• Four Things You Need To Know About Seventh Chords

    in Chords & Progressions,General Music,Piano,Theory

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    If you’re interested in learning about seventh chords, then you are on the right page.

    This lesson is for beginners who are already familiar with triads and their inversions, but are in need of more sophisticated chords: seventh chords. Before forming seventh chords, there are certain things one must be conversant with: the definition of seventh chords, regular seventh chord types, and more.

    So, let’s get the party started by defining seventh chords.

    “What Are Seventh Chords?”

    When a chord that is played in its root position encompasses a seventh interval, such a chord is described as a seventh chord. Most seventh chords are formed in third intervals; using major and minor thirds basically.

    In the key of C major:

    …notes can be stacked together (in third intervals) untilĀ  a seventh interval is reached.Let’s form the 1-chord by starting on the first tone of the C major scale (which is C):

    A third above C is E:

    …and from E, a third is G:

    …and yet another third from G is B:

    Altogether, we have a seventh chord (C-E-G-B):

    …that encompasses a seventh interval (from C to B):

    Scale-Tone Seventh Chords In The Key Of C Major

    Just like the 1-chord:

    …seventh chords can be formed on every tone of the scale and this would produce the 2-chord, 3-chord, 4-chord, etc.

    The 2-chord:

    …consists of notes stacked in third intervals from D to C:

    The 3-chord:

    …consists of notes stacked in third intervals from E to D:

    The 4-chord:

    …consists of notes stacked in third intervals from F to E:

    The 5-chord:

    …consists of notes stacked in third intervals from G to F:

    The 6-chord:

    …consists of notes stacked in third intervals from A to G:

    The 7-chord:

    …consists of notes stacked in third intervals from B to A:

    Now that your mind is refreshed on seventh chords, let’s proceed into learning 4 things everyone should know about seventh chords.

    Four Things You Need To Know About Seventh Chords

    Here are four things you really need to know about seventh chords…

    #1 – Seventh Chords Have 4 Chord Tones

    Seventh chords are unique because they are 4-toned chords. A regular seventh chord consists of the following tones: the root, the third, the fifth, and the seventh. So, while considering a seventh chord, you must be mindful of the tones.

    The C major seventh chord:

    …consists of four tones:

    C is root

    E is the third

    G is the fifth

    B is the seventh

    Every other seventh chord can be broken down into these chord tones.

    #2 – Seventh Chords Have Three Inversions

    Every seventh chord has three inversion: the first inversion, second inversion, and third inversion. A seventh chord is said to be inverted when any other note apart from its root is the lowest-sounding note.

    Using the C major seventh chord as a reference:

    …let’s take a look at the three inversions of a seventh chord.

    When E (which is the third tone):

    …is the lowest-sounding chord tone, this produces the first inversion of the C major seventh chord:

    When G (which is the fifth tone):

    …is the lowest-sounding chord tone, this produces the second inversion of the C major seventh chord:

    When B (which is the seventh tone):

    …is the lowest-sounding chord tone, this produces the third inversion of the C major seventh chord:

    The three inversions of any seventh chord can be derived accordingly.

    #3 – Seventh Chords Can Be Broken Down Into Two Exclusive Triads

    Every seventh chord can be broken down into two exclusive triads. For example, the C major seventh chord:

    …can be broken down into two triads: the C major triad:

    …and the E minor triad:

    The understanding of the two exclusive triads in any given seventh chord can be applied in its formation. The C major seventh chord can be broken down into the C major triad and the E minor triad. Therefore, playing the E minor triad:

    …over the C major triad:

    …produces the C major seventh chord:

    Every other seventh chord can be broken down into two exclusive triads.

    #4 – There Are 5 Common Seventh Chord Types

    There are five common seventh chord types everyone should be familiar with:

    • The major seventh chord
    • The minor seventh chord
    • The dominant seventh chord
    • The half-diminished seventh chord
    • The diminished seventh chord

    Although there are tons of seventh chords out there, these seventh chords are commonly applied in Gospel, Jazz, and other popular music styles.

    Final Words

    Seventh chords are harmonically ahead of triads and it’s important for every beginner to learn and explore them — especially the 5 common seventh chord types we outlined.

    All the best.

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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 the head of education, music consultant, and chief content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with hundreds of thousands of musicians across the world.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.




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