Important note: the major seventh chord, being a four-note chord (or quadrad), requires four fingers in each hand to play it (no surprise!). An adjustment in fingering is necessary from that which we used for the major triad. The fingering for each hand is as follows:
Left hand: Pinkie, Middle, Index, Thumb (C E G B, respectively)
Right hand: Thumb, Index, Middle, Pinkie (C E G B, respectively)
If we learn to associate each of our fingers (and thumbs) with numbers, it makes for a more concise way to assign fingers. So, both thumbs are 1, both index fingers are 2, both middle fingers are 3, both ring fingers are 4, and both pinkies are 5. This is a universally accepted way of referring to fingers as they apply to playing piano.
Using this method, our C Major Seventh chord is played with 5,3,2,1 of the left hand and... 1,2,3,5 of the right hand.
If you've never played a chord with four notes before, I'm going to guess that this might feel pretty awkward at the beginning. If this is the case for you, please know that you will get more comfortable with this. For now, just make sure that you hand position is correct. Maintain that rounded form - and keep it relaxed!
As with the triads, play this chord one key at a time. Use the same techniques we used with the major triad, including playing with
So, another way of looking at how a major seventh chord is constructed: if you know the major scale of the same name, simply play the 1, 3, 5, and 7 of that scale and you've got it! (Yes, the 1,3, and 5 on their own form the triad of course!)
You see, the musical system is designed in a very perfect, mathematical way. Since this is true, all major seventh chords follow this formula just mentioned. Yes, the major seventh chord is constructed by playing the 1,3,5, and 7 of the corresponding major scale.
Now, here's another important point: because the above is true, when we refer to certain members of a chord, we refer to them as the number of the scale that chord is related to. In other words, it's common to say or hear: "The C is the 1 of the chord," "The E is the 3 of the chord," "The G is the 5 of the chord," or "The B is the 7 of the chord."
By now, you have probably figured it out: there is a direct relationship between chords and scales.
I'd like to consider something interesting about the major seventh chord. Just for a moment, play only the C Major triad. This is very "easy on the ear" you might say. This is because the distance - or music intervals - between the notes in this triad are consonant intervals (from C to E, E to G, and C to G).
Okay, this time, just play the 1 and the 7 (C and B). What do you notice? Does it sound a tiny bit harsh to you? The adjective that you use is the right one for you, but it's not as "easy on the ear," is it? In music, this is known as a dissonant interval.
Well, the interesting thing about this is when you combine the consonant sounds of the music intervals contained in the triad with the dissonant sound of the 1 and 7, we get something pretty unique.
That's the appeal I was talking about earlier. That's a very attractive characteristic of music, whether it's harmony or melody: a combination of consonance and dissonance keeps it appealing!
This is kind of like taking a basic cake recipe and adding some tangy spice to it, like orange peel or something like that. You've perhaps heard the expression, "variety is the spice of life." Well, that's what we do when we add sevenths to triads!
Using the easy procedure that you learned, create a few more major seventh chords - like F, G, A, etc.
By the way, how can you know for sure that you have the chord right just by listening? Well, the more you play the major seventh, the more confident you'll get, of course, but here's a great way:
There is a famous song put out by the world renowned musical group Chicago called Color My World. If you listen to the chord being played as the lyrics begin ("As time goes on..."), you'll hear it played in a "broken up" fashion (one note at a time).
That chord is a major seventh chord. You can listen by visiting this page and clicking on the little arrow under where it says "Mp3 Sample." Listen to the chord closely. Specifically, it is an Fmaj7 that you are hearing.
Now you can do this too! Just play in the left hand below middle C:
F A C E C A F A C E C A F
You already know, from above, which fingers to use.
Simple, yet sounds wonderful!
Of course there are tons and tons and tons of songs that use the major seventh chord. The great part about it is the more you play it and listen when you do, the easier it will be for you to identify it when you hear in in a recording!
Once you become comfortable with playing a couple of maj7 chords, click here for a way to start having fun with them immediately.
I'm loving this hike down Seventh Avenue and I hope you will really take your time at this stop. There is no rush at all. Play... listen... play... listen... play some more! Major seventh chords are so very popular as well as addictive, so get hooked beginning today!