Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

?7 Chords

Hello all, not sure about this being a theory question but I’m trying to wrap my limited grey matter around this. Why are the ?7 chords called “7”? Take it easy on me, I’m an old guy just beginning to learn to play the guitar (as of December).your help appreciated all!

The notes of a scale are numbered. In a G scale, G is 1, A is 2 etc. It gets a bit odd in that an F# would be the 7th note, but a G7 has an natural F. 7 chords use a minor seventh. So in a nutshell a 7 chord is just a major chord with the addition of a minor 7th note.

Thanks a million Mike! Well explained and Understand that now!


I wanted to mention what I consider the common use of the 7th chord…It’s a nice transition chord. To me it does not only add to enriching the sound, but it kind of let’s other folks playing know where you are going.

For instance, If you are hanging out in G and the next chord is C, show that G7 before you go into C and others will know the next chord. If you end up going to a D then you can show that D7 before you go back to G and the others can follow you.

If you start venturing into blues and jazz then be prepared to become real familiar with your 7th chords.

That’s my “layman’s” idea on 7th chords and how to show them properly to help other musicians that know how to play bu tmay not know the progression…you help them out by showing that 7th and they then somewhat know where you are going. It’s a way of being courteous when picking with others on songs they may not be familiar with.

Hope I have helped.

I’ve heard the idea about 7th chords being transition chords, but I’ve also heard that they set our ears up for certain chords because they leave something missing.

If I’m understanding correctly, this is an example what I’m learning:

For instance if you play this progression: C - F - G7 - C You will notice how the G7 leaves our ear on edge until it is relieved by the C chord

Now play this progression: C - F - G7 - F - C Even though we threw in an F chord after G7, our ear still didn’t feel relieved until we progressed into the C chord

So if it is the G7 that sets our ear up for C, then it would stand to reason that D7 would set our ear up for G … but my ear doesn’t seem to go through the same stress/relief process like with the G7 and C

Did I make any sense at all?

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so why the G7 label?

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I am guessing, but I think it is simply because it is the most common type of 7 chord (a minor 7th over a major chord). Your G7 example is also called a “G dominant 7th chord” but that’s just too many words for a lazy guy like me. Also, (again guessing) another commonly used chord is a minor chord with a minor 7 and that is commonly written as something like Am7 (which is often used in the key of C). Making the “normal” G7 denote the minor-ness of the seventh would then make it difficult to describe a m7 chord.

Now that I typed that I had a further thought… did you ever notice that all the normal chords in a given key use the notes from the scale of the key you are playing in? In the key of C we “normally” use base chords of C, F, G and Am. All those chords are made of notes found in the C scale. Getting back to the 7 chord, the F major of the G7 chord belongs to the major scale © of which G is the dominant (5th) note. Sooooo, since we are playing in C when we “normally” use G7 (like a couple guys pointed out above) the normal note to be added in the key of C would be an F (which is in the C scale) and not an F# (which is in the G scale). So the 5 (or dominant) chord (G) would “normally” have an m7 (relative to G) for that chord added. Since that is “normal” someone just named it the most easy way (simply as a G7).

I think I talked myself into a circle, but it made sense as I was typing it. I hope it makes sense to anyone else who reads it :blush:

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I think I see what you’re saying regarding the C and G scales. If you’re transitioning from a G to a C, the F note that makes the transition sound good is in the C scale, which is the key you’re transitioning to. Did I understand you correctly?

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Yep, with one minor note on the key. Let’s say we play the following chord progression (in the key of C): C, F, G, G7 and then back to C. While playing all those chords, we are still staying in our key of C.

To rephrase what I was trying to say in the earlier post, I think that our ears like to hear the F in the G7 chord as it creates tension because there is a small bit of dissonance with the G chord, but the F is part of the C scale (which is the key we are playing in) so it telegraphs to where it wants to resolve.

I feel like I just asked for someone to give me a drink of water and yall two just opened up a fire hydrant.

Good stuff.

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I feel like I just asked for someone to give me a drink of water and yall two just opened up a fire hydrant.

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LOL!!! Sorry about that. I get really excited when music theory is on the table. I love talking about it… especially with people that understand it better than me. It’s like a perfect combination of logic and emotion. :slight_smile:


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I’m truly glad you get the opportunity to do that here.

I look forward to the day when I understand it a little better and can chime in.

— Begin quote from "beardedbanjo"

I look forward to the day when I understand it a little better and can chime in.

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Based on your earlier post I think you already understand it better than any book can teach you. You talked about how you use the chord and what it does for your ear. That’s application right there and that is one definition of mastery.

I have a few friends starting out on guitar and I am helping them a bit differently than others in the past. It’s all about having the guitar make sounds you want to hear. I am trying to emphasize that connection between the brain, ears and fingers as opposed to making it like a video game of chord changes. So far the results are promising.


On your method of teaching the “new” way:

Music in general was difficult for me to understand. It is somewhat for all, but it seemed it was somehow tougher to me.

When I was finally done with hours and hours of scale practice, hours and hours of learning other’s “breaks”, and hundreds upon hundreds of hours playing, I still couldn’t “jam” or to me actually start becoming a musician. For me personally it’s all about mastery of the instrument and the mastery of the “sounds” or “noises” an instrument makes. I have finally arrived there and love of those clacks, clangs, bangs, slides, bends, and notes. A person can become creative once they really train their ear to those sounds. You get your ear listening, your left hand fretting, your right hand flat picking and it’s like breathing…you don’t really have to think about them, they simply go to the noise you want to make. Man this is fun.

I mentioned scales a bit earlier. I could never “hear” a scale by simply playing it over a metronome beat. I had to turn on an actual recording(s) of some of our favorite pickers and fiddle tunes and play the scales over the song. I had to LISTEN then.

I advanced substantially once I learned to simply do scale practice in time with some popular tunes. This make me focus on “hearing”. I can hear now and I accredit it to simply playing the scales over actual songs.

In your teaching may I suggest that you have an actual song playing and teach the students how to follow in time with the song while doing scale practice? This opened up an entire new world for me. I pretty much knew my scales and their locations on the neck. Once I forced myself to hunt for my major and mode of the song I in essence taught my ear “how to listen”…to those sounds/noises and if they fit or not.

Just a suggestion and I hope my post helps others that may be at the same point I was and need an idea on something to try.

Please report back to us how you think the group is handing it and some methods you use. I think it’s a very interesting idea and could be an exciting way to teach.

Thanks Jesse, I think the scales over the music is a great idea and right in line with the same goals. I had noticed that many people who learn to play instruments today take a long time to (or never do) develop that ear/brain/hands linkage that you talk about. To take what we learn and use it is to make expressive music is a different focus than I see in most people learning guitar. Instead of rushing to learn a bunch of different things, I am hoping we can use a few chords and some basic skills and polish them to where they can make some music that they really enjoy playing and hearing. My basic thought is that we can make good music with just a few basic skills. The goal isn’t to quickly become the best guitar player they can be, but rather, to focus on making enjoyable music.

This group is just getting started so we are just learning some basics. We haven’t hit scales yet, but I think next week I’ll have us working on using some chords that they have learned and some basic strumming techniques over some recorded tracks, a more beginner oriented version of the type of work you describe. Thanks for the suggestion!