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Guitar 7th chords

Updated on April 24, 2016

All about 7th chords

There are 4 basic shapes you should learn for 7th chords. As usual, I've only included the most useful and widely used chord shapes. Here's a tip about 7th chords:

  • Any 7th chord will usually lead to the tonic chord of the key. G7 leads to C, A7 leads to D, B7 leads to E. You can use the cycle of fifths music theory diagram to see how this works.
  • In practice, in the key of C, the G7 is often preceded by a Dm7, giving you the progression Dm7 G7 C. G7 can also be used in a minor key, when it will lead to a Cm chord, A7 would lead to Dm, B7 would lead to Em.
  • This is a vital part of music theory and will really help you learn songs as well as write them.
  • Another common use is when the chord is going up a 4th. So to connect C and F, you can have a C7 in the middle.

7th chords have the formula 1,3,5, flat7. These are the intervals starting from the root note of the chord. In C these notes would be C E G (1,3,5) and then you add the Bb, the flat seventh note. All the other chords work the same way. Note that 7th chords and major 7th chords are not the same,even though they sound similar after a few pints.

In column 1, the E7 shape is moved up to make a barre chord F7, and the G7 and G13 that follow are both based on this shape.

7, 9 and 13 chords are largely interchangeable, and musically they do the same job of leading you back to chord 1 (G7 or G9 or G13 lead back to C, a 5-1 progression.)

This is because 9th and 13th chords are just 7th chords with an added note.

All about 7th Chords

D7 Chord

The D7 chord in line 1 has the root note on open string 4, which is D. This shape is hard to use when you move it up the neck, because the root note is not easy to add. So, just use strings 1,2 and 3 for this shape, and add an open string for an E7 or A7 with more bass going on.

B7 sharp 9 - if this chord was a pizza, it would be with chili oil and added jalapenos, it's funky!

The root note is on string 5, so the Hendrix chord of E7 sharp9 is based on an E at fret 7. This chord will resolve nicely to Am7.

3-note voicings

G7, A7, B7 on the third line are all 3- note voicings that are very useful, especially if you are playing in a band context.

The sound of 7th chords is the essential sound of the Blues, Funk and some Soul, as well as the foundation for rockabilly and early rock n' roll. I have written several hubs about blues chords and the way you can apply them. Here are the I, IV and V chords for blues in several different keys:

A : A7 D7 E7

E: E7 A7 B7

C: C7 F7 G7

D: D7 G7 A7

G: G7 C7 D7

Just using these chords together will enable you to play hundreds of Chuck Berry, rockabilly and blues tunes. A typical blues chord sequence would be:

I      I      I     I    IV   IV    I      I     V    IV    I   V

A7  A7  A7  A7   D7   D7  A7  A7  E7  D7  A7  E7 

Starting with four beats per bar on the I chord, then moving up to the IV chord, etc.

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