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"Seventh Chords"
7 Kinds of Sevenths That Add Character to Songs

7th-chordsSeventh Chords are used to to create hip sounds with the music. The four chords  discussed  at Music Theory Chords can all have a 7th interval added to create a new sound.

There are 7 kinds of sevenths when you can create by adding major and minor 3rds. 

Why only seven and not eight? It seems like Karma to have seven kinds of sevens. Below we will explore why there are seven you need to learn and use.

Types of Seventh Chords

Going back to the original chords we have the option of adding the scale interval of minor 7 and major 7 to the chords. However, For the augmented chord only a major 7 can be added, that is because a minor 3rd added to the chord is the major 7. We'll look at this closer below.

Major Chord Sevenths

There are two major chord sevenths each called a specific name. The dominant seventh (C7 for C dominant 7) and the major seventh (CM7 for C major 7). Notice how the notes will still be on either all lines or all spaces on the staff.

seventh-c-dom7-treble clefThe Major Chord Dominant Seventh is the addition of the minor 3rd to the chord, that is a minor 7th (b7). Here is how this chord is mathematically.

 
 Major Chord Dominant 7th ; C7

  Intervals:   1   3   5   b7
  Half Steps: S + 4 + 3 + 3

 Notes for C7:  C   E   G   Bb 

seventh chord c maj7 treble The Major Chord Major Seventh chords uses 4 half steps to add the major seventh (M7).

Major Chord Major 7th ; CM7

 Intervals:   1   3   5   7
 Half Steps:   S + 4 + 3 + 4
Notes for CM7: C   E   G   B

Minor Chord Sevenths

Again there are two minor chord sevenths each called a specific name. The dominant seventh (Cm7 or C-7 for C minor dominant 7) and the major seventh (CmM7 or C-M7 for the C minor major 7). Notice how the notes will still be on either all lines or all spaces on the staff the modification to the note makes the difference let's take a close look.

chord c minor dom7 treble clefThe Minor Chord Dominant Seventh is the addition of the minor 3rd (b3 or m3) to the chord, that is a minor 7th (b7). With the third being minor as well. Here is how this chord is mathematically.

 
Minor Chord Dominant 7th ; C-7

  Intervals:   1   b3  5   b7
  Half Steps:   S + 3 + 4 + 3  

 Notes for C7:  C   Eb  G   Bb 

chord-c-minor-maj7-treble clef The Minor Chord Major Seventh chords uses 4 half steps to add the major seventh (M7).

 Minor Chord Major 7th ; C-M7

 Intervals:   1   b3  5   7
 Half Steps:   S + 3 + 4 + 4  
 Notes for C7:  C   Eb  G   B  

Diminished Chord Sevenths

Again there are two minor chord sevenths each called a specific name. The dominant seventh (Cm7 or C-7 for C minor dominant 7) and the major seventh (CmM7 or C-M7 for the C minor major 7). Notice how the notes will still be on either all lines or all spaces on the staff the modification to the note makes the difference let's take a close look.

chord c diminished 7 treble clefThe Diminished Chord Dominant Seventh is the addition of the minor 3rd (b3 or m3) to the chord, that is a diminished minor 7th (bb7). This is unusual as all the notes are minor 3rds. Called the diminished 7th.

 
Diminished Chord 7th ; C°7

  Intervals:    1   b3  b5  bb7
  Half Steps:   S + 3 + 3 + 3  

 Notes for C7:  C   Eb  Gb  Bbb

chord-c-half-diminished 7th The Half Diminished Chord Seventh chords uses 4 half steps the major 3rd to add the seventh (b7).

 Diminished Chord Half 7th ; Cø7 or Cm7b5

 Intervals:   1   b3  b5  b7
 Half Steps:   S + 3 + 3 + 4   
 Notes for C7:  C   Eb  Gb  Bb   

Augmented Chord Seventh

There is only one chord seventh for the augmented chord. It is the addition of a 3rd  that makes it a major seventh addition.

seventh-caug7-treble clefThe Augmented Chord Seventh is the addition of the minor 3rd to the chord, that creates a Major 7th (M7) interval addition. Here is how this chord is mathematically.

 
 Augmented Chord 7th ; C+7

  Intervals:   1   3   5   7
  Half Steps: S + 4 + 4 + 3

 Notes for C7:  C   E   G+  B  

no minor 7 for augmented There is No minor 7th interval for the augmented chord. Trying to add the m7 to the chord would make this addition an addition of 2 half steps which is a second addition and violates the interval 3rd addition to be a chord construction.

Also this chord acts differently and is not considered a seventh chord. It would take to long to explain it here, so stick to the 7 kinds of sevenths and you will be safe in 95 percent of your chord identifications.

Seventh Chord Summary

You've just had a quick introduction to basics of seventh chords. The staff line below covers the seven kinds of sevenths to show the relationships for the C chord types.

seven-7ths-on-c

Be aware that the symbols for the chords vary by instruction or instructor. Most musicians can adapt to the different writings. Sometimes it just takes a little getting use to it. Variations also include superscript and subscripts. 

In jazz the half diminished 7 chord is often referred to as the minor 7th with a flat 5. I think that this may be due to the fact that the half diminished chord was not taught with the name associated with it. 

Play the chords in sequence and listen to the character changes associated with each.


Learning Resources

Creating Chords

cover-creatingchordsBefore you buy another music learning book you'd better read this!

Every wondered why musicians can work with songs so quickly? It's all about the chords and the scales.

Learning to create, recognize and work with chords and scales is essential in mastering music.

It can be intimidating for the beginning student.

Don't let them get the best of you. These Getting It Down Cold Workshops easily lead you through the process step by step.

And in a fraction of the time that most students take to learn this vital part of music.

Learn More...


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