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Thread: What 7th Chords Go with What Major Keys?

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    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default What 7th Chords Go with What Major Keys?

    Everybody knows this but me, I'm sure. I've tried researching 7th chords, but what I find is so much more than I care to know! I'm hoping someone can give a simple explanation for a simple mind. No major theory lesson or my brain will explode.

    So, which 7th chords go with G, C, D and A major? When I go through my "jam" book, I find tunes in G major can have D7, G7, B7. With C major I see C7 and G7. With D major, I see A7, E7, F#7. With A major I see C#7, E7, Bm7.

    So, what's the deal? My own practical application of this is to replace the 5 chord with a 7 chord. Are these considered "dominant?" Are the other 7s accidentals???

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    Default Re: What 7th Chords Go with What Major Keys?

    Yes, the 5 chord 7th is the Dominant 7th, and that works for most folk & country songs.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominant_seventh_chord

    Then it just gets (a little) more complicated but you'll enjoy the journey.
    Bren

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    Registered User Dave Hicks's Avatar
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    Default Re: What 7th Chords Go with What Major Keys?

    The V chord is often used to lead back to the I chord. The pull of the V will work as a straight major chord, but the pull feels stronger if it's a V7. A I7 often turns up to lead to the IV chord.

    So, in the key of C, G7 (V7) often is followed by C (I), and a C7 (I7) often leads to F (IV).

    But having said that, 7 chords appear in many different contexts. For instance, a common sequence in jazz-oriented songs is VI II V I (A, D, G, C in the key of C) and any or all of those chords could be 7ths, or not. (And some in that sequence can be minor or major.)

    PS: I'm assuming dominant 7ths above, not major 7ths.

    D.H.

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    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: What 7th Chords Go with What Major Keys?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bren View Post
    Yes, the 5 chord 7th is the Dominant 7th, and that works for most folk & country songs.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominant_seventh_chord

    Then it just gets (a little) more complicated but you'll enjoy the journey.
    Bren, I had actually found this same resource. It just went into way more detail than what I was looking for. Thanks for simplifying it for me.

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    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: What 7th Chords Go with What Major Keys?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Hicks View Post
    The V chord is often used to lead back to the I chord. The pull of the V will work as a straight major chord, but the pull feels stronger if it's a V7. A I7 often turns up to lead to the IV chord.

    So, in the key of C, G7 (V7) often is followed by C (I), and a C7 (I7) often leads to F (IV).

    D.H.
    Hmm. I'll have to be on the lookout for this.

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    Default Re: What 7th Chords Go with What Major Keys?

    You don't want theory, but you are asking a theory question. When most people say '7th chord' with no other qualifier, they mean the 7th chord built on the 5th degree of the scale, but every other degree of the scale can also have a 7th. Chord tones are every other note of the scale.

    Here's the harmonized scale in C: The first chord, built on the first degree, is a CMajor 7th. Second is Dminor 7, Third is E minor 7, Fourth is F Major 7, Fifth is G (dominant) 7, Sixth is A minor 7, 7 is B diminished 7.

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    Default Re: What 7th Chords Go with What Major Keys?

    Sherry, if you want to learn some practical theory, but you don't want your head to explode, check out Duke Sharp's Garage Band Theory'

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...ge+band+theory

    I got a copy a couple months ago, and find it easy to read and very clear. Enjoyable even
    Entertaining probably isn't going too far

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    Default Re: What 7th Chords Go with What Major Keys?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sherry Cadenhead View Post
    So, which 7th chords go with G, C, D and A major? When I go through my "jam" book, I find tunes in G major can have D7, G7, B7. With C major I see C7 and G7. With D major, I see A7, E7, F#7. With A major I see C#7, E7, Bm7.
    There seems to be a bit of overkill in this, as well as inconsistency. I'll try to sort it out.

    Bear in mind dominant 7ths are often, if not usually, used for leading to another chord - though not always.

