Mini 7th Chords: Putting Little Chords to Work

Lesson ID: TB043

Knowing what 7th chords, how they’re built and what they sound like it important.  But knowing how to really put them to use in your playing so much more powerful.

In the last lesson, we learned about the importance of 7th chords in blues and talked about how they are constructed.  It’s important to have a look at that lesson first, which you can do here:

Introduction to Seventh Chords for Blues Finger Pickers

A quick overview of that lesson is that Dominant Seventh Chords (7th Chords for short) are made up of the root, third, fifth and flat seventh.  Written as a chord formula, you get:

1    –    3    –    5    –    b7

So there’s the rule.  It take four notes to make a 7th chord.

But we’re blues players so we’ll break the rules more than we’ll follow them!  Sound good?

Mini 7th Chords

What we are about cover really starts to put the theory behind 7th chords to work for us fingerpickers.  We’ll use some comfortable shapes on the guitar for seventh chords that don’t include all 4 notes.

In some instances we’ll leave out the 3 or the 5 or maybe even the 1.  But as you’ll hear in the video for this lesson, the essence of the 7th chord is still there.  Even if you play less than the required four notes.

There’s a hugely practical benefit of learning how to make use of these mini-chords.

As a fingerpicker sometimes most of the time, we need to strip down the chords as much as possible to give our fingers the freedom to play a little melody line while pumping out the chord and the bassline.

To say it another way, it’s hard to hold down all four notes of a chord and play any melody.  Generally, I like to keep at least one finger free to do some little melody lines here and there.

Start With Good Ole E7

The video and the accompanying TAB shows you four convenient fingerings for some 3 note 7th chords that I use all the time.  When you watch the video, really pay attention tot he sound of the chords.  Even though these are technically not full 7th chords, I think you’ll agree that the true bluesy 7th chord sound still comes across.

To me, that’s the magic of making these mini chords part of your everyday playing.  You can still get the bluesy tones we’re going for and have at least one finger free to embellish things here and there.

Give the TAB a shot, but don’t worry about following it note-for-note.  Instead use this as a spring board for some mini chord jamming of your own.

Good luck and Play On!


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