Easy guitar theory: minor 7th chords

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Previously we looked at constructing major 7th chords using notes from the major scale. This time, it’s the turn of minor 7th chords.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that you’d use the minor scale to construct them, but that’s not quite how it works. All scales and chords are compared to the major scale, so it’s easy to see how they relate to each other.

The scale is given the formula: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8. A scale with the formula 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7 8 would be the same as the major scale except it has flattened 3rd and 7th notes (one fret lower). How does this relate to minor 7th chords? Read on…

Using a formula

This is the A major scale. As you can see there are seven notes, with the first note (called the root note) repeated at the end in a higher register. A minor 7th chord is constructed by using the 1st, the flattened 3rd (one fret lower), the 5th and the flattened 7th notes of the scale. So that’s: A, C, E and G.

The tab shows how an Am7 chord is constructed using the A major scale as a reference. Strum the chord a few times and listen to its dark, melancholy sound.

Playing an Am7 chord

It’s quite awkward to play these four notes in the order outlined above so the notes are rearranged into a more practical fingering for the guitar. As long as you play all four notes (generally with the root note as the lowest note) it is still an Am7 chord.

This example moves between minor and minor 7th chords, so you can hear the difference between them in a musical context. Barre across two strings in the Dm7.

Chord progression with minor 7ths

This example uses three minor 7th chords played with a combination of picking and strumming. These chords can be tricky to play and it can be easy to accidentally mute open strings or not play the partial barre in the Dm7 cleanly, so check each note individually before jamming along to the audio track to ensure accuracy.

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