I've been trying to detect seventh chords, major and minor seventh for at least one week, doing them unsucessfully...

My method have been, for the moment, going to musictheory.net and trying to learn by mistakes the seventh chords, both major and minor. But I think it is too difficult to achieve.

Is there other, more optimal, methods to detect them?

Thanks for your attention. I'm looking foward to wait for your answer.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Dom
    Commented Nov 21, 2020 at 17:53
  • I cannot speak on the chat due that I have not enough reputation. But thanks for your views. I think I need to review all the music intervals before going again with seventh chords, luz I have some trouble recognizing some of them. The same happens with augmented and diminished chords. Commented Nov 26, 2020 at 15:24

3 Answers 3


You do realize that it is more than just some "trick"? You have to spend many years in music to truly understand what is going on. Practice makes perfect. You do realize there are all kinds of 7th chords? Not just your basics by 7b5, 7#11's, 9th chords(which are 7add9's), 7b9, etc?

Can you detect intervals? Triads? Qualities? Extensions?

Rather than focusing on some abstract idea to "detect" some type of chord your time is better spent learning music. Learning music automatically teaches you everything you want. There is no short cut. Learn songs, learn to sight read, learn to improvise, etc... You'll never find some magic trick. The more you listen the more you'll figure out stuff. I used to think like you and I wasted many years, once I actually spent time learning music(listening and such) then everything made sense and I could hear everything I wanted.

But because you think it doesn't work this way: Every musical group of notes has a "color". 7th chords each have their own color. Dom7 chords have a certain quality to them. You won't under understand this unless you learn triads, maj 7ths, minor chords, diminished, tensions etc. In fact, they all work together. You build up the picture progressively not by sequentially. That is, you probably can tell major and minor apart, that is easy. But add a 4th note you get many more combinations. Min Add 9th, Min add11, Maj add#11, Maj add6, Sus2/4, etc. All these are just different colors/sounds. What makes them each unique is the unique combination of notes... but you learn to tell them apart by contrasting them with other colors AND by knowing the names of what you are hearing. Learn to spell chords and learn to analyze chords in music so you can at least know what you are suppose to hear, and then listen(= actively listen, which really means listening to a lot of different music. Don't try to hear some magical thing inside chords that doesn't exist).

A dom 7th chord has a tension in it that sets it apart from all the other non dominant chords. Listen to blues, you'll hear dominants all over the place. Have you listened to much blues? BB King? SRV? Albert King? Blues is the sound of the "dominant". Of course almost every piece of music uses dominants. Learn structural form of music. E.g., the blues is obvious and simple. The V7 chord comes at the 9th bar almost ALWAYS. So you can hear what it sounds like there. Learn to count so you know where things are at then you will know.

You are simply not going to be able to figure it out through some abstract process of practicing to hear some type of chord out of context and meaning... it's simply not how things work. Even if you do figure it out do you just want to be a one trick pony? Don't try to rush things, just learn and listen and over time things will make sense.

Now, I'm definitely not saying don't try to do what you are doing, just spend about 5 minutes a year on it, spend the rest of the time being more productive. Once I stopped wasting my time on trying to figure out shortcuts(which is what these "ear training" stuff is) and started working on actual music, after about 2 years I could ear almost all the chords. The biggest thing is to actually learn songs. How many songs do you know that uses dominant 7th chords? If you don't know any songs then what is the point? If you know some songs then figure out the where the dominant 7th chords are and that is what they sound like. Every other chord will be the same. The IV, well, it's right there, do you see it? You don't! That is why you don't know it is a IV chord. Analyze music! All music is just chords, so it's pretty easy.

It really is very difficult on one hand but very simple on the other. You have to learn to see the simplicity of it. It mainly has to do with exposure both intellectually and aurally. Sure, you probably can learn to hear these chords by practicing in some way but it will take you 10 times longer and you will get 100 times less out of it and that is not how you want to approach it.

