7th Chords Explained for Guitar (How to Play)

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Understanding 7th chords

What is a 7th chord?

A 7th chord is a 4-note chord made up of a major, minor, or diminished triad plus a 7th interval. The 7th interval can be major, minor, or double flat (bb).

What are the 5 types of seventh chords?

There are 5 types of seventh chords:

  • Major 7th (Maj7)
  • Dominant 7th (7)
  • Minor 7th (Min7)
  • Minor 7b5 (Min7b5)
  • Diminished 7 (Dim7)

Playing 7th chords

For this post all of the seventh chords will be played with the root note C, played at the 8th fret of the low E string.

After learning these chord shapes with the root note on the Low E, move the root note to the High E string. This will give you 5 new shapes to work with.

From there you’ll want to learn more 7th chord inversions/positions.

C major scale refresher

Knowing the notes in the C major scale will help you to better understand this lesson:


Remember the degrees of the major scale are: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7

The particular degrees you’ll want to remember for this lesson are the 1st (C), 3rd (E), 5th (G), and 7th (B) degrees.

Major 7th Chords

Major 7 Chord Formula: 1-3-5-7

Notes in C Maj7: C-E-G-B

The major 7th chord has no sharps or flats, making the chord formula easy to remember!

Major 7th chords can be built at the 1st and 4th degrees of a major scale.

It’s made from a major triad + the major 7th.

C Major 7th chord (root note on E)

Dominant 7th Chords

Dominant 7 Chord Formula: 1-3-5-b7

Notes in C7: C-E-G-Bb

The dominant 7th chord has one flat note, the flattened 7th.

Dominant 7th chords can be built at the 5th degree of a major scale. They are usually used to build tension, and usually resolve to the root note.

It’s made from a major triad + the minor 7th.

C Dominant 7th Jazz Chord Shape (Root Note on E)

Minor 7th Chords

Minor 7 Chord Formula: 1-b3-5-b7

Notes in CMin7: C-Eb-G-Bb

The minor 7th chord has two flat notes, the flattened 3rd and flattened 7th.

Minor 7th chords can be built at the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th degrees of a major scale.

It’s made from a minor triad + the minor 7th.

C Minor 7th Chord (Root note on E)

Minor 7b5 Chords

Minor 7b5 Chord Formula: 1-b3-b5-b7

Notes in CMin7b5: C-Eb-Gb-Bb

Every note in the Minor 7b5 chord, aside from the root note, is flattened. This chord is also called a half-diminished chord.

Minor 7b5 chords can be built at the 7th degree of a major scale.

It’s made from a diminished triad + the minor 7th.

C Minor 7b5 Chord (Root Note on E)

Diminished 7th Chords

Diminished 7 Chord Formula: 1-b3-b5-bb7

Notes in CDim7: C-Eb-Gb-A

The diminished 7th chord is built in minor 3rds. This means you can easily build C Diminished 7th chord inversions and arpeggios by moving 3 notes away from the root note at a time.

Being built in minor 3rds also means you can play this exact same chord shape at each minor 3rd interval and it will still have the same notes!

Try this by playing this chord shape at frets 5 (A), 8 (C) , 11 (Eb), and 2 (Gb).

The diminished 7th chord is not found in the major scale, but it can substitute for a minor 7b5 chord because it has the same harmonic function.

The diminished 7th chord is made from a diminished triad + the double flattened 7th.

C Diminished 7th Chord (Root note on E)

How do you remember 7th chords?

As a general rule you can remember seventh chords by learning their chord formulas, and how they relate back to the major 7th chord formula.

Start by learning the major 7th formula, 1-3-5-7. From here you need to remember the chord names based on the notes being flattened.

You’ll get a dominant 7th chord by flattening the 7th. You’ll get a minor 7th chord by flattening the 3rd and 7th. Now, look back at the minor7b5 and diminished 7th chords and see which notes are flattened.

Aside from memorized the chord formulas, you’ll begin to recognize and learn 7th chords as you play and practice music incorporating them.

7th chords summary

Remember that 7th chords are just 4 note chords made up of a triad + a 7th interval.

Start by learning these 5 shapes and memorizing their chord formulas. From there you need to learn how 7th chords fit into the major scale.

After that you’ll be well on your way to becoming a guitar chord pro!

How to Play Dominant 7th Chords on Guitar (Definition)

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What are Diminished and Augmented Guitar Chords?

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