Introduction: How to Play Major 7th Chords on the Piano
This lesson is all about Major 7th Chords, how they sound on the piano, what they look like on the music staff and how to play them on your keyboard.
Major 7th chords are common in more advanced music as well as jazz and blues pieces.
They are made by combining a major triad which is made up of the 1st, 3rd, and 5th tones of a scale and then adding in a 4th tone that is 1/2 step below the top octave of your scale; 4 notes total.
For example, with a C major 7th chord, your notes would be:
C, E, G, & B. <---notice how B is 1/2 step below the top C, which is an octave above Middle C, where we started from.
Basically, major 7th chords are named for the distance between the bottom/first note and the top/last note of the chord.
What do Major 7th chords sound like and do you know how to recognize one when you hear it?
Step 1: What Do Major 7th Chords Sound Like?
Remember the song, "Row, Row, Row Your Boat - Life Is But A Dream?"
That's exactly what Major 7th Chords sound like...dreamy.
There is a distinct abstract quality to the sound of major 7th chords that make them very easy to recognize in music once you get more familiar with them.
Another specific sound you'll find in major 7th chords is the feeling that there is more...meaning there isn't a sound of completion or finality in the chord. That's because chords like major 7th chords contain leading tones...that do exactly that; they "lead" us into the next chord where we hear and feel the resolution.
Now let's see just what these Major 7th chords look like on the music staff.
Step 2: What Does a C Major 7th Chord Look Like
Here we have a C Major 7th chord written out on our music staff for both the left and right hands.
Notice how there are 4 notes in each one.
The bottom note is C, but the top note is B. Why is that?
Remember, that the top note of this type of chord is built upon a major triad and then adding a 4th note which is 1/2 step lower than the top octave of the scale/chord. If you were to move that top note up just a 1/2 step, you'd arrive at the octave above where you started, in other words.
Now let's find out how to play a C Major 7th chord on the piano keyboard.
Step 3: How Do You Play a Major 7th Chord on the Keyboard?
Since we've been looking specifically at the C Major 7th Chord, let's start with that one.
Start with your right thumb on Middle C, and your left pinky on the C an octave below that.
To find the Major 7th chord, first play C, E, G and then the C note an octave above the first one. Now move that top C down 1/2 step so that it is now B instead of C.
You will do this with every single major triad that you want to be a Major 7th chord and once you know this basic rule you are set for understanding how to form one in any key.
Although this rule applies to all major triads, they don't all look the same when we see them or play them.
Let me show you what this looks like in the next step. Come Practice With Me!
Step 4: Come Practice Major 7th Chords With Me!
This video goes over the C Major 7th Chord as well as several others in other keys so you can see different examples of these types of chords, what they look like on the music staff, how they sound, and how to play each one on the piano keyboard.
There are extra tips in the video that weren't included here so make sure to watch several times while at your keyboard so you can get some real time practice and experience with these wonderful dreamy chords and start including them in your piano playing!