7th Chords Explained

Nate Savage  /  Lessons UPDATED Nov 2, 2022

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Once you’ve learned all your beginner guitar chords you might be wondering what comes next. 7th chords are a great next step because they give you an easy way to add flavor to basic major and minor chords by adding just one new note.

There are four primary types of 7th chords. In this guide, we will be covering all four — major 7 chords, dominant 7 chords, minor 7 chords, and minor 7 flat 5 chords. By the end of this article, you will be able to both understand and play 7th chords confidently. 

Before we dig into this lesson, you’ll need a solid knowledge of how guitar chords are made. First, you’ll want to make sure you know the 8 basic principles of guitar music theory. Once you’ve got those concepts down, you can learn how to make major chords and minor chords.

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Major 7 Chords
To make a major 7 chord, start out with a basic major triad. You’ll have a root, a major 3rd, and a 5th.

To turn that into a major 7 chord you just need to add the 7th scale degree. In this case, we’re using a C major triad with the notes C, E, G. To turn it into a C major 7 chord we just need to add the B note.

Dominant 7 Chords
Dominant 7 chords are very similar to major 7 chords and only differ by one note. To turn a major 7 chord into a dominant 7 chord, you just need to lower the added note by a half step. So you’ll have a root, 3rd, 5th, and a flat 7. Which means if we’re still using our C major triad, we’d be adding a B flat. This chord is commonly used in blues music.

Minor 7 Chords
To make a minor 7 chord, you’ll continue where you left off with a dominant 7 chord. From there, you just need to lower the 3rd. So your major 3rd becomes a minor 3rd. This shape can be a little impractical, and it’s only being shown for the sake of understanding how the chord is made. It’s recommended to use a more simple shape in practice.

Minor 7 Flat 5 Chords
The last 7th chord we’ll look at is the minor 7 flat 5 chord (or m7b5). This chord isn’t used too often, but it’s the naturally occurring 7th chord in a key, so it’s worth knowing. For this chord, all we need to do is take a minor 7 chord and lower the 5th.

Try each of these chords out and work on understanding the theory behind them. They’re a great way to add some flavor to your playing!

What’s next?

5 Most Beautiful Chords for Beginners
If you want to add some more spice to your guitar chord arsenal, check out this lesson from Ayla. You’ll learn how to play five beautiful chords even a beginner can pull off!

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