I have had so many people ask me, "How do you play a 7th chord if you don’t have big hands and it is uncomfortable to reach?"
I’ve got two solutions for you! One is a quick fix that will help you out right away, the other will show you how to bring 7ths into your daily routine so you can get comfortable playing them in any shape!
The Quick Fix
For this, we just play inverted 7ths rather than root position 7ths. So how do you play an inverted 7th?
All you need to do is take that 7th note and move it to the bottom of your chord shape. This will change the feeling of the chord entirely as it pertains to your fingers but it won’t change the notes of the chord. Suddenly you’ve got a smaller shape that feels a little better under the hands and in my opinion is really quick and easy to find/play.
For example, If I'm going to play a Gmaj 7 I have the notes G-B-D-F#. Normally I’d play those notes using my 1-2-3-5 fingers. To modify this to make it smaller you can play the notes of your G chord without the 7 (G-B-D) using your 2-3-5 fingers. Then, your thumb is positioned to play that 7th note just below the root note. Now, you’ve got F#-G-B-D! This is the shape that I use for 7ths chords 99% of the time!
The Long Term Fix
This involves practice and patience, but it will help you get comfortable playing 7ths in several different positions.
There are a variety of inversions or shapes you can use when you play 7ths. Each of them feels a little different and each of them will highlight different notes within the chord. Mastering each shape will make you more versatile as a player and is a really great skill to develop in general.
You can practice inversions of 7th chords just like you would with normal triads. Begin in root position and shuffle the bottom note up to the top with each inversion. If you have small hands, you will want to practice these in broken form so that you play notes one at a time instead of all at once. This will enable you to use your wrist to rotate and lead you from the bottom to the top of the chord as it tilts gently in the direction you are moving.
The other really important thing to remember is to release a note as soon as you’ve played it so that your hand has a greater range of motion! This will prevent you from getting sore hands and set you up to be able to play faster too!
7th chords are for everyone. Even those of us with small hands!