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

Dominant 7th Chords on Guitar

You’ve likely stumbled across dominant 7th chords in your guitar playing, and it’s helpful to understand what they are and how to play them.

So let’s dive into how to play dominant 7th chords on the guitar!

What Are Dominant 7th Chords on Guitar?

A dominant 7th chord is made up of a root, 3rd, 5th, and flattened 7th.

Dominant 7th chords are some of the first guitar chords you’ll learn that aren’t triads.

They can be built from the 5th degree of a major scale, and are oftentimes used to resolve to a tonic.

Key Takeaways

  • Dominant 7th chords are made up of four notes: the root, 3rd, 5th, and flattened 7th.
  • Dominant 7th Chords are the 5th diatonic chord in the major scale (Ionian). This means they are built from the 5th degree of the scale.
  • Dominant 7th chords tend to build tension, and resolve to the tonic chord (your root chord).

How do you make a dominant 7th chord

As a general rule you can easily make a dominant 7th chord by adding the flattened 7th interval to a major chord.

You can also make a dominant 7th chord by going to the fifth degree of any major scale (Ionian) and stacking the notes in 3rds. Let’s take the C Major scale for example:

C – D – E – F – G – A – B

The fifth note in the scale is G. We can get a G7 chord by stacking in thirds, which results in these notes: G – B – D – F. You can apply this to every major scale.

And lastly, you can build a dominant 7th chord using the chord formula: 1-3-5-b7

Playing Dominant 7th Chords on Guitar

Now you’ll take a look at some common dominant 7th chords on guitar, and how to play them.

The first 4 are common chords for beginners.

The last two shapes are more commonly used in jazz guitar.


Open D7 Chord


Open E7 Chord


G Dominant 7th chord (Open G7)
Open G7 Chord


Open A7 Chord


C Dominant 7th Jazz Chord Shape
C7 Chord (Jazz Shape)


B Dominant 7th Chord (B7)
B7 Chord (barre shape)

Understanding Dominant 7th Chords

What does a dominant 7 chord do

As a general rule a dominant 7th chord is used to build tension in music, and resolve to the tonic.

Is C7 the same as C Dominant 7 (7th vs Dominant 7th)

C7 is the same as C dominant 7th. This same naming principal applies to all dominant 7th chords.

These chords were only used as an example.

Is a Dominant 7th Chord Major on Minor?

A dominant 7th chord is neither major nor minor. It is a major triad with a minor 7th.

This means that the chord can function as a substitute for both major and minor chords.

Because of the obscure harmony in a dominant 7th chord, it is also able to work as a 5(V) chord in both a major and minor 2-5-1 progression.

Major= ii-V-I

Minor= ii-V-i

Dominant 7th chord symbol

Dominant 7th chords do not use a chord symbol.

They are formatted like this: Note Name + 7 = (C7)

Songs that use dominant 7th guitar chords

Dominant 7th chords have a function in every type of genre, and many different songs.

One of the most common ways they’re used on guitar is in a 12 bar blues progression.

Jimi Hendrix tended to use their close relative, the 7#9 chord. Here’s an article that goes in-depth on his use of the chord.

Summary: Dominant 7th Chords on Guitar

You’re going to be using dominant 7th chords a lot on guitar, no matter what type of music you play.

Make sure you memorize the basic formula for dominant 7th chords and learn some of the most popular shapes.