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Section 8.1 Introduction to Seventh Chords

A seventh chord adds to a triad another note a third higher than the fifth. Chords, being built in thirds, have members that are odd numbers—third, fifth, seventh, and we will eventually discuss extensions of the ninth, eleventh, and thirteenth. The fifteenth would be the double octave, so chords only extend as high as the thirteenth.

Example showing chords built in 3rds up to the 13th

In classical and popular music, there are five types of seventh chords commonly encountered:

  • the major seventh chord

  • the major-minor seventh chord (also known as a dominant seventh chord)

  • the minor seventh chord

  • the half-diminished seventh chord

  • the fully-diminished seventh chord (often called diminished seventh chord)

All five types of seventh chords, with their abbreviated labels
Figure 8.1.1.

Another way to differentiate between the five types of seventh chords is by learning how the thirds are stacked in each one.

All five types of seventh chords, shown with the types of thirds in each chord

In later chapters we will discuss other seventh chords built on augmented triads and minor triads.