7th Chord Exercise On Guitar
7th chords are colorful variations of Major and minor chords that are essential for guitar players to learn. They're used in just about every style of music and add different vibe to chord progressions. I'm going to show you a great lesson I use to teach my students 7th chords.
And I'll be honest, that's not the only reason for this lesson. I'm also going to dive into a little music theory.
There are three types of 7th chords: Major 7th, minor 7th, and Dominant 7th. Today we're only going to look at the Dominant 7th chords since they're the ones you're most likely to see. Don't worry about the other two for now.
Dominant 7th Chords
Dominant 7th chords are written out like this: "G7" is a G Dominant 7th chord. A D Dominant 7th would be "D7". And so on. I'm just going to call them 7th chords from here. I wont spend too much time on the fingering of each chord. The main takeaway of this lesson is the function of 7th chords.
Let's start with a simple Major scale, C Major to keep things simple. The C Major scale has 7 degrees: C-D-E-F-G-A-B. No flats or sharps. These degrees can be represented by numbers as 1-2-3-4-5-6-7. Again, since there are no flats or sharps in the key of C Major, there wont be any flat or sharp symbols by any letter or number.
Each one of these degrees also represents a chord. So the 1st degree (the 1 chord) would be a C chord. The 2nd degree (the 2 chord) would be a D. Some are minor and some are major, and I go deeper into this in another article. The main takeaway here is to remember the 5 chord and the 1 chord in a given key.
Using the degrees listed above we obviously know that the 1 chord in the key of C is the C chord. And the using the same logic we can see that the 5 chord is the G. In Major keys both the 1 and 5 chords (also written in Roman Numerals as I and V) are Major chords.
The V chord has a special relationship to the I chord. The V chord is called a Dominant chord. It has a special function in the key. It pulls strongly to the I chord. The V chord creates tension that's best resolved by the I chord. But if you make the V chord a Dominant 7th chord it pulls even stronger.
In fact, if you play any Dominant 7th chord, it naturally wants to be resolved by the I chord in whatever key you're in. So if you make the V chord in the key of C a 7th chord, It will pull strongly back to the C chord even if you haven't established the key.
If I play a G7 chord out of nowhere, your mind subconsciously wants to hear a C Major as the next chord. That's pretty cool!
How To Practice 7th Chords
OK, now that we have the music theory part out of the way we can work on the exercise. The exercise is going to switch keys, but just keep in mind the relationship of the V and I chords.
Don't get too hung up on trying to figure out what the I chord is based on the V chord. I'll give you all of that info and over time you'll memorize it. And actually, we're only going to use the 5 most common keys on guitar to keep things easier.
Grab your guitar for this part. We're going to start with an E chord. From there we'll play the V chord in the key of E Major, which is the B7 chord. When you play the B7 chord it's going to pull strongly back to the E chord, so we'll play that next for resolution. Then we'll change the E chord to an E7. By changing the E to an E7 it becomes the V chord of another key in your mind. So we'll use it as a V chord and play the I chord of that key, which is A.
Confused? Don't worry, here's the pattern for the first section:
Even though we started in the key of E Major, just by making a couple of the chords into 7th chords we're now in the key of D. Not only that, but it felt natural!
We're going to start on that D chord where we left off in section 1. Strum a D chord and then change it to a D7. This D7 signals that we're now in the key of G (D is the V chord in the key of G Major). So play a G chord next. It should feel nice and resolved.
After playing a G you can play a G7 chord. The G7 implies that we're in the key of C so C will be the next chord. Make that C a C7 and we'll now be in the key of F (C is the V chord in F Major), so the F chord will be the next chord. F is kind of a hard chord to play, so play any version you know.
Here's the whole section:
Putting Them Together
Now I definitely recommend learning one section at a time. Start slow and really focus on memorizing the chord changes. Then you can start to play the chord changes on time. Start with a slow tempo and play one chord per measure (one chord every 4 beats). Then change that to one chord every 2 beats. You can add a metronome in once you're comfortable with the changes.
This is a wonderful tool to 1) learn and memorize a few 7th chords, 2) practice some really common chord changes, and 3) train your ears.
So practice these chord changes and keep the V-I relationship in mind. If this doesn't make complete sense yet, practice it for a few days and come back to this lessons. It makes sense the more you play it.
Thanks for joining me for day 17 of my 30 day guitar coaching series. Can you do me a favor? Let me know in the comments if you enjoy these music theory lessons and if you'd like to see more of them.