    Starting with those chords in G. D7 is usually used to lead back to the G. (V7 - I) G7 is often used to lead to C (I7 - IV), and a typical use would be, in a 12-bar I-IV-V blues, for it to be the 4th chord in the first line leading to the 1st chord in the second line, a IV chord. That D7 would typically be used as the 2nd chord in the third line, to lead back to the G as a resolve.

    OK, I've lost you. Here is the typical chord structure for a 12-bar blues:

    I I I I7
    IV IV I I
    V V7 I I

    There are loads of variations. Here are most of them, all smeared together:

    I IV I I7
    IV IVm I I7
    V V7 I V7

    What that B7 is doing there puzzles me just a bit. It is not naturally occurring in the key of G. But it could be used very effectively to lead to Em, the relative minor of G. (III7 - VIm)

    I'm also puzzled by the list of chords for the key of D. E7 isn't naturally occurring in the key of D. It's the II7, which could be leading to the A7 (V7) back to D. The F#7 could be doing the same as the B7 in the key of G as above - leading to Bm, the relative minor of D. (III7 - VIm)

    I'm also puzzled by the list of chords for the key of A. That C#7 could be used to lead to F#m, the relative minor of A. (III7 - VIm) But you have an F#7 instead.

    Anyway, I sense your eyes glazing over so I'll stop. But before I go I will point out that what lowtone2 is quite true. Those are the 7th chords in the key of C. And those are transposable to all keys. It might be better to get used to the number system. So that would be IM7 IIm7 IIIm7 IVM7 V7 VIm7 VII-7

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    Default Re: What 7th Chords Go with What Major Keys?

    The simple answer is:
    Key. Seventh chord (dominant seven)
    C. G7
    D. A7
    G. D7
    A. E7.

    This shows the dominant seventh chord, the V7, for each of the listed keys.

    The complicated answer is that any of the scale notes can be played as a 7 chord, major or minor. Don’t sweat it at this point.

    Sweet Georgia Brown has I7, Ii7, III7, V7, VI7 and VII7, plus a few others, not in that order. No IV7.

    Probably doesn’t help, but the simple answer is powerful.
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    Default Re: What 7th Chords Go with What Major Keys?

    Quote Originally Posted by lowtone2 View Post
    Here's the harmonized scale in C: The first chord, built on the first degree, is a CMajor 7th. Second is Dminor 7, Third is E minor 7, Fourth is F Major 7, Fifth is G (dominant) 7, Sixth is A minor 7, 7 is B diminished 7.
    The chord built on B should be a half-diminished 7 (B D F A), not a diminished 7 (B D F Ab).

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    Default Re: What 7th Chords Go with What Major Keys?

    Regular 7 chords (major chord with a minor 7) are naturally found on the dominant (V) and lead to the tonic (I). They can also be used as secondary (temporary) dominants and lead to any note.

    They can also be used as non-functional 7ths, which are just used for the texture and don't lead any place. This is very common in blues and can add a blues flavor to non-blues music. Play a IV7 instead of a IV on a bluegrass/folk song: instant blues.

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    Default Re: What 7th Chords Go with What Major Keys?

    This gets numbery and starts to blur together. Also I am not a theory expert so I am sure that someone could ding me here, but:

    In the key of G the dominant is D7. That is the 5 chord and when you play the D7 it gives the strong desire to resolve back to the G.

    Also since G is the 5 chord of C, when you play a G7 it makes you want to move to C... C is the 4 chord in the key of G.

    Now if you are playing the root chord of G and you play the G7 it makes you want to move to C (because G7 is the dominant for C).

    So as far as moving to different chords using the 7th chord in G:

    G goes to G7 which leads to C

    Then when you are over on the 5 chord (D), you play the D7 and it leads you back home to G.

    As others have said you can also use the 7 with most chords to give a bluesy feeling, however you do need to be a little thoughtful, as musicians that are listening may take that as a cue to move to a chord based on how it is often used for that purpose.

    Also if you are in a jam with a good rhythm guitar player and you do not really know the song you can start to listen to the use of the 7th and walking baselines as cues to know there the song is going before it actually gets there

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    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
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    Default Re: What 7th Chords Go with What Major Keys?

