BASIC SEVENTH CHORDS

This is week FIVE now! We're gonna take some things we learned last week and combine it with the basic barred shapes and make some JAZZ CHORDS!

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JAZZ CHORDS

This week, we are looking at how to make a few basic jazz chord shapes.

Last week we learned how the major scale shape can show us what intervals are present in the Major and minor barre chords.

We also learned that both chords only use three unique notes: the Root note or 1st, the 3rd (either major or minor), and the perfect 5th. Even when we played all six strings, we still only played 3 unique intervals.

Jazz chords use more than just three unique notes. They often include four, five, or more!

This week we’re going to add another interval to our set, the 7th.

Remember that this interval number represents the scale degree derived from the major scale.

1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7

So we’ll be looking at what chords we can make when the 7th scale degree is added to the barre chords from a few weeks ago.

The intervals we’ll be using today are:

1 - 3 - 5 - 7

[I bet you notice a pattern… we keep leaping over notes, don’t we? This is because, traditionally, chords are built by stacking intervals of a third, one on top of another. If we were to continue this pattern it would be 1 3 5 7 9(2) 11(4) 13(6). 13 is the highest because at that point we’ve used up all the notes in the key…]

Now, just like 3rds have two qualities, major and minor, so do 7ths.

[Don’t forget that ALL the intervals in the Major Scale use ONLY major or perfect intervals. We use the Major Scale as a reference to find the other, minor, intervals.]

FOUR TYPES OF 7TH CHORDS

While there are plenty more than four 7th chords, I want to show you what happens when we play with the 3rd and the 7th intervals. If both of these can be either major or minor, then we can have four unique combinations in total, each with a different sound. Three of these chords are extremely common. One is not. Let’s see what kinds of chords we can make by playing all the possible combinations.

MAJOR SEVENTH CHORD (Maj7)
1 : Major 3rd : Perfect 5th : Major 7th

DOMINANT SEVENTH CHORD (7)
1 : Major 3rd : Perfect 5th : minor 7th

MINOR SEVENTH CHORD (m7)
1 : minor 3rd : Perfect 5th : minor 7th

MINOR-MAJOR SEVENTH CHORD (mM7)
1 : minor 3rd : Perfect 5th : Major 7th

Let’s take our simple major barre chord shape on the A string to look at these intervals…

ON THE A STRING


Here is a D Major barre chord, with all of the intervals labeled:

If we take the octave, the note on the G string, and move it one fret lower, it becomes the 7th scale degree of the Major Scale; it’s a Major 7th interval.

This is a MAJOR SEVENTH CHORD (DMaj7). Play it and listen to how it sounds:

Now, because we know that minor intervals are created when you take a Major interval and move it down one half step, so we can easily take that Major 7th in the chord and turn it into a minor 7th interval.

We call this chord a DOMINANT SEVENTH CHORD (D7). It has that bluesy/jazzy sound to it. Play it:

So we’ve already made two out of the four shapes here on the A string! Let’s take the Major 3rd interval and turn that into a minor 3rd interval by moving it down a half step…

This is a MINOR SEVENTH CHORD (Dm7). Give it a shot! It sounds funky!

Our last combo is rarely seen or heard. If you make the 7th Major and keep the 3rd minor we make this eerie sounding chord…

It’s called a MAJOR-MINOR SEVENTH CHORD (DmM7). Feel the mystery when you play it:

Those are the four shapes on the A string. Again, the last one you never really need to play, that is unless you enjoy playing old jazz standards. So work on the main 7th chords: Major, minor, and Dominant. And just like the barre chords, you can move them along the string to any location.


Let’s see how the same thing works on the E string!

ON THE E STRING


We’re going to go through the same progression as we did with the chords on the A string, but with a few extra steps.

Let’s take a look at an A Major barre chord first…

Notice again that we are only using the same three intervals to make this chord: 1 - M3 - P5

It looks like we have some options too with which octave to make the first Major 7th interval.

But we’re going to choose the first octave, the 7th fret of the D string, and move that one fret lower to make it the Major 7th interval. Here’s what that looks like:

AMAj7

Now, making this shape is a bit strange since your fingers have to dance around each other to get them all to fit in the right spot. So, what we’re going to do is remove some of the intervals that are redundant. The Perfect 5th on the A string and the Octave on the high E string are notes that can easily be removed and that won’t change the quality of the chord.

This shape is the most common shape you’ll find for the MAJOR SEVENTH CHORD on the E string. Here’s what it looks like:

AMaj7

When we want to make a DOMINANT SEVENTH CHORD on the E string, we can go back to using all six strings.

So take this shape...

AMaj7

...and move the Major seventh down one fret!

A7

There you have it, and now you can barre across the fifth fret again!

Moving on to the MINOR SEVENTH CHORD, what do we do? Move the Major 3rd to a minor 3rd!

Am7

Sometimes it can be tough to barre across that many strings. So if you have a hard time with it, do like we did with the Dominant Seventh chord and remove the A string and the high E string from the shape.

Doing that would make this:

Am7

And finally, to make the eerie MINOR-MAJOR SEVENTH CHORD, use this last shape we looked at and RAISE the minor 7rd back up one half step.

AmM7

There we go. We’ve learned some of the basic jazz chord shapes by playing with the different major and minor intervals within seventh chords.

Practice


Here are some exercises to learn about 7th chords.

1.) Arpeggiate each chord shape and listen to if can hear all the notes come out clearly.

2.) Go through the sequence of - Major, Major 7th, Dominant 7th, Minor 7th, minor-Major 7th, minor - on each string. Notice how each interval changes the chord quality!

3.) Play these four, four chord progressions:

|Bm7    |F#m7    |C#7    |DMaj7   |

|Dm7    |CMaj7   |Gm7   | A7        |

|BbMaj7 |EbMaj7 |Dm7    |F7       |

|F#7       |B7         |D7       |C#7     |

Next week we’ll continue to explore more jazz chords, and make some other cool shapes too!