How to Construct Seventh Chords A  seventh  chord  is  a  four-­‐note  chord  created  by  adding  a  note  a  third

 above  any  of  the  four  types   of  triads.  There  are  three  main  ways  to  think  of  building  seventh  chords:   1.  Adding  a  note  a  third  above  a  major,  minor,  augmented  or  diminished  triad.   2.  Stacking  intervals  above  a  root.   3.  Constructing  seventh  chords  from  the  major  scale.   Each  of  these  approaches  will  be  examined  separately.  It  is  worthwhile  to  understand  each  of   them.  Luckily,  each  approach  is  closely  related  to  the  others,  so  it  shouldn't  be  too  hard  to  learn   all  of  them.  

Building Seventh Chords by Adding a Note to a Triad
Seventh  chords  can  be  thought  of  in  terms  of  the  quality  of  the  triad,  which  will  be  major,  minor,   augmented  or  diminished,  and  the  interval  between  the  root  of  the  chord  and  the  seventh.  This   interval  can  be  a:  major  seventh,  minor  seventh,  diminished  seventh.   A  seventh  chord  can  be  built  by  creating  a  combination  of  each  chord  type  with  each  interval.  In   practice,  there  are  eight  kinds  of  seventh  chords  that  are  encountered  frequently,  although   combining  each  type  of  triad  with  each  seventh  interval  allows  for  more  possibilities.  Many  of   these  possibilities  are  enharmonic  to  other  chords  or  are  used  infrequently,  so  they  aren't   covered  here.   The  chart  below  shows  how  to  combine  triads  with  various  kinds  of  sevenths  to  create  each   seventh  chord:      

How to Construct Seventh Chords  

Building Seventh Chords with Intervals
Like  triads,  seventh  chords  can  be  constructed  by  stacking  intervals  in  a  specific  pattern  above  a   root  note.  The  chart  below  lists  the  type  of  chord  and  the  specific  intervals  for  the  third,  fifth,   and  seventh  of  the  chord.    

How to Construct Seventh Chords  

Building Seventh Chords with Major Scales
Seventh  chords  can  be  created  by  starting  with  the  triads  created  on  each  degree  of  the  major   scale.  This  is  done  by  stacking  another  note  above  the  top  note  in  the  triad.  The  extra  note   should  be  a  third  above  the  highest  note  in  the  triad.  For  example,  if  you  want  to  create  a   seventh  chord  on  the  tonic  in  C  major,  you  would  start  with  a  C  major  triad  and  add  a  note  a   third  above  the  top  note  in  the  chord.  The  top  note  in  a  C  major  triad  is  G,  so  a  third  above  that   would  be  a  B.  Keep  in  mind  that  the  note  that  you  add  to  each  triad  should  be  diatonic  to  that   major  scale.   There  is  a  specific  pattern  of  seventh  chords  that  occur  on  each  scale  degree.  For  example,  the   seventh  chord  built  on  the  fifth  degree  of  the  scale  is  always  a  dominant  seventh  chord.  The   table  below  lists  the  type  of  chord  and  Roman  numeral  for  the  seventh  chord  on  each  degree  of   the  major  scale.                               The  example  below  shows  the  seventh  chords  in  the  C  major  scale:  

    Only  four  types  of  seventh  chords  occur  naturally  in  the  major  scale:  major,  minor,  dominant,   and  half-­‐diminished.  The  other  kinds  of  seventh  chords  are  created  from  other  scales  and,  with   the  exception  of  the  fully-­‐diminished  seventh  chord,  are  used  less  frequently.  

How to Construct Seventh Chords

Chord Symbols for Seventh Chords
The  symbols  used  for  each  kind  of  seventh  chord  is  shown  in  the  chart  below.  Unfortunately,   there  is  no  standardization  for  these  symbols,  so  you  may  see  a  different  symbol  for  the  same   chord  depending  on  where  you  look.  The  preferred  symbol  is  listed  along  with  common  alternate   symbols.  The  preferred  symbol  is  the  one  that  is  most  common,  the  most  correct,  and/or  the   clearest  in  indicating  the  type  of  chord.  These  are  the  symbols  that  will  be  used  on  this  site.  This   chart  shouldn't  be  considered  an  exhaustive  list  of  symbols  for  each  chord,  as  there  are  probably   many  other  variations.  

Here  is  an  example  of  how  these  symbols  could  be  used  to  label  the  seventh  chords  in  C  major  

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