• Introduction To The Cycle Of Seventh Chords

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,Piano,Theory

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    You arrived at this page because you want to learn about the cycle of seventh chords.

    Learning and mastering the cycle of seventh chords is of the greatest possible importance because chord progressions that are commonly used in gospel and jazz styles are based on the cycle of seventh chords.

    In this lesson, you’ll be learning what seventh chords are, the seventh chord for every degree of the scale, and ultimately, the cycle of seventh chords.

    Let’s get on with it!

    “What Are Seventh Chords?”

    According to Jermaine Griggs, “…a chord is a collection of related notes (agreeable or not), that are played/heard together or separately.”

    A seventh chord is basically a collection of related notes that encompass a seventh and it is important for us to highlight the relationship between the notes of a seventh chord.

    A regular example of a seventh chord is the C major seventh chord:

    …which is a collection of four notes (C, E, G, and B) encompassing C to B:

    …on the piano (which is a seventh interval.)

    The notes of a seventh chord are related in two known ways:

    • By a given scale (scale relationship)
    • By a class of harmony (intervallic relationship)

    Attention: Don’t worry if you haven’t come across terms like class of harmony and intervallic relationship because we’re looking at the scale and intervallic relationship between the notes of a seventh chord in this segment.

    The Scale Relationship Between The Notes Of A Seventh Chord

    According to Jermaine Griggs “…scales form chords.” Due to the fact that chords are a product of scales, the notes of every chord (and that includes seventh chords) must be related by a given scale.

    For example, the C major seventh chord consists of C, E, G, and B:

    …which are the first, third, fifth, and seventh tones of the C major scale:

    The C dominant seventh chord:

    …consists of C, E, G, and Bb and are related by the C myxolydian scale:

    Submission: The notes of a seventh chord are always related by a given scale and this is known to music scholars as scale relationship.

    The Intervallic Relationship Between The Notes Of A Seventh Chord

    Every chord has its class of harmony and this class of harmony is what gives the chord its distinct structure. A closer look at C major seventh chord:

    …reveals an intervallic structure of third intervals. The interval between successive chord tones in the C major seventh chord is a third.

    “Check It Out…”

    C to E:

    …is a third interval.

    E to G:

    …is also a third interval.

    G to B:

    …is another third interval.

    The relationship in terms of the distance or interval between the chord tones of seventh chords is what gives them their intervallic structure. Seventh chords formed by the intervallic relationship of notes in third intervals are known as tertian chords.

    “In A Nutshell…”

    Seventh chords are formed by the relationship between the notes of a given scale in third intervals and we’ll proceed in this lesson by learning the various seventh chords for every degree of the scale.

    But before getting into the next segment, take note that there are various seventh chord qualities, however the following seventh chord qualities:

    …are commonly used.

    Scale Degree Seventh Chords In The Major Key – Explored

    In every key, [whether in the major or minor key] there are eight degrees. In the key of C major:

    C is the first degree

    D is the second degree

    E is the third degree

    F is the fourth degree

    G is the fifth degree

    A is the sixth degree

    B is the seventh degree

    C is the eighth degree

    Attention: The first and eighth degrees of the scale have the same letter name, and this is because they are an octave apart from each other. In the case of the C major scale, ‘C’ is a common letter name that the first and third scale degrees share.

    Consequently, we’ll be focusing on the first to the seventh degrees of the scale and considering the eighth as the first.

    “Let’s Go On…”

    Seventh chords can be formed on every degree of the scale – from the first to the seventh. These seventh chords are known to music scholars as scale degree seventh chords.

    The seventh chord of the first degree (aka – “the tonic chord“) can be formed from C:

    …which is the first degree in the key of C major.

    Using the C major scale:

    …as the underlying scale, and tertian harmony (in third intervals), the seventh chord of the first degree can be formed from C:

    …by adding a note that is a third above C (which is E):

    …to form C-E:

    Another third interval above C-E:

    …is G:

    …and a third interval above C-E-G:

    …is B:

    Altogether, we have C-E-G-B:

    …the C major seventh chord.

    “Check Out The Seventh Chords For The Remaining Degrees Of The Scale…”

    Following the same chord formation procedure, we can form seventh chords on other degrees of the scale.

    On the second degree (which is D):

    …a third above D is F:

    …a third above D-F:

    …is A:

    …and adding another third to D-F-A:

    …which is C:

    …produces D-F-A-C:

    …the D minor seventh chord.

    On the third degree (which is E):

    …a third above E:

    …is G:

    …a third above E-G:

    …is B:

    …and adding another third to E-G-B:

    …which is D:

    …produces E-G-B-D:

    …the E minor seventh chord.

    “Other Scale Degree Seventh Chords Include…”

    The F major seventh chord:

    …of the fourth degree, the G dominant seventh chord:

    …of the fifth degree, the A minor seventh chord:

    …of the sixth degree, and the B half-diminished seventh chord:

    …of the seventh degree.

    “Here’s A Table Of The Scale Degree Seventh Chords…”

    Scale Degree

    Seventh Chord


    Major seventh


    Minor seventh


    Minor seventh


    Major seventh


    Dominant seventh


    Minor seventh


    Half-diminished seventh

    Let’s go ahead and explore these scale degree seventh chords.

    Cycle Of Seventh Chords

    [This Part Would Be Added Shortly. Thank You For Your Patience]

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    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku (aka - "Dr. Pokey") is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.

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


    1 godwill

    Dear Chuku,
    Pls, you are yet to add the blog on Cycle of seventh chords.
    I ask because i need the knowledge.


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