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7th Chords Explained


Updated 6/25/24

When you see guitar chords labeled as '7th' chords, that means they are triads with the addition of a 7th scale degree.

For example; a C major chord is made from the 1, 3 and 5 scale degrees of the C major scale (C, E, G).

Adding a 7th scale degree (B) will transform the C major chord into a Cmajor7 chord.

Flatting that 7th scale degree (a Bb note) will transform that Cmajor7 chord into a C7 chord.

Common 7th chords are major 7th (Cmaj7), minor 7th (Cmin7) and the dominant 7th (C7).

These chords are used in all genres of music.

In this beginner guitar lesson we'll go over 7th chords, how to play them, and how to build them.

How To Build A Major 7th Chord


First let’s take a look at the major 7th chord, or maj7 for short.

We'll outline the C major/C maj7 chord in more detail.

Go ahead and use a guitar chord chart while looking through these chords.

The C major chord is made up of three notes from the C major scale: C - E - G 

C is the root note, E is the major 3rd, and G is the 5th. 

To turn this into a major seventh chord, we must add one more note, the major 7th. We can find the major 7th note by looking at the C major scale. Here it is:

C - D - E - F - G  - A - B

We can see that the B note is the 7th note in the scale, so we’ll use that as our major 7th.

If you need a scale refresher, check out our scale finder.

All we have to do is simply add that note to the C major chord and we’ll get a C major 7th chord. It looks like this:

C - E - G - B  

Let’s recap: In order to make a major 7th chord, you must take the root note, the major 3rd, the 5th, and the major 7th.

How To Build A Minor 7th Chord


The second type of 7th chord is a minor 7th. We’ll do what we did above, and take a C major chord and turn that into a C minor 7th! 

The full C minor scale looks like this:

C - D - Eb - F - G - Ab - Bb

A C minor chord is made up of three notes, the C, which is the root note, the flat 3rd, which is Eb, and then the 5th, which is G.

If you're looking to learn even more about 7th chords, check out our Groovy Dominant 7th Chords tutorial.

So a C minor looks like this:

C - Eb - G

To turn this into a minor 7th chord, we must add one more note, but this time we’ll add the minor 7th, which is Bb.

So the C minor 7th chord looks like this:

C - Eb - G - Bb

How To Build A Dominant 7th Chord

Last but not least, the dominant 7th chord has a major 3rd but also a flat or minor seventh in it.

In a way, it’s kind of like mixing a minor and a major 7th chord together.

Here’s what a C Dominant 7th chord looks like:

C - E - G - Bb


Here are a couple of songs for you to practice these 7th chords. 

Lovin’ You - Minnie Riperton

This song is great not only for learning your 7th chords, but to also get a good feel for rhythm and fingerpicking style.

You'll get a nice thumb workout as you have to pluck the bass notes with your thumb.

All you need is an acoustic guitar!

This song starts off with a fun chord progression that uses Dmaj7, C#m7 and a Bmin7. 


I Saw Her Standing There - The Beatles

If you want to learn how to play dominant 7th chords and work on your rhythm guitar playing, look no further than this classic Beatles song.

The intro to the song features a repeated riff with an E7 triad, which is also known as a E dominant 7th chord.


What are the 7th chords in guitar?

7th chords add an extra layer of depth to the basic chords. They include major 7th (maj7), minor 7th (m7), dominant 7th (7), half-diminished (m7b5), and diminished 7th (dim7).

What is the 7 chord rule?

The 7 chord rule refers to using all the diatonic 7th chords in a key to create harmonically rich progressions. It’s a way to expand on basic triads and add more color to your music.

What are the 7 beginner chords?

The 7 beginner chords are typically C, A, G, E, D, Am, and Em. These are foundational chords that every beginner should learn first.

What are the 5 types of 7th chords?

The 5 types of 7th chords are major 7th (maj7), minor 7th (m7), dominant 7th (7), half-diminished (m7b5), and diminished 7th (dim7). Each type has its own unique sound and uses.

How to recognize 7th chords?

You can recognize 7th chords by their fuller, more complex sound compared to basic triads. They often have an extra note that creates a sense of tension or resolution.

What is the difference between 7th and major 7th chords?

A 7th chord (dominant 7th) has a major triad with a minor 7th note added. A major 7th chord, on the other hand, has a major triad with a major 7th note added, giving it a more mellow, jazzy sound.

What is the difference between C7 and Cmaj7 chords?

C7 (dominant 7th) has the notes C, E, G, and Bb. Cmaj7 (major 7th) has the notes C, E, G, and B. The Bb in C7 gives it a bluesy feel, while the B in Cmaj7 gives it a smoother, jazzier vibe.

What makes a diminished 7th chord?

A diminished 7th chord is made of a root note, a minor third, a diminished fifth, and a diminished seventh. It has a tense, unresolved sound that’s great for dramatic effects.

Why is it called a seventh chord?

It’s called a seventh chord because it includes the interval of a seventh above the root note. This extra note adds complexity and richness to the chord.

Why do 7 chords sound weird?

7 chords can sound weird because they include a note that creates tension. This tension makes the chord sound unstable or unresolved, which can be jarring or interesting, depending on the context.


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