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Jazz Guitar Chord Theory (Part 2)


Let's have a look at seventh chords, chords that contain 4 or more different notes and that are the bread and butter of jazz music.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In part 1 of jazz guitar chord theory we covered the construction of triads, chords that contain 3 different notes. If you are new to chord theory, I suggest you read part 1 first.

 

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maj7th Chord Construction

Let's get started again with the C major scale:

C Major Scale
 
C D E F G A B
1 2 3 4 5 6 7


The construction of seventh chords follows the same principle as constructing triads: stacking thirds on top of each other. Triads were made by stacking 2 thirds on top of the root.  Seventh chords are constructed by stacking 3 thirds on top of the root.

Let's stack 3 thirds on the 1 of the C major scale:

C E G B
1 3 5 7

The result is a C major 7 chord (Cmaj7).

  • From C to E is a major third.
  • From E to G is a minor third.
  • From G to B is a major third.

Every major 7 chord has this structure: first a major third, then a minor third, followed by a major third.

The chord formula for major 7 chords is: 1 3 5 7

m7th Chord Construction

Let's do the same for the 2nd note of the C major scale:

D F A C
1 b3  5 b7

The result is a D minor 7 chord or Dm7.

  • From D to F is a minor third.
  • From F to A is a major third.
  • From A to C is a minor third.

Every minor 7 chord has this structure: first a minor third, then a major third, then a minor third.

The chord formula for minor 7 chords is: 1 b3 5 b7

7th Chord Construction

Now let's skip some notes and stack 3 thirds on top of the 5th note of the C major scale:

G B D F
1 5 b7

The result is a G dominant 7 chord or G7. 

  • From G to B is a major third.
  • from B to D is a minor third.
  • From D to F is a minor third.

Every dominant 7 chord has this structure: first a major third, then a minor third, followed by another minor third.

The chord formula for dominant 7 chords is: 1 3 5 b7

m7b5 Chord Construction

We'll skip some more notes and stack 3 thirds on top of the 7th note of the C major scale:

B D F A
1 b3  b5 b7

The result is a B half diminished chord or Bm7b5.

  • From B to D is a minor third.
  • From D to F is a minor third.
  • From F to A is a major third.

Every half diminished 7 chord has this structure: first a minor third, another minor third, followed by a major third.

The chord formula for half diminished 7 chords is: 1 b3 b5 b7

Diatonic 7th Chords

I'll summarize and complete the other notes of the C major scale:

Notes Formula Chord Name Symbol
1 C   E   G   B 1    3     5    7 C major 7 Cmaj7
2 D   F   A   C 1   b3   5   b7 D minor 7 Dm7 or D-7 or Dmin7
3 E   G   B   D 1   b3   5   b7 E minor 7 Em7 or E-7 or Emin7
4 F   A   C   E 1    3     5    7 F major 7 Fmaj7
5 G   B   D   F 1    3     5   b7 G dominant 7 G7
6 A   C   E   G 1   b3   5   b7 A minor 7 Am7 or A-7 or Amin7
7 B   D   F   A 1   b3   b5  b7 B half diminished 7 Bm7b5 or Bmin7b5

 


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