A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Posts tagged “7th

7th Chords: Major, Dominant, Natural Minor, Harmonic Minor & 1/2 Diminished

7ths are chords that have one more note than a basic triad – the 7th. Just like there are a bunch of different triads, beyond the major and minor ones, there are additional types of 7th chords. Most of us are familiar with the major 7th and the minor 7th. The former is a major triad with a 7th added to it. The latter is a minor triad with a flatted 7th tacked on. Its not really brain surgery. Here are the spellings for each:

  • Major 7th: 1 – 3 – 5 – 7
  • Minor 7th: 1 – b3 – 5 – b7

There are at least 3 other 7th chords that are variations of the two base ones. These are the dominant 7th, which is a major 7th with a flatted 7; the harmonic minor 7th – which is a minor 7th with a natural 7 instead of a flatted one; and the half-diminished 7th – which has an intimidating name and is basically a major 7th with everything flatted, or a minor 7th with the 5th flatted (both ways of looking at it have the same notes).

A quick note about the minor 7ths – the regular minor 7th is sometimes called the natural minor 7th. This is to distinguish it from that new one, the harmonic minor 7th.

Here are the spellings for each of these new 7th chords:

  • Dominant 7th: 1 – 3 – 5 – b7
  • Harmonic minor 7th: 1 – b3 – 5 – 7
  • Half-Diminished 7th: 1 – b3 – b5 – b7

Here are patterns for the major and dominant 7th chords, derived from the usual major scale pattern because they have major scale fingerings. As illustrated, the only difference between them is the flatted 7th in the dominant chord:


Coursera – DYM Lesson 6 videos (3)

Video #3 for the 6th, and final, lesson of Coursera’s online Developing Your Musicianship class reviews all of the chords that were introduced in prior lessons: the triads and 7ths.

3. Review: The Major and Minor Triad, Major 7th and Dominant 7th Chords (7:51)

Continuing from the last video, in which he spoke about the major scale, Professor Russell opens this video with, “Now, another thing we learned was a major triad and a minor triad. These were the first chords we learned and we’re going to get those chords right from the major scale.” He plays a C major scale on the piano and then explains that a major triad would consist of the root (the 1st degree of the scale), the third (3rd degree of the scale) and the fifth (5th degree of the scale). He calls what he just played the 1-chord, “because its built upon the first degree of the scale.”

He further explains that if we played the 4-chord, or 4 major triad, that it would be built on the 4th degree of the scale, which is an F (F-A-C) and the 5-chord would be built on the 5th degree of the scale – a G (G-B-D). Those three chords are called C major, F major and G major (the 1-chord, 4-chord and 5-chord in the key of C) and they’re used in a huge amount of songs.


Minor Scales & Chords

I’m still working on memorizing the notes on the E string using the Cycle of Fourths. Its gone pretty well. I can play them through without slopping it up until I turn on a metronome, then I can run it a few times before forgetting where I am or hitting the wrong note.

I’m going to mix it up a little bit though by running chords and scales along the cycle, and since I like the sound of the minor scales & minor chords more, I’ll start by using those. Here’s a fingering comparison of the natural minor, harmonic minor, melodic minor and Hungarian minor. It should work for any of the closed positions (positions where you don’t use an open string). If its played starting on the open E, the pattern is a little bit different, but shouldn’t be the biggest headache. I’ll do a separate write-up for that when I find time.

Also – a note about the melodic minor: when you play it up (1st note to 8th note) it uses the fingering provided. When its played down (backwards, from 8th to 1st) then just use the regular natural minor. There’s some historical reasons for this dating back a few hundred years, but I don’t remember them. I’ll see about possibly doing a quick post about that later as well.

Minor Scales & Chords

Minor Scales & Chords


The Hungarian Minor Scale

I know, I know. I’ve been posting very sporadically as of late. What’s even worse is that last Monday (3/4) was the one-year anniversary of my starting this blog. I had such high hopes of posting about all of the things I’ve learned over the course of my first year studying bass and looking back at my fumbles. What’s even worse than all of THAT is my dismal practice routine since December… namely, there really hasn’t been one. I’ll confess my sins in a later post though. For now…

I had a little bit of free time this week and dug out Extreme Metal Bass by Alex Webster. I read through the intro again (its been a while) and then went on to the opening “Technique” chapter. The first thing he presents us with is the Natural Minor (Aeolian) Scale. I think that I have a handle on that, although I know it can be better, and I wanted to try something different, so I went on to the next item: the Hungarian Minor Scale.

