Teach Yourself Music Theory – 35.) Building Seventh-Chords from Scales

Now, we are going to be covering where all of these different kinds of seventh-chords appear within a key by building them off of different scale degrees.

First, we will take the major scale:

Notice how there are only four different seventh chord possibilities: the major seventh, minor seventh, half-diminished seventh, and dominant seventh. This should be pretty easy to memorize.

As for the natural minor scale, it is just a reordering of the major scale:

Now, we add the leading tone for the harmonic minor scale:

The harmonic minor scale, because of the raised leading tone, creates an augmented seventh as well as a fully-diminished seventh. Also, we have a seventh-chord we have never discussed before… the minor-major seventh which is a minor triad with a M7 interval from the root on top:

Finally, the melodic minor scale:

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.

Teach Yourself Music Theory – 34.) Inverting Seventh-Chords

If you remember all there is to inverting triads, inverting seventh-chords should be no problem at all. On the other hand, if you still have trouble with inversions – I suggest you look over past posts before starting with this one.

As mentioned in the past, inverting a chord is like reordering the chord members… but this time, a note besides the root is in the bass.

Whereas a triad had three different inversions (one for each chord member), a seventh-chord will have four different inversions:

  • Root Position – where the root is in the bass; noted with a “7” symbol
  • First Inversion – where the third is in the bass; noted with a “6/5” symbol
  • Second Inversion – where the fifth is in the bass; noted with a “4/3” symbol
  • Third Inversion – where the seventh is in the bass; noted with a “4/2” symbol

These inversions can be noted with Roman numerals (below the staff) or in lead-sheet notation (above the staff):

Try writing various seventh-chords, identifying them, and then inverting them. Also, listen to how each of the inversions sound.

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.

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.

Teach Yourself Music Theory – 32.) Building Triads from Scales

Continuing with our topic of triads, we are going to be discussing what and which triads are built from scales… covering major, natural, harmonic, and melodic minor.

Beside the lead-sheet note note names, the Roman numeral figured-bass and triad quality remains the same from each respective scale regardless of starting pitch.

Let’s start with the major scale:

Building triads on each note, we get what we have above. 3 major triads, 3 minor triads, and 1 diminished triad. Chords I , IV , and V will always be major in a major key.

Now, natural minor:

We have the same amount of major, minor, and diminished triads… but they are in a different order.

As for harmonic minor:

With the inclusion of the raised leading tone, we see a quality of the chords change. Instead of v being minor, V is major in harmonic minor. Also, we have two diminished chords.

Finally, melodic minor:

With two raised pitches, we get another completely different group of triads. Now, the ii chord is minor… but the vio chord is diminished.

NOTE: the “B” symbol in the pictures means “flat” just like the “b” sign.

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.

Teach Yourself Music Theory – 31.) Figured-Bass and Lead-Sheet Notation

Even though we have been using the staff and writing notes to communicate which notes to play, there are other ways of notating music.

The first way we are going to talk about is figured-bass, which is a more “classical music way” of using Roman numerals and symbols to notate what chords to play in relation to the key.  To notate with figured-bass, you take the following steps:

  • Start by finding the key that you are in (with the example below, we are in C major)
  • Next, determine the chord harmonies with their qualities and inversion
  • Place a Roman numeral underneath each chord, with the numeric value corresponding to the root of the chord in relation to the kay
  • If it is a major triad, use uppercase letters
  • If it is a minor triad, use lowercase letters
  • If it is a diminished triad, use lowercase letters plus an “ o “ symbol
  • If it is an augmented triad, use uppercase letters plus a “ + “ symbol
  • Finally, add extra figures if inverted
  • If it is in first inversion, add a “ 6 “
  • If it is in second inversion, add a “ 6 “ with a “ 4 “ below it

Notice how the “ 6 “ and “ 4 “ correspond to the interval made with the root during an inversion.

Another way is lead-sheet, which is a way commonly found in jazz, pop, and rock tunes of writing out the letter names, chord qualities, as well as inversions of the harmonies.  To notate in a lead-sheet style, you take the following steps:

  • Determine the root of the chord and write it in an uppercase letter above the chord
  • If it is a major triad, do nothing more for its chord quality
  • If it is a minor triad, add “ min “
  • If it is a diminished triad, add an “ o “ symbol
  • If it is an augmented triad, add a “ + “ symbol
  • Finally, add extra figures if inverted
  • Add a slash mark “ / “ and write the bass note after it

Tah-dah!  There you have it.  Give it some practice, but we will be using these forms of communicating and writing for now on.

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.

Teach Yourself Music Theory – 29.) Identifying Triads

You probably have heard this term before, but maybe haven’t been able to completely define it. Especially as an aspiring musician, composer, producer, etc., you have heard this word before:


A chord.
Which is a group of pitches played at the same time (or played in succession of one another in overlap) to create harmony.


Harmony, which we have talked about before in terms of harmonic intervals, are sounds (two or more) sounding at the same time.


Chords are defined by their collection of pitches, order, arrangement, etc. Today, we are going to talk about the basic kinds of chords in modern music. Those are triads, which are chords comprised of three different pitches, with the notes (from lowest to highest) are a third apart from each other.


That might be a confusing definition, so let’s take it a deferent approach…


Let’s list off the different kinds of musical intervals of thirds. There is the m3 (minor third) and the M3 (Major third). Now, let’s come up with the different interval combinations between the three possible notes:

  • m3 – m3
  • m3 – M3
  • M3 – m3
  • M3 – M3

Great, now let’s actually right them out. Start on middle C, and then write the pitches above with the possible interval combinations above:


These are triads. Three note chords built on thirds. Play them and listen how different they are. They go by these names:

  • m3 – m3, Diminished Triad
  • m3 – M3, Minor Triad
  • M3 – m3, Major Triad
  • M3 – M3, Augmented Triad

When talking about the quality of a triad, we look at the root, which is the lowest note the chord is built upon, and call it by its letter name. Then, we look at the third and fifth (respective pitches above that are a third and fifth apart from the root) to see the intervals to define the quality.


So, if we write D-F-A, we get a D minor triad. That is because the root is D and the interval combination of the thirds are m3 – M3. Try writing triads and seeing what you get!


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.

Teach Yourself Music Theory – 28.) Interval Characteristics

Previously, we have talked about naming and grouping intervals.

Another characteristic we can classify intervals by is if they sound “good” or “bad” to the ear.

Now, this topic is VERY subjective. However, in theory, we have rules to classify the intervals.

An interval (melodic or harmonic) that generally sounds pleasing to the ear and stable is called consonant. Any interval that doesn’t sound “right,” has a need to resolve, classes sonically, or is outside diatonic tonality* is called dissonant.

Within consonance, there are perfect consonances that feature the perfect intervals, and there imperfect consonances that feature everything else.

If this sounds confusing, do not worry. These are labels to help understand the sonic quality of intervals as well as their stability/resolving motion.

Perfect Consonances

  • P1 or Unison
  • P5
  • P8

Imperfect Consonances

  • m3
  • M3
  • m6
  • M6

Dissonances

  • m2
  • M2
  • Tritone
  • m7
  • M7
  • Any diminished interval
  • Any augmented interval

Noticed how the P4 wasn’t included in any of these lists. That is because in the pre-historic times before the Renaissance the P4 was considered a perfect consonance. Then into the Renaissance era, the P4 was regarded as a dissonance. Now, scholars have evaluated the P4 interval again and pretty much made it a wild card.

Listen to the intervals and see if you agree with their classification.

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.