Pop Music Theory


30: 7th Chords

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Lesson 30: 7th Chords

7th chords are an important set of chord types used in many songs. Before you take this lesson, you need to already know:
You already know that a triad is a 3-note chord; the 3 notes in a triad are called the root, the 3rd, and the 5th. 7th chords have an additional note, called the "7th". So, the notes in a 7th chord are called:

Root 3rd 5th 7th

The 3rd, 5th, and/or 7th can all be raised or lowered by a half-step or two to make many different types of 7th chords. In this lesson, we'll just learn the 3 most common 7th-chord types:
  • Dominant 7th chord (chord symbol: just 7)
  • Major 7th chord (chord symbol: maj7)
  • Minor 7th chord (chord symbol: m7)

Let's start with the major-7th chord; it's not the most common 7th chord, but it's the easiest one to explain first. The major-7th chord consists of the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th notes of a major scale. Symbolically, its formula is:

Major 7th chord: 1 3 5 7 (degrees of a major scale)

Next, we have the dominant-7th chord, which is actually the most common 7th chord. The dominant-7th chord is just like the major-7th chord, except you lower the 7th a half-step. Thus, its formula is:

Dominant 7th chord: 1 3 5 ♭7

Finally, the formula for the minor-7th chord is:

Minor 7th chord: 1 ♭3 5 ♭7

Putting it all together, the formulas for these 3 chord types are:

Major 7th chord: 1357
Dominant 7th chord: 135♭7
Minor 7th chord: 1♭35♭7

Here are reference tables for the notes in these chords:

Major 7th Chords
Chord Symbol Root 3rd 5th 7th
A♭maj7 A♭CE♭ G
Amaj7 AC♯E G♯
B♭maj7 B♭DF A
Bmaj7 BD♯F♯ A♯
Cmaj7 CEGB
D♭maj7 D♭FA♭ C
Dmaj7 DF♯A C♯
E♭maj7 E♭GB♭ D
Emaj7 EG♯B D♯
Fmaj7 FACE
F♯maj7 F♯A♯ C♯E♯
G♭maj7 G♭B♭ D♭F
Gmaj7 GBD F♯

Dominant 7th Chords
Chord Symbol Root 3rd 5th 7th
A♭7 A♭CE♭ G♭
B♭7 B♭DF A♭
B7 BD♯F♯ A
C♯7 C♯E♯ G♯B
D♭7 D♭FA♭ C♭
E♭7 E♭GB♭ D♭
F♯7 F♯A♯ C♯E
G♭7 G♭B♭ D♭F♭

Minor 7th Chords
Chord Symbol Root 3rd 5th 7th
B♭m7 B♭D♭F A♭
Bm7 BDF♯ A
Cm7 CE♭G B♭
C♯m7 C♯E G♯B
D♯m7 D♯F♯ A♯C♯
E♭m7 E♭G♭ B♭D♭
Fm7 FA♭C E♭
F♯m7 F♯A C♯E
Gm7 GB♭D F
G♯m7 G♯B D♯F♯

When you understand how to construct these 7th chords, go on to Lesson 31: 7ths Games to practice and test yourself.

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1: Introduction
2: Teaching Yourself
3: Pitch & Keyboard
4: Pitch Names
5: Letters Game
6: Sharps & Flats
7: Half-Steps
8: Whole-Steps
9: Steps Game
10: Scales
11: Major Scale 1-2-3
12: Major 1-2-3 Games
13: Major Scale 1-5
14: Major 1-5 Games
15: Chords: Major Triads
16: Major Triad Games
17: Minor Triads
18: Minor Triad Games
19: Major Scale 1-8
20: Major Scale Games
21: Scales Above 8
22: What Next
23: Keys
24: Roman Numeral Chords
25: Diatonic Triads
26: Using Diatonics
27: Tonic Function
28: Subdominant & Dominant
29: Diatonic Function Analysis
30: 7th Chords
31: 7ths Games
32: Treble Staff
33: Treble Staff Game
34: Melody: Chord Tones
35: Pitch & Frequency

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