Jazz Chords On Guitar – Sevenths

Jazz is a very complicated genre. Unlike pop music, jazz focuses on complicated chords, out-of-the-ordinary time signatures, and unusual scales. And above all of that, improvisation is a huge element in jazz. A song is never played the same way twice. So how and where do you start playing jazz?

Underneath all the complexion and unusualness in jazz are a few recurrences. These recurrences are found in the way jazz chords are built. Understanding these recurrences will be our first step into the wonderful world of jazz.

So let’s see if we can dissect jazz chords and play them on guitar.

Jazz Chords On Guitar

Triads

Basic jazz chords are built upon triads. Triad chords are chords that have only three notes:

A root:

A Third:

A Fifth:

This is a C major triad. A D minor triad looks like this:

If this is confusing to you, I invite you to read this post first: (Insert link here). Triad chords are being explained step by step, on a much slower pace, in there.

Sevenths

Seventh chords are chords with a root, a third, a fifth and lastly a seventh.

Now, what is this seventh?

If C is the root note, the seventh is B, because it’s seven notes away from C.

If D is the root note, the seventh is C, because it’s seven notes away from D.

This means a C major seventh chord exists of these notes:

And a D minor seventh chord exists of these notes:

Major / Minor Sevenths

Just like thirds, sevenths can be major or minor. Luckily, sevenths always follow the third. This means when the third is minor, so is the seventh. When the third is major, the seventh is major too.

So what is the difference between a major and a minor seventh?

I think the easiest way to understand major and minor sevenths is to see the relationship with the closest octave.

An octave is the same note as the root note, just in a different pitch.

In C Major Seventh our root note was C. We can find its first octave here:

The seventh in our C Major Seventh chord was B.

As you can see, the C is really close to the B. There’s no note in between. In a major chord, the seventh is one note down from the octave.

In D minor Seventh our root was D. We can find its octave here:

The seventh in our D minor was C.

As you can see, there’s now more space between the seventh and the octave. There’s one note in between. In a minor chord, the seventh is two notes down from the octave.

Jazz Chords On Guitar

There are many ways to use these four notes: the root, the third, the fifth and the seventh. You don’t have to use each note once, so there are many combinations possible. A Cmaj7, for example, can be played in many positions. The chords that I’m going to share with you below are the most popular, but also the easiest.

Amaj7

-The low E string is muted.
-The high E string is played openly.
-The seventh note is played with our index finger on the first fret of the G string.

Amin7

-The low E string is muted.
-The high E string and the G string are both played openly.
-The seventh note is played on the open G string.

Bmaj7

-The low E string is muted.
-We place a barre with our index finger over the A, D, G, B and E strings (barre chords? Insert link here).
-The seventh note is played with our middle finger on the third fret of the G string.

Bmin7

-The low E string is muted.
-We place a barre with our index finger over the A, D, G, B and E strings
-The seventh note is played inside the barre on the second fret of the G string.

Cmaj7

-The low E string is muted.
-The G, B and high E strings are played openly.
-The seventh note is played on the open B string.

Cmin7

-Both E strings are muted.
-We place a barre with our index finger over the D, G and B strings.
-The seventh note is played with our little finger on the third fret of the G string.

Dmaj7

-The low E string and A string are muted.
-The D string is played openly.
-The seventh chord is played with our ring finger on the second fret of the B string.

Dmin7

-The low E and A string are muted.
-The D string is played openly.
-We place a barre with our index finger over the B and high E string.
-The seventh note is played inside the barre on the first fret of the B string.

Emaj7

-The B string and both E strings are played openly
-The seventh note is played with our index finger on the first fret of the D string.

Emin7

-The G string and both E strings are played openly.
-The seventh note is played with our little finger on the third fret of the B string.

Fmaj7

-The low E string is muted.
-The high E string is played openly.
-The seventh note is played on the open E string.

Fmin7

-We place a barre with our index finger over all the strings.
-The seventh note is played inside the barre on the first fret of the D string.

Gmaj7

-The A string is muted.
-The seventh note is played with our index finger on the second fret of the high E string.

Gmin7

-The high E and the B string are muted.
-The G string is played openly
-The seventh is played with our little finger on the third fret of the D string.

Outro

And there you have it. Understanding where that seventh comes from, and being able to play these chords (or at least some of these chords), will give you a strong foundation. Jazz guitarists like to break the rules sometimes, but you have to understand the rules if you want to break them. The information in this lesson will not only be important in jazz but in any genre.

So take your time learning these chords. They’re a lot to take in.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below.

Happy strumming,

Timo

2 thoughts on “Jazz Chords On Guitar – Sevenths

  1. This a great and simple to follow guide on jazz chords on guitar.

    You laid it all out clearly and showed series of examples that helped emphasize your various points. This guide will be very useful for me. I have been playing guitar for over two months now and I am happy am progressing on daily basis. I have learnt another secret this morning and I hope to implement it anytime soon.

    Thanks for the eye opener

    1. Hi Ola,

      Thank you for your comment! Happy to hear it’s going so well for you 🙂 I’m glad my lesson could be of help!

      Timo

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