A short while ago, we asked users of our Chordelia: Triad Tutor app what they wanted to learn next. And the answer came back resoundingly:
It’s easy to see why. Seventh chords are versatile and can provide a wide variety of interesting sounds. They’re essential in jazz, and can add that special spice or sparkle to any music.
At a glance, they seem simple enough: a triad chord with an extra note added – the seventh of the scale.
But by varying the type of triad and the scale you can produce many types of seventh chord. Dominant, Minor, Major, Minor/Major, Diminished, and so on. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, even before you try to tell them apart in context by ear!
Most musicians never get past the most basic grasp of seventh chords, and so limit their harmony skills by never moving beyond the core triads – or perhaps just learning the dominant seventh chord.
Our new app, Chordelia: Seventh Heaven, is the first dedicated tutor for seventh chords in the App Store and will teach you to hear all the important types of seventh chord easily and reliably – whether they’re played one note at a time or all together, and whichever inversion of the chord is used.
Why learn seventh chords?
If most musicians get by without ever really understanding seventh chords, why should you bother?
Well, if you’re a jazz musician you’ll already know the answer! For rich, interesting harmonies, seventh chords are where it’s at. You’d be hard-pushed to find a jazz standard which doesn’t utilise one or more types of seventh chord. By developing your ear to recognise seventh chords quickly and easily, you’ll be hugely increasing your potential as a player. Just ask the guys over at JazzAdvice.com!
Seventh chords aren’t just reserved for jazz though. In fact you’ll find they crop up all over pop, rock, blues and any other modern genre you care to name, as well as featuring in the more sophisticated harmonies of classical music.
Learning to appreciate seventh chords can help you compose more innovative chord progressions, by freeing you from simply making a basic major vs. minor choice for each chord – introduce all the types of seventh chord to your song-writing toolkit and your songs will be enormously more interesting! You can also add interest to an existing song, by sprinkling in a few appropriate seventh chords in place of the basic major and minor chords. You can read our previous article on ‘jazz giveaways’ for an example of this.
Of course if the existing song is from the jazz world then knowledge of seventh chords will be essential for transcribing the song or improvising over it.
Knowing about seventh chords and how they sound can help you melodically too. Introduce new flavours to your solos and improvisations by knowing the effect different seventh notes can bring.
Seventh chords have so much to offer any musician or music fan – isn’t it time you added them to your repertoire?
Chordelia: Seventh Heaven
Picking up from where Chordelia: Triad Tutor leaves off, the new Seventh Heaven app starts from the basics of seventh chords, explaining how they’re constructed, how they differ from triads, and where the different types come from.
10 lessons lead you through learning the 7 core types of seventh chord: 3 which are frequently used (dominant 7th, major 7th and minor 7th), and another 4 which are more specialist (half-diminished 7th (a.k.a. minor 7 flat 5), diminished 7th, augmented major 7th (a.k.a. major 7 sharp 5) and minor major 7th).
You’ll compare triads with seventh chords, and then different types of seventh with each other, first using Training Mode to learn the background, get tips on how to tell them apart and build up your aural appreciation of the chords, then using Testing Mode to check your progress and unlock more lessons.
Because the theory of seventh chords can be confusing we’ve developed the Training Mode lessons particularly carefully, with helpful illustrations and multiple explanations of how the chord structure can be understood.
We do recommend learning some background theory to give you the framework of understanding you need to effectively build your aural skills in music. The theory material in Seventh Heaven is very approachable, and doesn’t require much prior knowledge of music theory – but is always optional! Each lesson also comes with plenty of tips and information on distinguishing seventh chords by ear, so even if the theory baffles you the app will help you make real progress.
As with all our apps, we include a Custom Mode to make sure you won’t get stuck on a particular lesson you find tricky. At any stage you can set up a custom training or testing session to pinpoint any problem spots.
This means if you keep confusing two types of seventh chord, or you need to really delve into the difference in sound that inverting the chord makes, you can set up a personalised lesson to train and test on those particular challenges.
Chordelia: Seventh Heaven lets you progress at your own pace. As you get good scores on tests you’ll unlock further lessons and difficulty levels. Each lesson introduces you to a new kind of seventh chord or reinforces the knowledge you’ve gained so far. The difficulty levels let you switch from arpeggiated chords (one note at a time) to harmonic (all notes together), and start including inversions of the chords as well as their basic root position form. This means that your seventh chord skills become broader, more versatile and more reliable as you continue training with the app.
Chordelia: Seventh Heaven is available in the App Store from today. If you’ve never studied chords before, you might want to start with the introductory companion app, Chordelia: Triad Tutor. But if you have the fundamentals down, Seventh Heaven will introduce you to seventh chords step-by-step, in a fun, easy and effective way.