    Quote Originally Posted by David L View Post
    The chord built on B should be a half-diminished 7 (B D F A), not a diminished 7 (B D F Ab).
    Yes, that's correct. Late night...

    The point I want to make is that if she's curious about these things, why not go ahead and get the education? Plenty of people here are perfectly happy to dribble out small pieces, but I think that's probably more confusing than enlightening. A solid course of basic theory would answer all these questions, and is quite easily come by.

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    Default Re: What 7th Chords Go with What Major Keys?

    Just a quick note that people frequently substitute the dominant seventh chord where a major seventh would be in the key. This can be confusing. In these cases they are using the seventh for color rather than a leading tone to the next chord.

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    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: What 7th Chords Go with What Major Keys?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nevin View Post
    Just a quick note that people frequently substitute the dominant seventh chord where a major seventh would be in the key. This can be confusing. In these cases they are using the seventh for color rather than a leading tone to the next chord.
    This is exactly what I'm doing, as I love that dominant 7th chord sound.

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    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: What 7th Chords Go with What Major Keys?

    Keep it simple, just learn the dominant 7 chord of every chord you know by adding the flat 7 note to those chords. Then just learn how to make the major 7 chords by simply adding the 7 note.

    you already know the V chord is dominant in the key, and can often be played as a dominant 7 chord.

    7 chords (flat 7) are also used as “passing chords” to transition from one chord to another when it sounds good to do that, others have noted examples above.

    in blues, sometimes you use all 7 chords! As in blues in E could be E7, A7, B7

    just learn to make 7 chords, play them where the song calls for them and you will hear and learn
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    Default Re: What 7th Chords Go with What Major Keys?

    Quote Originally Posted by lowtone2 View Post
    You don't want theory, but you are asking a theory question. When most people say '7th chord' with no other qualifier, they mean the 7th chord built on the 5th degree of the scale, but every other degree of the scale can also have a 7th. Chord tones are every other note of the scale.

    Here's the harmonized scale in C: The first chord, built on the first degree, is a CMajor 7th. Second is Dminor 7, Third is E minor 7, Fourth is F Major 7, Fifth is G (dominant) 7, Sixth is A minor 7, 7 is B diminished 7.
    I'm currently studying Alfred's Essentials of Music Theory. Still in book 1.

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    Default Re: What 7th Chords Go with What Major Keys?

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    I'm also puzzled by the list of chords for the key of A. That C#7 could be ...
    Puzzled here, too! I had assumed that C#7 to be a mis-reading, or mis-printing, of what was more likely (in key of A) a C#m7.

    Sherry - FWIW, I avoided "music theory" for decades, even if I got pretty good at, say, transposing chords on the fly. Maybe the hardest thing at your stage is realizing that music comes in assorted flavors that have differing structures, and a seemingly simple question like "what 7th chord goes with which major chord?" can, depending on the context, have wildly different "correct" answers or, worse yet, every correct answer.

    As some have said: don't sweat it too much, it WILL come into focus!
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    Default Re: What 7th Chords Go with What Major Keys?

    Been having a PM conversation with Ash Telecaster about music theory. Ash, I hope you don't mind me quoting you here

    Quote Originally Posted by Ash Telecaster
    Theory is about knowing the rules. More importantly, it is about knowing how to bend or break the rules... Or more accurately how to manipulate the rules in your favor. Some people call that jazz, I call it color

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    Default Re: What 7th Chords Go with What Major Keys?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    Keep it simple, just learn the dominant 7 chord of every chord you know by adding the flat 7 note to those chords. Then just learn how to make the major 7 chords by simply adding the 7 note.

    you already know the V chord is dominant in the key, and can often be played as a dominant 7 chord.

    7 chords (flat 7) are also used as “passing chords” to transition from one chord to another when it sounds good to do that, others have noted examples above.

    in blues, sometimes you use all 7 chords! As in blues in E could be E7, A7, B7

    just learn to make 7 chords, play them where the song calls for them and you will hear and learn
    Quoting Mark's entire post, because I think it bears repeating.

