Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, we may earn a small commission for qualifying purchases.
When it comes to playing Jazz and Blues guitar, it’s essential to know everything about seventh chords. From how they are formed and in what ways they can be performed, this article will elaborate all the vital details related to 7th chords.
Why do They Call It a Seventh Chord Anyway?
Many guitarists confuse the seventh chord with scale. They think that it’s about the seventh chord of the scale whereas it refers to a chord with the seventh note that is added to its scale. Mostly, seventh chords are also called Dominant chords because they are formed either on the fifth or dominant scale of a chord. To understand the seventh chord, you first need to know the name of each chord positioned on the scale as described in this image:
If you are taking guitar lessons, you must have an idea that a separate name describes every chord. Even if you pick up your guitar and hold down a few strings with your left hand randomly, this chord will also have a name. Such a chord might be named as D#13dim9sus7 and many of guitarists won’t even want to play it but still, the point is that it’s nameable!
The seventh chord is a beautiful blend of multiple notes. The primary triad is formed of first, third and fifth notes of the chord’s key. In addition to it, seventh note of the same key is added, and this is why it’s called the seventh chord. Usually, it’s added to the fifth chord of any key you are playing. For instance, the fifth chord G in the key of C would be G7 and in the key of C minor, it would Gm7.
When we talk about the seventh chord, one cannot ignore the master of this chord who is none other than Pat Metheny, a jazz guitar wizard. His powers of playing this chord are no doubt magical and mysterious. Unlike early composers who always used the seventh chord as an ornament and destabilized the dominant triad, Pat Metheny knows the fundamental rules to apply this chord without making it sound dissonant.
The tricky part of playing this chord is that when you add the seventh note to the triad, it’s always minor. The reason behind it is that the seventh chord does not bear the key signature of the key of that chord but of the tonic of the critical five degrees below it. This is the resolving key. Understanding this whole scenario so far means that you are beginning to understand the world of Fifths!
Let’s understand it with an example. Bb is the seventh note in the C7. Now B won’t be in the key of C instead it would be played as the fifth chord of the key F where B is flat. Another example of it is the G7. It adds an F, not as the key of G because below the key five degrees, a G is C where F is natural.
From these examples, we can understand that chords are not independent and stand together making their own rules by the context. Check out these demonstrative videos for better understanding:
Leading Chords and Moving the Music Along
People who are already taking guitar lessons must have heard that fifth chord is the leading chord of a scale. The leading chord is a chord that is followed by the very first chord of the key making the ending of the music flawless and adequately finished. You might have also heard that adding the seventh chord to the fifth of the V-I chord adds more volume and finishing to the overall sound.
It might confuse you that How Does It Work? Well, going back to the early composers, they always noticed seventh note as an ornament for the sound. This note destabilizes and creates an imbalance to the dominant triad resulting in a disturbing sound. When such a dissonant sound hits the ear, it waits for harmonious sound to feel relaxed and at peace. This is the reason when the tonic chord hits in; we feel relieved. This process elaborates that music moves along and cannot be independent.
This explanation also tells why jazz composers and players also favor the seventh chord as their top choice. Jazz music is not only an excellent production of bass and drums but also requires chords to move along and put life into the sound. This is why the seventh chord is considered to be the best choice when it comes to playing jazz music.
It’s very much essential to learn to resolve the music. Following a music sheet and playing the basic progression does not improve the overall impression of the music. The seventh chord helps to make the sounds more thrilling and vibrant than boring and dull musical beats. And it’s not an event that difficult because all you have to practice is to play the seventh chord in short circles of fifths.
Now many of you must be eager to ask the question that either it’s hard or easy to play the seventh chord? Well, the answer to this question is yes and no! The thing is that sometimes it takes you to add a finger to turn a simple V chord into V7while other times it might need you to take a finger away. So it’s all about practice and proper lessons.
For instance, if you to play A7, all you need to do is to add your little pinky finger to the 3rd fret of the 1st string so you may add G. Or, you can also do it by just removing your finger from the2nd fret of the 3rd string. Both methods will allow you to enjoy the seventh chord. It depends on you to choose the one considering the type of tune you are looking for.
Some Seventh Chord Positions on the Guitar
With this quick guide to the seventh chord, you can give an attempt to it today. Now you don’t have to feel dumb in front of other musicians while talking about the seventh chord. Watch the referencing videos and keep practicing because once you understand the fundamental rule of playing the seventh chord, you will be able to turn any simple chord into the seventh chord!