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In addition to helping you understand how music theory has always been taught, another advantage to our sidetrack into the confusing world of traditional theory education is that now you'll understand why 'Seventh Chords' are called such. If a basic chord contains three notes of a scale, what happens when we add a fourth note? From the tonic we would now have the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th notes of the scale. Thus the fourth note makes the chord a 7th chord. Make sense? If it doesn't just get used to it; adding the next note in our 'every other' pattern makes the chord a seventh chord.
There are three basic types of 7th chords. As you may have guessed, like the Major/Minor nonsense they are named with consideration of how far apart the four notes are in relation to the root's Major Scale even if we are dealing with a Minor Chord . So let's forget about that for now (plenty of books out there about this if you're curious) and focus on how they function in regards to the practical benefits of chord theory. The three basic types of 7th chords are: Major 7th, Dominant 7th and Minor 7th. The first two are built from adding the fourth note to a major triad (a fancy name for our three note major chord) and the last is built from a minor triad. The difference between the Major 7th and Dominant 7th is also 'a half-step' but as in our earlier discussion, it's how they sound and are used that's important. So when writing or playing a song in the Key of C (follow along with your Chord Wheel), you can see that we can play a C Major, F Major and G Major as a progression and expect it to sound solidly 'In Key.' The results in fact sound very good; as if the chords belonged together. In fact, if you analyze the C, F and G progression above with your Chord Wheel you would find that it translates as the 'I Chord' followed by the 'IV Chord' followed by the 'V Chord.' Ever hear somebody mention a "One, Four, Five Progression?" What they were really saying was 'I, IV, V.' It's simply the most common chords used in progressions ever. (It's often referred to as the 'Blues Changes' and are basically the only chords used in the renowned 'Twelve Bar Blues." Though later you'll see how it can be spiced up.) Suppose we wanted to play the chords as 7th chords to add more flavor. If our intent was to keep the song completely and perfectly within the Key of C (called 'Diatonic'), the Chord Wheel prompts us with the appropriate type of 7th. Printed on the transparent disk and centered just above the Chord Wheel's note/chord names you'll see Maj 7 (Major 7th) above the C and F, while Dom 7 (Dominant 7th) is centered above the G. This let's you know that modifying the progression to be played C Major 7th, F Major 7th followed by G Dominant 7th would yield the desired results. Abbreviations for the three chords would look like this: CM7, FM7 and G7. Note that a chord that simply shows '7' is a Dominant 7th chord. Both Major 7 and Minor 7 chords require their abbreviations. Such as CM7 and Dm7 where the lower-case 'm' let's you know it's a minor.
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