    For a little extra clarity, I'll add that if you play each major (ionic) scale, you will see that the dominate 7 note is actually the flat 7 (e.g. Bb in the C scale or F in the G scale) and is 1 whole step (two frets) below the root note. Adding this note to the chord creates what is usually just called the 7th chord - e.g. D7. Playing this note in your improvised melody when the chord progression goes to that 7th chord - e.g. in the V chord turnaround playing the C note over the D7 chord - usually sounds really good. It takes a little practice to find where the note is in each chord pattern and get your fingers to go there effortlessly, but you can get it in short order.
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    Default Re: What 7th Chords Go with What Major Keys?

    Quote Originally Posted by David L View Post
    Regular 7 chords (major chord with a minor 7) are naturally found on the dominant (V) and lead to the tonic (I). They can also be used as secondary (temporary) dominants and lead to any note.


    Temporary dominants -- I've heard this called "borrowing fives" or just "borrowing". In G, playing a G7 to set up the move to C is like you are borrowing from the key of C for that short amount of time. G7 is the V7 of C.

    I will stop here so as not to confuse myself.

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    Default Re: What 7th Chords Go with What Major Keys?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Haywood View Post
    Quoting Mark's entire post, because I think it bears repeating.

    For a little extra clarity, I'll add that if you play each major (ionic) scale, you will see that the dominate 7 note is actually the flat 7 (e.g. Bb in the C scale or F in the G scale) and is 1 whole step (two frets) below the root note.
    A more "correct" way to look at it from a theory POV is that in a major scale, the 4 note chord built in 3rds off of the 5th scale degree is the V7 chord, or the dominant 7th chord.

    "1 whole step (two frets) below the root note." (which does help as a shorthand to turn a major chord into a 7th).

    If you are thinking of the 5th scale degree as the root or tonic, then yes; But in a major scale, the 7th is a leading tone a half step below the tonic, the "major 7" and that's why a 4 note chord on the tonic ina. major scale is a maj7 chord ( CEGB for example).

    There is a mode where the tonic note generates a dom 7 4-note chord - the mixolydian mode. Then " Bb in the C scale or F in the G scale" is correct.

    In major scale of C, the 7th is a B natural; in G major, it's an F#.

    Using a Bb in the key of C major "borrows" from the V7 of the key of F. Likewise, using an F in the key of G major implies the major scale of C, where G7 is the V7 chord. These are secondary dominants, "passing" chords that temporarily help one modulate to another tonal center.

    Just making things a bit more text-book like....and to help make clear that V7 chords are a powerful tool and can be used both for modulation and as a stand-alone sonority, as when used in a blues where all the chords are dom7th's.

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    Default Re: What 7th Chords Go with What Major Keys?

    Building up or building down, and ending up at the same place, for slightly different reasons, but with the same effect.

    Yes, the OP wanted to avoid a theory lesson, but it IS a theory question, and understanding this should help.

    I think you explained it very well and understandably.
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    Default Re: What 7th Chords Go with What Major Keys?

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    A more "correct" way to look at it ...
    Thanks, David. I probably didn't answer Sherry's actual question and my answer may be a bit "inaccurate" from the theory POV. I appreciate your description. My purpose was to give her a "down and dirty" way to quickly work some 7th sounds into her playing so she can hear what does and doesn't sound good. My description came from a recent lesson for one of my older students who has a good mind for theory but doesn't want to put in much dedicated time to learn it in depth. This gave her a handle that she remembers, and allows her to quickly grab the appropriate 7th chord when things are flying by in a bluegrass jam or band setting.
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    Default Re: What 7th Chords Go with What Major Keys?

    Sherry, here is the simple rule to use. Play a 7th chord whenever/wherever you like the sound, in the piece you are playing. If you like how it sounds play it, if you don't, don't. That is what it really boils down to.
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