Making up a third of one of the most important jazz chord progressions, the ii-V-I, Dominant 7th chords are essential tools for any developing jazz guitarist to have under their fingers and in their ears.
There are two basic Dominant 7th chord types that you can learn and apply to your playing, 7th and 7#11 chords, and both will be explored from a theoretical and technical level in this lesson.
There are other Dominant 7th chords that you can explore in your studies, such as 9th, 13th and 7alt chords, and working on these basic shapes will give you the strong foundation you need to tackle those more advanced chord shapes in your playing.
As well, in this jazz guitar chord lesson you will learn to play 7 and 7#11 chords with both Drop 2 and Drop 3 chord shapes, which are also must know shapes that can enhance your ability to comp, play chord melodies and chord soloing phrases on the guitar.
Once you have these chord shapes under your fingers, you will be ready to tackle Jazz Blues Chord Progressions, major key ii-V-I's, and many other jazz standard chord progression in your playing with both authenticity and confidence.
For more complicated dominant chords, have a look here: Advanced Dominant Chords
To begin our studies of basic Dominant chords for jazz guitar, here is the formula for building each inversion of a Drop 3 7th chord.
Once you have these interval patterns memorized you will be ready to apply them to the fretboard by learning the shapes in the chord charts below.
|Drop 3 7 Root Position||R||b7||3||5|
|Drop 3 7 1st Inversion||3||R||5||b7|
|Drop 3 7 2nd Inversion||5||3||b7||R|
|Drop 3 7 3rd Inversion||b7||5||R||3|
Here are four inversions of C7 Drop 3 chords that you can apply to your daily jazz guitar studies as you begin to take these chords off of the page and onto the fretboard.
Moving on to the next Dominant chord type, you can now explore the interval structure of Drop 3 7#11 chords from a theoretical position.
Notice that you have only altered one note from the previous shapes, lowering the 5th by one fret (one half step) in order to prodcue the #11 interval in each inversion.
|Drop 3 7#11 Root Position||R||b7||3||#11|
|Drop 3 7#11 1st Inversion||3||R||#11||b7|
|Drop 3 7#11 2nd Inversion||#11||3||b7||R|
|Drop 3 7#11 3rd Inversion||b7||#11||R||3|
Here are four inversions of Drop 3 C7#11 chords with the lowest note of each shape on the 6th string that you can work in all 12 keys around the fretboar in your studies.
With both 7 and 7#11 Drop 3 chords under your fingers, you can practice apply both to a C7 backing track in order to get your ears involved in the learning process.
Learning how to hear these chords over harmonic progressions is an important part of the learning process and should be a part of your daily jazz guitar practice routine.
When moving on to the next string set for Drop 3 7th chords, with the lowest note on the 5th string, you don't need to learn a new intervallic formula as those intervals remain the same on any string set.
Here are four inversions of that chord for your to learn, practice in 12 keys and apply to your favorite jazz standard in your studies.
Here are four inversions of Drop 3 C7#11 chords with the lowest note of each shape on the 5th string for you to explore in the woodshed.
With both of these 5th-string Drop 3 chords under your fingers, put on a C7 backing track and play these shapes along with the harmony in order to begin hearing how these two chord types sound when applied to a musical situation.
You can now move on to exploring Drop 2 chords in the woodshed by learning how to build the intervals for each inversion of Drop 2 7th chords.
As was the case with the Drop 3 chords, these intervals will stay the same no matter what key or string set you are on, and so once you memorize these formula you are ready to apply this knowledge to the fretboard.
|Drop 2 7 Root Position||R||5||b7||3|
|Drop 2 7 1st Inversion||3||b7||R||5|
|Drop 2 7 2nd Inversion||5||R||3||b7|
|Drop 2 7 3rd Inversion||b7||3||5||R|
Now that you have learned how to build Drop 2 7th chords on paper, let's take these inversions to the fretboard.
Here are four inversions of a Drop 2 C7 chord on the middle four strings that you can work in the practice room, as well as take to other keys as you move these shapes around the fretboard.
You can also adjust one note in any Drop 2 7 chord shape to build 7#11 shapes on the fretbaord.
You can see the intervallic formual for this appraoch below, where you lower the 5th of Drop 2 7th chords by one fret, one half-step, to produce Drop 2 7#11 chords.
|Drop 2 7#11 Root Position||R||#11||b7||3|
|Drop 2 7#11 1st Inversion||3||b7||R||#11|
|Drop 2 7#11 2nd Inversion||#11||R||3||b7|
|Drop 2 7#11 3rd Inversion||b7||3||#11||R|
Now that you have studied the interval structure of Drop 2 7#11 chords, here are four grips to practice on the middle four strings.
As is always the case, work these shapes over C7 first, and then take them to all 12 keys around the fretbaord in order to develop an in-depth knowledge of these shapes in a performance situation.
With Drop 2 Domiant chords under your fingers, try putting on a C7 backing track and playing any 7 or 7#11 shape you have learned so far back and forth in order to hear how these chords sound in a musical situation.
Though the #11 interval can sound a bit harsh at first, by exploring it over backing tracks you will allow your ears to become more accustomed to this sound which will make it easier to apply to a chord progression in the future.
To finish our studies for basic Dominant chords on the guitar, here are four Drop 2 C7 chord shapes on the top four strings that you can explore in the woodshed.
Becuase the formula for any Drop 2 7th chord is the same, you already know how to build these shapes from a theoretical standpoint and can immediately apply that knowledge to the fretbaord in your studies.
Once you have these 7th chords, and the 7#11 chords in the next example, under your fingers, try playing all of the C7 Drop 2 chords you have learned so far back to back in order to see and hear how these shapes relate to eachother on the fretbaord.
As was the case with the Drop 2 7th chords on the top four strings, the intervallic formula for 7#11 chords on this string set remains the same as the middle four strings, so you are ready to dive right in to appying these chords to the fretboard in your studies.
Here are four inversions of C7#11 that you can work around the freboard in 12 keys as you take these shapes to your technical, and later repertoire, practice routine.
Now that you have learned how to play various grips for Drop 2 and Drop 3 7 and 7#11 chords, you are ready to take them into a musical situaiton.
Try putting on a Jazz Blues Backing Track and comping over those changes using any/all of the chords you have learned in this lesson, and moving on to other jazz standard chord progressions from there.
Learning to play Dominant Chords is essential for any jazz guitarist, so spending a little time every day in the woodshed on these shapes will be a good first step towards reaching your harmonic goals on the instrument.