Dominant 7th Guitar Chords
Learn How To Play Dominant 7th Guitar Chords!
This guitar lesson is going to be all about dominant 7th chords. We are going to cover how dominant 7th chords are made and give you a few practical chord shapes to learn. Dominant 7th chords have a really bluesy sound so once you learn these chords you can throw them into your blues playing. For our example we will be in the key of A major, so lets review the A major scale. A B C# D E F# and G# are the notes in the A major.
The formula for a dominant 7th chord is 1, 3, 5, and a lowered 7th. An A major triad is made of the 1, 3, and 5 of the A major scale. Those notes would be A, C#, and E. To make an A major 7th chord you would just add the 7th scale degree of the A major scale to the 1, 3, and 5. This note would be a G#. For this lesson we need to make a dominant 7th chord not a major 7th chord. All you need to do to make a major 7th chord in to a dominant 7th chord is lower the 7th scale degree one half step. Take the G# and lower it to a G natural. This would give us the note that we need for an A dominant 7th chord. The notes in this chord would be A, C#, E, and G. Another way to look at this would be to simply make a major 7th interval, A to G#, into a minor 7th, A to G.
One thing that you should know is that the five chord in any major key will automatically be a dominant 7th chord. Let’s look at the fifth chord in the key of A. The fifth scale degree in the Key of A is an E. Use the E as the 1 and build a major triad using the 1, 3, and 5. 1 would be E, 3 would be a G#, and 5 would be a B. E G# B would be how an E major triad is spelled. Now, to finish the dominant 7th chord we would need a minor 7th interval away from E. Since we are building a five chord, we won’t need to lower the 7th that is already taken care of for us by the key signature of A major. Just count seven away from E in the key of A, using E as one. 1E, 2F#, 3G#, 4A, 5B, 6C#, 7D. The 7th note would be a D. You would spell an E dominant 7th chord E, G#, B, D.
Look at another example. If we were in the key of E the scale would be spelled E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D#. Taking the 1, 3, 5, and 7 starting on the E in the key of E would give us E, G# B, D#. This is a major 7th chord. This is because E, G#, and B make an E major triad and the interval from E to D# is a major 7th. If you wanted to make this a dominant 7th chord you would need to lower the D# to a D. This may be a bit complicated but don’t sweat it if you don’t understand everything the first time through. Just focus on playing the chords that follow.
Now that you know how dominant 7th chords are made, let’s take a look at two more common chord shapes for dominant 7th chords. We have provided you with the chord diagrams for these shapes.
For the first shape, make a bar across all six strings on the 5th fret with your 1st finger. Now place your 3rd finger on the 7th fret of the 5th string and your 2nd finger on the 6th fret of the 3rd string. This is an A dominant 7th chord.
The second shape starts with a bar on the 5th fret but you can leave out the 6th string this time. Now place your 3rd finger on the 7th fret of the 4th string and your 4th finger on the 7th fret of the 2nd string. This is a D dominant 7th chord.
Remember that these shapes are movable. Play around with these chords and try to start using them in your playing. When you are looking at a chord chart, you will usually just see “A7” when an A dominant 7th chord is called for. Try playing an A7, D7, and E7. This is a basic blues progression that will get you started on using your dominant 7th chords in a musical context.
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