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How Music Works - 7 Chords

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

So what are they anyway?


I've received a lot of the same questions from different students over the years whether its in private music schools or remote lessons.

One of the most commonly asked questions is “What’s a 7 Chord Aaron?”

If you happened to have picked up a couple of these chords while learning a new song, or maybe you're working with an instructor and they assigned you to learn your basic 7 chord shapes, they may sound like they are really complex right? They're actually a lot more simple than you might think.

I thought I’d break it all down for you here so here it is.

7 Chords.

  • What they are

  • Why you need to know them

  • How to use them


So why bother right?

Why are these chords important to know as a guitar player?

In a word?


These chords can be found in genres ranging from Jazz, Rock, Blues, Metal, Pop, Country, etc. Understanding 7 chords and their functions will expand your musical vocabulary and deepen your overall musicianship. Learning your basic 7 chord shapes (shown in the video below) offers a quick and easy way to add some variety and dimension to your basic open chords. Guitarist looking to expand from their three-stringed triad shapes will enjoy the challenge of incorporating dominant 7th arpeggios into their sweep picking. Even if you're not a shredder, learning and understanding 7 chords open up more possibilities for songwriters both in writing melodies as well as more textured chord progressions.


Triads vs Quadrads

Alright, let's start with what they are. In essence, a 7 chord is just like a regular triad except we add one extra note on top to create what's known as a quadrad.

To keep it simple, a triad is a chord made up of 3 notes.

For example, here is an A minor Triad

An A minor triad is made up of the following three notes

What separates a 7 Chord from a regular triad is that a 7 chord is made up of four notes. (Quadrad)

For example, here's an Am7 chord

An A minor seventh chord is made up of the following four notes

Alright let's talk about how to make these

As I mentioned before, a 7 chord is just like a regular triad except we add one extra note on top to create what's known as a quadrad

For example, a C major chord is made of the notes C - E - G

And as we all now know, this chord is made from the notes that make up the C major scale

Take a second to notice that when we’re making a C Major triad, we actually skip the notes D and F while building our chord.

So like I said before, a 7 chord is just like a regular triad except we add one extra note on top.

In this case, to find this fourth note, we skip the next note from G (A) to find B

"B" in this case is what’s known as a major 7th

Put that on top of your C Major triad and you now have a C Major 7th chord.

Test it out

If you play both chord shapes back and forth, you'll notice a pretty dramatic difference between the two. C Major is very vanilla in comparison to C Major 7 which is very dreamlike in its presentation.

Not for nothing but if chamomile tea made a sound, it would probably be a Major 7th chord. It has a very calming effect to me.


The how to use these chords in a practical application is best described by showing you so if you'd like to go a little deeper with this topic, hear these chords in action as well as pick up some free chord charts for all your basic shapes, feel free to check out the accompanying video.

How Music Works - Episode 12 - 7 Chords

Anyway, I hope all this made sense. If you found this to be helpful or have any questions, be sure to leave a comment and let me know.

While you're at it, let me know what you would like to see me talk about in the future pertaining to songwriting and music theory.

Thanks for reading.


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