Get­ting Started With… Dom­i­nant 7th chords

Ig­nore the un­usual name! Dom­i­nant 7ths are some of the most com­mon chords in mu­sic…

Total Guitar - - CONTENTS -

“I’ve seen chords like G7 and C7 in some songs I’m learn­ing. What are these?”

Chords like these are based on ma­jor chords. For the unini­ti­ated, ma­jor chords are those with

Bb just a let­ter for their name, like C, A, G – even or F#. They have a bright, happy sound – and song­writ­ers use them in all styles of mu­sic for their up­beat vibe.

“Yeah I know some ma­jor chords. What does the ‘7’ mean though?”

Well, there’s some the­ory here but we’ll try and keep it as brief as pos­si­ble. If you break down a G ma­jor chord you’ll find a mix of G, B and D notes; to turn G ma­jor into G7 you have to add an F note. Now, F# is the sev­enth note in the G ma­jor scale, so, as we’re using F in our chord, not F#, we give our 7th a spe­cial name: the dom­i­nant 7th. It’s an un­usual name but it re­minds you that you’re chang­ing the sev­enth note of the scale.

“Whoah! This sounds re­ally com­pli­cated…”

It’s ac­tu­ally much harder to learn the the­ory than it is to play the chords – so don’t worry if you don’t un­der­stand it just yet. Try this trick to find the dom­i­nant 7th of any ma­jor chord you’re play­ing. 1. Start on the root note of your chord. 2. Move 10 frets higher up the same string – this is the dom­i­nant 7th note that you’ll need to fit into your chord shape.

“That’ s pretty handy. Shall we get play­ing then?”

Sure thing! Take a look at the box on the right where you’ll see a hand­ful of dom­i­nant 7th chords to try out. Re­mem­ber, the dots tell you where to put your fin­gers and the num­bers tell you which fin­gers to use. Black dots are root notes.

“Some of these are eas­ier than ma­jor chords!”

That’s right. As we say, although the the­ory can be com­pli­cated, many of the shapes are no harder to play than ma­jor or mi­nor chords.

“When should I use dom­i­nant 7ths?”

These chords have a tense, slightly edgy sound that makes them well suited to blues, so that’s a pretty good place to start. But dom­i­nant 7ths are found in all styles of mu­sic, from pop and rock to jazz and folk, so ex­per­i­men­ta­tion is the name of the game. Try out our tab ex­am­ple where you’ll find a se­lec­tion of dom­i­nant 7ths in a folky bal­lad style.

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