Are you scared of 7th chords? Or at least, a little confused about what to do when you see them in the chord notation for a song? You’re in the right place, and you’re not alone. 7th chords are probably the most common “advanced” chord people email me about.
That’s why in this post I’m sharing an excerpt from my Piano In 21 Days online course, specifically about 7th chords and how to find your favorite option. (Yes, you have options!) You’ll definitely want to be at your keyboard or piano for this one, so get set up and enjoy. 🙂
Avoiding 7th Chords?
If you’re like I used to be, you probably try to avoid 7th chords. Maybe when you see a Dm7 or an A7, you just play a Dm or A chord instead. I know that’s what I used to do! Ignoring 7th’s is a coping strategy, and in all honesty that coping strategy can work.
But do you really want to avoid 7th chords forever, when you have options that aren’t too hard to learn? Those options can add some great nuance to your playing, which you’ll lose if you always stick to basic chords.
A Glimpse Into My Lesson on 7th’s
My most updated version of the Piano In 21 Days course dives into all the main options for playing 7th chords. I go over exactly how to play them with examples, and teach my favorite approach.
Technically there are five different types of 7th chords. Fortunately, until you take lessons more focused on jazz, you only really need to know three types. Let’s take a look.
Standard 7th Chords
First, let’s look at standard 7th chords. Normal 7th chords:
- Are marked with a 7 (such as C7, B7, D7, etc)
- Is NOT marked as major or minor (such as Cm7, Bmaj7, etc)
- Can be played using the formula 4-3-3
- Are similar to the basic major chord, but with an additional note at the end
Like I said early, technically you could get away with just playing a basic major chord when you see a standard 7th. Such as playing a Cmajor chord everywhere that you see C7. But check out the other options in the video at 5:38.
So the formula for a standard 7th chord is 4-3-3. But the easier option I prefer is to play a standard major chord in the right hand, and move your left thumb to the left by two keys.
Major 7th Chords
Next on our list are major 7th chords. These are NOT the same as standard 7th chords, so pay attention and don’t get fooled! Major 7th chords:
- Look like this: Cmaj7, Gmaj7, Dmaj7
- Can be played using the formula 4-3-4
- Are similar to standard 7th chords except for the last note of the chord
If you find the 4-3-4 formula difficult or prefer to use your right hand for more improvisational techniques, you can play a normal 7th chord and just move either one of your thumbs one key to the left.
I show your major 7th options in the video above at 8:22.
Minor 7th Chords
As you could probably already guess, the third type of 7th chords are minor 7ths. Minor 7th chords:
- Look like this: Cm7, Gm7, Dm7
- Can be played using the formula 3-4-3
- Are similar to standard 7th chords except for the first note
If you find the 3-4-3 formula difficult or prefer to use your right hand for more improvisational techniques, you can play a normal 7th chord and just move either one of your thumbs one key to the left. I explain it in the video lesson at 11:07.
Do You Need to Memorize Them All?
See how much easier it is to use these concepts than just memorizing all the individual 7th chords? If I told you to memorize all the standard, major, and minor 7th chords one by one, you’d really have your work cut out for you. I wouldn’t want to bother with that and I don’t blame anyone who feels the same way. That’s why it’s important that I share these different options that I’ve explained in the video. Having a few chord types to learn is way easier than trying to learn every single possible chord of that type.
So no, you don’t have to memorize all 7th chords! And you are already way ahead of anyone who is trying to. 😉
Where to Learn More
If you like the idea of learning practical concepts rather than rote memorizing every single type of chord you could possibly need to play, then you are definitely in the right place To learn more, check out my free 5-day workbook here. Let’s get your piano journey off to an awesome start.