Playing With Minor And Major Seventh Chords

Jordan Leibel  /  Chord Theory / Apr 20

Hey everyone, it’s Jordan here. I’m gonna give you a quick and easy tip that will make playing minor and major seventh chords so much easier.  

These chords are the bee’s knees: they’re super versatile, expressive, and it’s easy to come up with a lot of unique ideas using them. It’s crazy how adding one note to your triads will boost their musicality as much as they do, but hey… Music is a mysterious thing.

Ever feel like each hand has a mind of its own? Maybe that can be a good thing…

Anatomy of a Minor Seventh

First, let’s look at the minor seventh chord. What a unique chord this is, and I’ll tell you why. Let’s take a look at the A minor 7th chord as an example. This chord consists of 4 notes:  A-C-E-G.

If you look at the bottom 3 notes of the chord, you’ll see and hear where we’re getting that minor sound. After all, that’s the minor triad right there.

But have a look at the top 3 notes: C-E-G. That right there is the C major triad.  If you’re into music theory, you’ll notice that the C major triad and the A minor triad are actually related, and that’s what makes the minor seventh chord so cool. It’s a blend of both the major and the minor.

If you think of this chord as this blended sound, you’ll find there’s a lot of ideas you can come up with. You can try playing in ‘A minor mode’ in your left hand and ‘C major mode’ in your right to make some cool sounding melodies and exercises.  It’s pretty crazy the kinds of ideas you’ll come up with in this mentality. Give it a try!

You can play your left hand with one mindset and your right with the other. This results in some awesome licks and ideas!

What about the major 7th?

The major seventh chord is another blend of major and minor triad sounds, but the ordering of notes is a little bit different. Let’s take a look at the C Major 7th chord this time. Just like the minor 7th chord, this chord consists of 4 notes: C-E-G-B. The bottom three notes are (surprise surprise) a C major triad, consisting of the notes C-E-G. The top three notes form an E minor triad:  E-G-B.

Remember, the root or bottom note of any chord is always the most important for determining that chords mood. So even though there’s a minor chord up top that colors the chord, it is always going to have that unmistakable major sound due to that triad in the bottom. Nevertheless, you can take this sound and build on it with that E minor chord on top, just like with your minor 7th chords.

Learning to dissect larger chords like this will help you out a ton for improvising and songwriting ideas and give you a deeper awareness of the possibilities of each chord.

So that’s how I see my minor and major 7th chords! It’s a simple perspective switch with a ton of awesome potential. I hope you find some new ideas for these awesome chords! Let me know what you come up with.  Send me an email at [email protected].



Jordan Leibel is passionate about songwriting, improvisation, and helping you become a creative musician! He’s worked as a composer for film, commercial, and theatre projects as well as a session musician and producer for recording work.

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