Dominant 7th chords have a chord symbol of just a letter and the number 7. So D7, C7, E7 etc. are all what are known as dominant 7th chords. These chords are used a lot in the blues.
While there are all kinds of ways to play these chords, in this video guitar lesson I’m going to show you some small movable shapes. Just bare bones skeleton dominant 7th chords.
Video Guitar Lesson
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Anatomy of a Dominant 7th Chord
Dominant 7th chords are made up of a root, 3, 5 and b7 (flat 7) of a major scale. The root is the primary note the chord is named after. The 3 and 5 are the 3rd and 5th degrees of a major scale with the same root as the chord. Flat 7 is the 7th note of a major scale lowered by a half step.
3 Note Dominant 7th Chord Charts
Below are the chord charts for the dominant 7th chords we will be covering in this guitar lesson. There are 2 with the root on the 6th string, and one with the root on the 5th. The 2 root on the 6th string chords are the same notes, just different with different fingerings.
You will also see I have indicated the chord functions. R for root, 3 and b7. You will notice there is no 5. If you have to leave out one note, the 5 is the least important of the 4.
These chord forms are all movable. You are just going to line up the open circle with the root that you need. Having only 3 notes make these nimble and easy to move around rather than playing bulkier barre chord forms that have more notes.
Blues in the key of G
I kicked off the video guitar lesson by playing a blues in the key of G using these dominant 7th chord forms. Here’s the chord progression I was playing. You can download a funky blues mp3 jam track to practice with in the “Guitar Lesson Downloads” section lower on this page.
2 Note Dominant 7th Chords
You can even strip down dominant 7th chords further by leaving out the root. Even though you might think that is the most important note of the chord, it’s actually less important than the 3 and b7 to give the sound of a dominant 7th chord.
The interesting thing about going from the 2 note G7 to the C7 is that you just have to move the same shape down 1 fret. What happens is that the chord functions swap. The 3 on the 3rd string of a G7 becomes the b7 on the 3rd string for the C7. And the b7 on the 4th string of the G7 becomes the 3 in the C7.
Even though you are just playing 2 notes, you are still going to use the root you are leaving out as your reference to help you find where to play these.
Try playing the blues in G chord progression again but using these 2 note dominant 7th chord forms.
Adding 9ths & 13ths to Dominant 7th Chords
You can also extend these skeleton dominant 7th chords. Below are 2 more jazzy dominant 7 chord forms. The first is a root on the 6th string dominant 7th with an added tension 13. Just think of a tension as some extra spice in the chord.
The other is a dominant 7th with the root on the 5th strings with an added 9. Again test out these chords in the blues in the key of G as well.
Guitar Lesson Downloads
Below is a PDF with the tablature and chord charts for this guitar lesson. There’s also an MP3 jam track for the Blues in the key of G.
(Right Click the links below and choose “Save As” or “Save Target As” or “Download Linked Files As”)
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