I have to say… I love it! I love the sound. I can see why its also called the Gypsy scale.


IIB Week 3 – Lesson #3 (Seventh Chords)

I’m a little late with this post but I did make Week 3’s chat with Cliff Engel. We can look at that later though. IIB‘s Week 3 lesson focused on 7th chords – which are the next chords after triads. I’ve actually not gotten to go through all of the materials yet because end-of-year client stuff. I’m still working (a bit slowly) on Week 1 and Week 2 materials (learning the notes on the neck and triads – plus their inversions, etc.).

Anyhow, here’s a rundown of what I have to get to from Week 3… thankfully we can go at our own pace with this:

  • Seventh Chords
  • Chordal Sequences
  • Chordal Cells
  • A Guide to Chord Symbols
  • Bass Notation
  • Note Studies – Open Strings – 5th Fret
  • Rhythm Studies – Half, Quarter & Eighth Notes
  • Ear Training – Seventh Chords

The opening text for this lesson (which also included a ZIP file with 11 folders – each of which has twelve 7th chords in MP3 format) says the following:

In our third lesson, we are going to discuss seventh chords. We will study a collection of the most frequently used chord symbols in charts along with a unique set of markings and symbols that are utilized specifically by bassists in music notation. We will also continue working through a series of note and rhythmic exercises to increase the proficiency of your sight reading skills.

I’ve practiced 7ths a bit before, but not to the extent that this material seems to cover. I’ve only glanced at it, but it looks like it will explore them much more deeply than the 1-2 patterns I’ve taught myself (which were basically a major 7th & minor 7th). Like with the other lessons, repetition is most likely key.

Here’s a breakdown of the topics:


The Dominant (Mixolydian) Scale and Chords

Prior to starting that IIB class on Music Theory for Bass, I was practicing scales and chords. I’ve completed a basic write-up of the major and minor scales already, so I’m going to continue with the rest of the modes of the major scale and their related chords.

The Dominant (Mixolydian) scale is a variation of the Major (Ionian) scale. There’s a difference of one note in the pattern. Here’s what one source says about it:

Bass Guitar Exercises for Dummies:
The dominant scale, or Mixolydian mode, is the most commonly used scale for bass grooves. You can think of it as a major scale with a lowered seventh.

Playing the Dominant (Mixolydian) Scale (Pattern 1)

Now, with the above in mind, here’s the Major Scale pattern that we’ve looked at before, followed by the Dominant/Mixolydian. By comparing them, its easy to see how the pattern differs (the lowered 7th note). Later on, we’ll see how chords based on the pattern are formed.

The Minor Scale and Chords

Ok. In my last scale/chord post, we looked at the major scale and major chords. Today, we’ll examine the minor scale and minor chords.

Now, there are actually several minor scales. I’ve not learned them all yet (I only know 2) but the one we’re going to discuss is called the natural minor scale, or Aeolian mode. In general, its the one we mean when we refer to the minor scale.

The other minor scales are basically variations of this one… although if you look at it like that, they’re really all variations of each other. Its probably just relative to which one you learn first. Several of the minor scales have the same chords, so once we’ve learned the chords that are constructed from the natural minor scale, it’ll be applicable to the others.

The minor scale has a darker feel than the major. Its often used in music associated more with anger or sadness than the major scale. If you’re into bands like Black Sabbath, this is a fun (and useful) scale to learn. When I’ve practiced minor chords, it usually feels like I’m able to more readily create latin-sounding rhythms as well. But for all I know at this point, latin music might have its own set of scales and chords (or at least commonly-selected notes).

Playing the Minor Scale (Pattern 1)

Here’s the initial pattern that I learned for the minor scale. Notice that although it spans 4 frets, you only use 3 fingers to play it: the index, ring and pinky.