What is a 7 chord? Simply put, it’s a triad with an extra note on top. 7th chords are the next step in any musician’s vocabulary journey. Understanding and using 7th chords immediately creates a more sophisticated sound and opens up the use of new genres for any player. Here is a 7th chord explanation.

There are 5 types of 7 chords for practical use in tonal music:

  1. Major 7
  2. Minor 7
  3. Dominant 7 (or just “7”)
  4. Half diminished 7
  5. Fully diminished 7

Think about 7 chords in the most basic way possible, in two parts (underlying chord as part 1, and 7 added as part 2), and from bottom to top (root of the chord up to the 7th).

Major 7

Major triad on bottom, major seventh on top (just think “major major”).

First 3 notes create a MAJOR triad, and the 7th on top is only a HALF step below the octave, making it a MAJOR 7th.

Minor 7

Minor triad on bottom, minor seventh on top (just think “minor minor”).

First 3 notes create a MINOR triad, and the 7th on top is a WHOLE step below the octave making it a MINOR 7th.

Dominant 7 or just “7”

Major triad on bottom, minor seventh on top (just think “major minor”).

First 3 notes create a MAJOR triad, and the 7th on top is a WHOLE step below the octave making it a MINOR 7th.

Half Diminished 7

Diminished triad on bottom, minor seventh on top (just think “diminished minor).

First 3 notes create a DIMINISHED triad, and the 7th on top is a WHOLE step below the octave making it a MINOR 7th.

Fully Diminished 7

Diminished triad on bottom, diminished 7 on top (just think “diminished diminished).

First 3 notes create a DIMINISHED triad, and the 7th on top is a STEP AND A HALF step below the octave making it a DIMINISHED 7th.

Final Thoughts

This is the most practical way to think about 7 chords, from bottom to top, in two parts. However, they do not always occur this symmetrically. The seventh can be anywhere in the chord, the bass note, the top note, or somewhere in the middle. Remember, a seventh chord needs a 7 in it regardless of where it is in the layout of the chord.