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How does one "read" a 7 in a chord? That is, how is the 7 interpreted in words? For example, "F#" is read as "F# major," "F#m" is read as "F# minor," and "F#7" is read as "F# major [???]."

Please consider that my knowledge of music theory terminology is very limited, and answer this question accordingly—thank you!

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In words, we just say "F# seven" when we see "F#7," but occasionally people will be extra clear and say "F# dominant seven." "F#M7" we would clarify as "F# major seven," "F#m7" we would clarify as "F# minor seven," and so on.

(Note that in some regions people say "F# seventh," but it means the same thing.)

If you're also asking about why that particular 7 is an E, check out Why is a C7 chord named a dominant seventh chord?

  • Yes it does. You count the numbers from the bass note of the chord (i.e. F#) not from the key signature of the music. In some musical genres you will come across other numbers like 9, 11, 13, plus accidentals like "b9" or "9b" and words like "omit5" or "sus4". – user19146 May 27 '17 at 22:02
  • Maybe I was unclear; I just meant that you have to be clear which scale you're thinking of, because the 7 in F#7, if it's a ii7, is not scale-degree 7. – Richard May 27 '17 at 22:05
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Basic triad chords are made up from 1, 3 and 5. So in your case, it'll be F# A# and C#. To change the sound from major to minor, the 3 is flattened. So F#m consists of F# A and C#. It's the starting block for most of Western harmony.

The '7' part uses - surprise - the 7th note as well. This is where confusion comes in.There are four simple chords using a 7th of some kind. For simplicity, I'll just use the notes, and not go into theory.

The major 7 uses the major triad plus the major 7th note. F# A# C# E#.

The minor 7 uses the minor triad plus the minor 7th note. F# A C# E.

The dominant 7 uses the major triad plus the b7 note. F# A# C# E.

The minor major 7 uses the minor triad plus maj7 note. F# A C# E#.

When we call a chord simply 'F# seven(th)', the reason is most likely because the dominant seven chord is the most commonly used, so the name gets shortened for convenience.Others will need qualifying.

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