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:
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.
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.
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:
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.