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Many people consider the 7th interval an ugly-sounding interval. But the 7th interval isn’t ugly when it’s added to a chord. In fact, the result is perhaps the third most popular chord in Western music. I certainly like it.
Each of the four types of three-note chords I introduce earlier in this chapter — major, minor, augmented, diminished — is capable of becoming a seventh chord, if it tries really hard and eats all of its spinach. But seriously, folks, simply attaching a 7th interval, or the seventh note of the scale, on top of any chord makes that chord a seventh chord.
Part IV: Living in Perfect Harmony
Your basic seventh chord uses the minor seventh interval. This is the seventh note up the scale from the chord’s root, but lowered one half step. For example, if the root note is C, the seventh note up the scale is B. Lower this note by one half step and you get a minor seventh interval, B-flat.
The four-note chords shown in Figure 12-9 are all seventh chords. Careful with the suffix: It’s a highly-complicated Arabic numeral 7.
Nothing plain about these seventh chords.
The suffixes used by seventh chords are placed after the triad type’s suffix. For example, if you add an m7 to a diminished chord, the suffix 7 would come after dim, giving you dim! as the full chord type suffix.
To play seventh chords, use fingers 1, 2, 3, and 5. My apologies to finger 4 for not allowing it to take part in these chords. For right-hand seventh chords, play the root note with RH1 and the top note (the 7th) with RH5. With the left hand, the root note is played with LH5, while LH1 plays the top note.
You find all kinds of seventh chords in all kinds of music, from classical to pop. Johannes Brahms’ famous “Lullaby” (Track 57) is an example of how seventh chords can create a little harmonic variety. Just don’t let it lull you to sleep.
Chapter 12: Filling Out Your Sound with Chords
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/ —r ( ?f -J J m m
6 G7 t bP—b 1 —4 C F ?3* -1 C G7 C
'S < <SSSl_ 1 J « J_.._ J-^h- j ?i- J- UJ
Part IV: Living in Perfect Harmony_
Reading Chord Symbols
When you encounter sheet music or songbooks with just melodies and lyrics printed in them, you usually also get little letters and symbols above the staff, as shown in Figure 12-10. These are called chord symbols, which are abbreviations for the names of the chords to play with the melody. And this is precisely why I explain how to build chords — so that you can make a G diminished chord, for example, when you see the symbol for one, Gdim.
... play this \
Reading chord symbols above the staff.
A chord’s symbol tells you two things about that chord: root and type. As with scales, the root note gives the chord its name. The root of a C chord is the note C.
Any suffix following the chord name represents the chord’s type. In previous sections of this chapter, I explain suffixes like m for minor and 7 for seventh chords. Major chords have no suffix, just the letter name.
Chapter 12: Filling Out Your Sound with Chords
Try playing the song “Bingo” (Track 58), which shows only melody, lyrics, and chord symbols. Your right hand plays the melody as written; your left hand plays the chords named by the symbols above the staff. It helps to figure out the chords first and play through them a couple of times before adding the melody.
G C D G D G
1 There was a far- mer had a dog: Pi - a - no was his name - o.
Em Am D G
6 P - I - A - N - 0! P - I - A - N - 0!
C Am D 7 C G
J -I j /"l |J -
10 P - I - A - N - 0! What a weird name for a dog!
The chord name, or chord symbol, is your set of blueprints for what type of chord to construct and how to do it. For any chord types you may come across in your musical life (and plenty of chords are out there), you can build the chord by placing the appropriate intervals or scale notes on top of the root note. For example, C6 means play a C major chord and add the 6th interval (A); Cm6 means to play a C minor chord and add the 6th interval.
You may encounter many ominous-looking chord symbols in the songs you play. Table 12-1 is a list of the most common and user-friendly chord symbols and what they mean.
166 Part IV: Living in Perfect Harmony
Table 12-1 Chord Suffixes
Chord type Chord suffixes
Major No suffix
Minor m, min
Augmented +, aug, (#5)
Suspended second sus2
Suspended fourth sus, sus4
Flatted fifth i>5, -5
Minor sixth m6
Major seventh maj7, M7, 7
Minor seventh m7, min7
Diminished seventh dim7, °7
Seventh, sharped fifth 7*5, +7
Seventh, flatted fifth 7^5, 7(-5)
Minor seventh, flatted fifth m7f5, m7(-5)
Add ninth (add9)
In addition to knowing the names and symbols of the many chord types, keep Table 12-2 handy as your recipe box for making these various kinds of chords. The numbers represent your scale note ingredients. In other words, the numbers 1-3-5-7, for example, mean to play the root, third, fifth, and seventh scale notes. If you see a flat or sharp sign, it tells you to lower or raise that scale note by a half step. Be sure to save these recipes for generations to come. (I’ve chosen the root note C for all of the chord types in Table 12-2. But don’t be deceived — you can apply these recipes to any darn root note you like.)