Understanding 7th Chords on the Guitar

If you are skipping the 7th chords because they confuse you then you are missing the opportunities of creating the most pleasing sounds that you can make on a guitar or any other instrument.

One of the main reasons the 7th chords are confusing is that there are several different versions of a seventh chord and all have different notes. But if you take a break and seek out the meaning of the notes, then everything will make sense and it won’t be confusing anymore.

So, In this lesson I will help in making you familiar with the most commonly used seventh variations and for that I will be using the key of C.

The Major 7 ( C Maj 7 ) On Guitar

This is the simplest position of the 7th chord and it is in the key of C. The formula behind playing a seventh chord is to play a major chord and add the 7th note of the major scale to it. For example, the C Major chord formula is C, E, and G. So, when we add the 7th note of C Major scale i.e, B to the C major chord, it becomes a C Maj 7 chord. So, the C Maj 7 formula becomes C, E, G, and B.

Dominant 7 ( C 7 on Guitar )

This is the most popularly used 7th chord which is used in genres like blues and pop-rock. The process of creating a dominant seventh chord is quite simple. Simply take the major 7th chord and flatten down the 7th note by a half step. For example, our C major 7th formula is C, E, G, and B, so now the dominant 7th ( C7 ) chord becomes C, E, G, and Bb.

Minor 7 ( C m 7 in Guitar )

If you are thinking that only Major chords have sevenths then you need to think a little more because the minor has it too. The formula is the same as the major 7th. Like we add the 7th note in a major chord to make it Major 7 similarly by adding the 7th note of a minor scale to a minor chord it becomes Minor 7.

For example, the C minor 7 chord formula is C, Eb, G, and B. By adding the seventh note of its minor scale which is Bb, it becomes C minor 7. Here Eb is the minor third of C.

Diminished 7 ( C dim 7 )

It is super easy to make the diminished 7 chords. All we have to do is put the minor thirds on the top of each other. So, the minor third above C is Eb, the minor third above Eb is Gb, and the minor third above Gb is A. So, in the key of C the diminished 7 chord formula will look like C, Eb, Gb, and A.

Minor 7 flat 5 or half-diminished ( C m7b5 )

To create this chord we can start by taking a minor 7th chord and then lowering ( flattening ) the 5th note by half step. For example, the C m 7 formula is C, Eb, G, and Bb. By flattening the fifth note which is G by half step, it becomes Gb. So, the C minor 7 flat 5 chord formula will look like C, Eb, Gb, Bb.


I hope I did justice in making you understand the principle behind seventh chords and how actually they are build. I got inspired by few articles on the internet to write this. Now that you have it, you can start implementing in your playing and I guarantee that it will be exciting.