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In this guitar lesson we are going to take a look at how minor 7 chords are made.
Before you go any further in this lesson you should make sure that you know how major and minor triads are made. If you don’t, go back and check out the lessons Major Guitar Chords and Minor Guitar Chords. If you already know how major and minor chords are made you can jump right in.
We are going to cover two ways that you can think about building minor 7 chords. Those two ways are stacking thirds or altering the notes of a major 7 chord. Let’s start with stacking thirds. Take a look at an A minor triad for an example. An A minor triad is spelled A C E. If you have made it this far in the lesson you probably know that the formula for a minor chord is root, lowered 3rd, 5th. You probably also know that the distance from the root to the lowered third is a minor 3rd, and the distance from the lowered 3rd to the 5th is a major 3rd. To make a minor 7th chord you just need to add another minor third starting from the 5th of the chord. If we stick with our A minor example this note would be a G. An A minor 7 chord would be spelled A C E G.
Now lets take a look at how to make an A minor 7 chord by altering the notes in an A major 7 chord. Make an A major 7 chord by taking the root, 3rd, 5th and 7th of the A major scale. These notes are A C# E and G#. The interval from the root to the 3rd is a major 3rd, from the root to the 5th is a perfect 5th, and from the root to the 7th is a major 7th. All you have to do to make an A major 7 chord into an A minor 7 chord is lower the 3rd and the 7th one half step each. Lower the C# and the G# of the A major 7 chord one half step to a C and a G. You are basically making the major 3rd into a minor 3rd and the major 7th into a minor 7th. Now we have A C E and G, the notes in a minor 7 chord.
Put this in to practice by making an A major 7 chord and turning it into an A minor 7 chord. Place your 4th finger on the 7th fret of the 4th string, 3rd finger on the 6th fret of the 3rd string, 2nd finger on the 5th fret of the 2nd string, and 1st finger on the 4th fret of the 1st string. This is an A major 7th chord. All we need to do to make this into an A minor 7 chord is lower the 3rd and 7th one half step each. In this chord shape you are playing the 3rd, or the C#, with you 3rd finger and the 7th, or G#, with your 1st finger.
Now I will give you the chord shape for the A minor 7 chord that we get when we lower the C# and G#. Keep your 4th finger on the 7th fret of the 4th string. Place your 2nd finger on the 5th fret of the 3rd string, 3rd finger on the 5th fret of the 2nd string, and 1st finger on the 3rd fret of the 1st string. Notice how the C# and G# just move down one fret even though the fingering changed quite a bit.
This is really cool for understanding how minor 7 chords are made, but it is not very practical. Check out the chord diagrams we have given you to learn more practical shapes for minor 7 chords. Remember that these chords are movable.