • Eb is the third
    • G is the fifth
    • Bb is the seventh

    If we isolate the third and seventh:

    …from other chord tones (root and fifth):

    …we’ll have the skeleton voicing of C major seventh chord:

    After that, you can choose to add the remaining chord tones (root and fifth) an octave lower:

    …to produce:

    Just for reference, here are the minor seventh chords in all keys:

    C minor seventh:

    C# minor seventh:

    D minor seventh:

    Eb minor seventh:

    E minor seventh:

    F minor seventh:

    F# minor seventh:

    G minor seventh:

    G# minor seventh:

    A minor seventh:

    Bb minor seventh:

    B minor seventh:

    Skeleton Voicing of Dominant Seventh Chords

    In the C dominant seventh chord:

    • C is the root
    • E is the third
    • G is the fifth
    • Bb is the seventh

    If we isolate the third and seventh:

    …from other chord tones (root and fifth):

    …we’ll have the skeleton voicing of C dominant seventh chord:

    After that, you can choose to add the remaining chord tones (root and fifth) an octave lower:

    …to produce:

    Just for reference, here are the dominant seventh chords in all keys:

    C dominant seventh:

    Db dominant seventh:

    D dominant seventh:

    Eb dominant seventh:

    E dominant seventh:

    F dominant seventh:

    F# dominant seventh:

    G dominant seventh:

    Ab dominant seventh:

    A dominant seventh:

    Bb dominant seventh:

    B dominant seventh:

    Skeleton Voicing of Half-Diminished Seventh Chords

    In the C half-diminished seventh chord:

    • C is the root
    • Eb is the third
    • Gb is the fifth
    • Bb is the seventh

    If we isolate the third and seventh:

    …from other chord tones (root and fifth):

    …we’ll have the skeleton voicing of C half-diminished seventh chord:

    After that, you can choose to add the remaining chord tones (root and fifth) an octave lower:

    …to produce:

    Just for reference, here are the half-diminished seventh chords in all keys:

    C half diminished seventh:

    C# half diminished seventh:

    D half diminished seventh:

    D# half diminished seventh:

    E half diminished seventh:

    F half diminished seventh:

    F# half diminished seventh:

    G half diminished seventh:

    G# half diminished seventh:

    A half diminished seventh:

    Bb half diminished seventh:

    B half diminished seventh:

    Hope you enjoyed.

    Until next time.

    The following two tabs change content below.
    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.

    songtutor600x314-2jpg



    { 5 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 J

    Interesting – the distance between the 3rd and the seventh for major, minor and half diminished sevenths is a major 5th. The distance between the 3rd and the 7th of a dominant 7th is a tritone. Knowing the perfect 4th interval, the perfect 5th interval and the tritone intervals cold is crucial.

    Reply

    2 Jermaine Griggs

    Absolutely! Great insights.

    Reply

    3 Jubal Keeyz

    E over make brain Pokey. U dey represent Wella

    Reply

    4 neha

    Thanks for your lesson of chords but I basically want to learn full ear training guide .

    Reply

    5 EGBERT

    Hi Mr pokey good afternoon and congrats to you and hear and play team of music teachers you’re doing an excellent job just keep it up and best of luck for many years to come but I have a question on playing the 7th chords after separating the notes does it mean you can play the 3rd and 7th alone on the right hand ?or do you play 2 notes on the right and 2 notes on the lower octave compulsory ? Thank you for your assistance BYE EGBERT MCLEOD OF GRENADA West Indies

    Reply

    Leave a Comment

    Previous post:

    Next post: