Free Online Lessons

Lesson 17: Major Scale Harmonization Part 2: Seventh Chords

When referring to Seventh Chords I'm not talking about the chords that are constructed off of the 7th degree of the scale. I'm talking about the chords which contain, along with the triad, an interval of a seventh. This is just another of those areas where terminology can be a bit tricky, but if you just pay close attention to how the words are used in context, I think you'll do fine.

The seventh chords are the next largest chord after the triad.The basic interval construction of the seventh chord is 1 - 3 - 5 - 7.

Seventh Chords

There are many different types of seventh chords used for many different applications, but I'm only going to be talking about the five main types.

These five types are the most commonly used forms of the seventh chords. In fact, any other form of seventh chord stems from these types:

Major, Minor, Dominant, Half-Diminished, and Full-Diminished

Take a look at the layout of these chords.

Seventh Chord
Interval Construction
Examples of Chord Spellings
Major 7th
1 - M3 - P5 - M7
Minor 7th
1 - m3 - P5 - m7
Dominant 7th
1 - M3 - P5 - m7
Half-Diminished 7th
1 - m3 - D5 - m7
Full-Diminished 7th
1 - m3 - D5 - D7

An easy way to know the construction of these chords is to simply memorize the triad and 7th information for each chord.

For example, just say to yourself things like "What is a Major 7th chord? - a major triad with a major 7th. What is a Minor 7th chord? - a minor triad with a minor 7th."

This will be another good area in which to verbally drill yourself whenever you have an opportunity.

Just as with the triad spellings from Major Scale Harmonization Part I, there are only seven basic seventh chord spellings:


You will run into different variations on these such as CEGB , or DF AC, or even GBDF. But as far as grouping the notes together, the seven combinations listed above are the only ones.

Exercise #1:

On a sheet of blank notebook paper write out the seventh chords in the order that you see them below.


Write this over and over again and spell the chords out loud as you write them. When you've filled the front and back of the paper get a clean sheet and do it again.

Every chance you get, say these seven chords out loud to yourself. Within two days of doing this you will have these chord spellings Eternally Memorized.

These exercises in this section should provide you with a good start on understanding the construction of seventh chords, but, for the next couple of weeks or so, make up more of the exercises on paper. Also, when you have spare time, drill yourself verbally.

Exercise #2:

Complete the following seventh chords from the given roots. I've done the first four as an example.

Major 7th off A ---> A C E G

Minor 7th off A ---> A C E G

Dominant 7th off A ---> A C E G

Half-Dim. 7th off A ---> A C E G

Full-Dim. 7th off A ---> A C E G

Major 7th off B

Minor 7th off B

Dominant 7th off B

Half-Dim. 7th off B

Full-Dim. 7th off B

Major 7th off C

Minor 7th off C

Dominant 7th off C

Half-Dim. 7th off C

Full-Dim. 7th off C

Major 7th off D

Minor 7th off D

Dominant 7th off D

Half-Dim. 7th off D

Full-Dim. 7th off D

Major 7th off E

Minor 7th off E

Dominant 7th off E

Half-Dim. 7th off E

Full-Dim. 7th off E

Major 7th off F

Minor 7th off F

Dominant 7th off F

Half-Dim. 7th off F

Full-Dim. 7th off F

Major 7th off G

Minor 7th off G

Dominant 7th off G

Half-Dim. 7th off G

Full-Dim. 7th off G

Harmonizing the Major Scale Using Seventh Chords

Now that you have (or should have) a strong grasp of seventh chords, let's place them in the order in which they occur in the major scale.

Each note of the scale has its own seventh chord, so in every key there are 7 chord (Roman numerals are the standard way to denote these chords): the I7 chord, the ii7 chord, the iii7 chord, the IV7 chord, the V7 chord, the vi7 chord, and the vii

Capital letters indicate major triads, small letters indicate minor triads, and the � placed next to a small triad indicates a half-diminished seventh chord. The following table should help summarize this in a clearer format. It is extremely important that you memorize this information!

Major Progression
Chord Cymbol
Quality of
7th Chord
major 7th chord
minor 7th chord
minor 7th chord
major 7th chord
Dominant 7th chord
minor 7th chord
half-diminished 7th chord

Copyright 2001 T.A. Vieira, Jr.
All Rights Reserved