Teach Yourself Music Theory – 33.) Identifying Seventh-Chords

Before we begin, let’s review:

Previously, we have talked about triads, which are chords comprised of three different pitches, with the notes (from lowest to highest) are a third apart from each other.

If we add another third on top of the triads, we get a seventh-chord, which is a chord comprised of four different pitches with the notes (from lowest to highest) are a third apart from each other and span a distance of a seventh.

The alteration of a triad to a seventh-chord will look like as such:

Now, just like triads, seventh-chords have different names depending on the intervals between each chord member. However, if you can identify the triad the seventh-chord is built from as well as the extra interval above it – you will be more comfortable with identifying triads.

Let’s take a look:

  • Augmented Seventh = Augmented Triad + M7 above root
  • Major Seventh = Major Triad + M7 above root
  • Dominant Seventh = Major Triad +m7 above root
  • Minor Seventh = Minor Triad + m7 above root
  • Half-Diminished Seventh = Diminished Triad + m7 above root
  • Fully-Diminished Seventh = Diminished Triad + d7 above root

This is how they would look (with the third of the chord placed an octave above):

Another way of being able to distinguish between the different seventh-chords is through this diagram:

In comparison to the Major Seventh chord (which we will call “home base” due to its lack of alterations), all the other seventh chords have a pitch raised or lowered.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Author: Bryan M. Waring

Bryan Waring is a graduate of USM's School of Music with a B.M. in Performance – Composition and is now attending Belmont University for a M.M. in Commercial Media – Composition & Arranging. During his time at USM, he studied violin with Dino Liva and composition with Dr. Daniel Sonenberg, as well as has premiered several pieces during the semiannual Composer's Ensemble concert series. In 2017, Bryan was a writer for the original musical theater work of "Molded By The Flow," directed by Paul Dresher and Rinde Eckert. Outside of school, Bryan has been involved with writing music for videogame developers at Portland's CI2 Lab, collaborating with the King Tide Party, and studying with Larry Groupé (Straw Dogs) in San Diego. Now living in Nashville. Along with composing, Bryan teaches music to children, receiving the Master Teacher Award for his work at ESF Camps; and does audio engineering for live ensembles. Besides talents in music, Bryan is a team-player in any competitive work environment; equipped with skills in leadership, organization, mathematics, creativity, communication, and managing. On the side, Bryan has worked as a model for several skilled artists in the New England area. Among his other accomplishments include obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout in April 2013 with a project of building a side parking area with guide rails for Webb Mountain Park in Monroe, CT.

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