What is the V7b9/V in the key of D# major? Can you figure out the notes relatively quickly? What are the intervals of a F#13#11? What chord does a the notes A C Eb F# B want to resolve to? These are intellectual things that you learn by studying, it has nearly zero to do with sound. It is the mathematics of music. Listening to music is where you can apply these things. If you know a piece uses a V7b9/V because you've analyzed it then you can listen to it and say "Oh, that is how it sounds". You do the "Oh" part a few (hundred) thousand times then everything makes sense.... but it happens gradually and you'll never be completely finished.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Richard
    Commented Nov 28, 2020 at 21:40

One week is not enough time, unless you have amazingly sharp ears. So the first thing to realize is you must be prepared to spend much, much more time on the ear training. In all seriousness think in terms of a full year. You can probably make a lot of progress during that time, but one year give you some sense of the scope of the undertaking.

So far, the best ear training thing for me has been playing and singing aloud to the rule of the octave. (It's the scale harmonization starting on page 5 here https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1tf9xeI3NRBcklRbjZSM0g4cUE/view) That harmonization uses a few seventh chords (ii7 - minor seventh - and V7 - dominant seventh - in various inversions in major key.) but the main point is the rule will give a foundation in hearing conventional diatonic harmony. Seventh chords other than ii7 and V7 will be heard in contrast to rule of the octave.

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Another thing you can do is play seventh chords in a variety of harmonic sequences, both diatonic and chromatic.

This is one in "classical" style...

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Notice the harmonization changes if the bass ascends or descends. The linked document also show the rule for minor.

The rule of the octave is diatonic. But you can also play seventh chord sequences chromatically. There are lots of ways you could play the chords, but a fairly simple way is to play incomplete chord using a sequence of fourths and fifths for the major, dominant, and minor sevenths...

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...each of those three sections should continue transposition the sequence until you complete the octave.

Diminished harmony is a bit different. In order to clearly here the quality of diminished seventh chords you must play all 4 tones. You can play half-diminished chords with the bass moving by descending fifths and also for fully diminished sevenths. But, another interesting pattern for playing the diminished seventh chords (there are only three) is a chromatic scale in the bass with the chords moving in contrary motion by whole steps...

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Again, sing along when you play these on keyboard. You can either select a part - like the alto part - and sing just the part as you play. Or, you can play the chord and hold it while you sing up and down the tones of the chord.

...going to musictheory.net and trying to learn by mistakes the seventh chords...I think it is too difficult to achieve...Is there other, more optimal, methods to detect them?

My suggestions above are a systematic approach in three parts. Start with basic diatonic harmony including ii7 and V7 which are by far the most common seventh chords. Then play all diatonic seventh chords in a diatonic sequence. Then play each of the main seventh chord types in chromatic sequence. Do the first two parts in C major, move on to other keys as you can. If that's overwhelming, don't try the chromatic third part until you get a handle on the diatonic stuff. But, don't be afraid to try the chromatic ones in the beginning, in small stages.

There is a lot of content above, and the keyboard playing/staff reading may be daunting, but you must take the long view. Don't be discouraged. Keep working at it and pace yourself by week, month, and year. If you don't stop you will make progress. Just understand it won't come in one week.


All (most) seventh chords contain either a major or a minor triad as their base.

That's the first hurdle to get over. By being able to play chords and arpeggios that are simple triads. Without that, trying to identify four notes will be very tricky.Arpeggios are useful as they split up the chord into separate notes, listened to individually.

The key note defining major or minor is the 3. Let's take key C. C maj. is C E G. C min. is C E♭ G.

Both C maj7 and C dom7 have major as their base triad. The difference comes in the 7th note itself. C maj7 has B, whereas C7 has B&flat.

Cm7 has the minor triad, with B♭ as the 7th .

That's the technical part - play each, listen, and try to identify the 3rd and 7th notes. Even if it's not a C based chord, mentally it's fine to consider it that way, at least for now.

Another way that some recognise each is the 'feeling' it evokes. Maybe C7 comes over as a 'rock and roll', or 'blues' feel. Maybe maj7 comes over as 'dreamy', or 'pensive'. Maybe Cm7 comes over as the chord in that Allman Brothers song -- you get the picture - aurally, I hope.

There are several other 'seventh' chords, so don't think it's finished !

C diminished 7, C half-diminished 7, Cm maj7, C 7 augmented, C 7♭9, C 7♭5♭9 all crop up from time to time. But for now, the three most common are Cmaj7, Cm7 and C(dom)7. Good luck!


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