I'm trying to figure out a good way to add sevenths to my practice. One thing I did with triads is I'd take a scale, and then starting from each note in the scale play the arpeggio for the corresponding diatonic triad chord (I, ii, iii, etc).

I'd like to get better at sevenths though. Should I just add a sevenths to my arpeggio practice. For example in major, instead of diatonic triads play diatonic sevenths like I7, ii7, iii7, IV7, V7, vi7, viiø7.

Is this a good way to practice sevenths or maybe there's something better? My goal is to develop more harmonic ideas for improvisation/composition as well as being able to jam with others and have more "vocabulary" than just triads. I mainly play pop and some classical. Jazz isn't really my thing, but I like the "dreamy" sound of sevenths at times. If you saw my last question it was about the arpeggio section of Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and sevenths are used quite a lot in there. That type of sound is what I'm drawn to. I figure that after triads the most important chords to know are sevenths.

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    What specifically are you wanting to use sevenths for? Are you wanting to be able to arpeggiate them like you do the triads? Are you wanting to learn to use them in left hand accompaniment for jazz piano, for instance? Are you just wanting to be familiar with all the diatonic sevenths and how they're spelled, and what chord quality they are? This would help to know when giving you practice ideas. – Kevin H Sep 13 at 22:27
  • @KevinH I edited the question thanks. – foreyez Sep 13 at 22:34
  • @foreyez Is this for piano? – Richard Sep 13 at 23:30
  • @Richard yeah I edited the keywords – foreyez Sep 13 at 23:32

I wouldn't even say you need to arpeggiate them. Just drill all your seventh chords in root position in every key (starting with diatonic sevenths, then experimenting with altered fifths, for instance). But get to know them by heart. Know your dominant seventh, your supertonic minor seventh, etc. in every key by heart so you can reproduce them instantly on command.

Experiment with different inversions and voicings so you know them in and out.

A few tips:

1) As you go, just work on a few chords at a time. Don't try to tackle all the sevenths at once. Start with learning a couple (V7 and ii7 for instance) in every key, then when you've mastered those, add a couple more into the mix. Take your time to know them well.

2) The end goal should be to know the spelling (what notes are in them) of every chord in every key by heart, as well as to know how every kind of seventh chord (major, minor, major-minor, diminished, half-diminished, etc) sounds by ear. I realize this is a lofty goal, but will be very beneficial if you want full harmonic variety and freedom in improv.

3) As you learn them, begin substituting the sevenths in place of triads in your improv/jam sessions. You'll discover what inversions/voicings/progressions sound good by experience.

From there, you can move on to learning the beautiful family of ninth and thirteenth chords, again starting simple before progressing to altered chords (raised/lowered fifths/ninths).

Happy practicing! Hope this helps!

  • Warning. Do not try to use sevenths for every single chord, even if you could!! – Tim Sep 14 at 6:49
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    @Tim I agree with your statement for the pop/classical music that OP is interested in. However it's worth mentioning that jazz/blues music uses almost exclusively sevenths, ninths, and thirteenths, and it's not unusual to play sevenths an entire song in a blues piece, for instance. – Kevin H Sep 14 at 7:11
  • The warning was for the OP, who patently has no interest in jazz. Well aware that extensions are de rigeur in jazz - use them all the time! Warning was for someone with a new toy... – Tim Sep 14 at 18:24
  • @Tim I gotcha. And I didn't realize til after I answered they aren't interested in jazz...I think that was a later edit that I missed. But it's all good. Great input, thanks for adding that caveat. That's the great thing about this community -- when an answer needs clarifying, others can add their own bits and pieces! – Kevin H Sep 14 at 18:30

A good way to learn anything musical is to, you know, play music. It helps if you like the music so it doesn't become a chore.

If you like the sounds of something, find a song that uses that, and learn to play that song.

In this case find a song that uses at least one 7th chord. Learn to play it. Once you have it down in one key, transpose it to another key.

So if you have a song that used C7 and G7 transpose it to up a step and play those new chords D7 and A7 in context. rinse and repeat.

If you find that you are struggling with one aspect of playing the part of the song that contains the 7th, try to come up with some exercises that will help. For example (building off your example in the question), if you find they are arpeggiating and you are struggling with that, work on arpeggio exercises with 7ths.

First you need to establish what '7ths' there are.

Major, minor, dominant, diminished, half-diminished, minor/major.

All are made up only slightly differently, but they're not really interchangeable. Each works best in one place in the harmony.

So, use the diatonics first - I-maj7, ii-m7, iii - m7, IV - amaj7, V - dom 7, vi - m7, vii - dim7.

Learn the make-up (spelling) for each, and how each may or may not fit in particular keys.

Of course practise them in arpeggio form, also as block chords and inversions. Then experiment with known songs to find where they're most effective. An obvious, well used ploy is going from I to IV. A dominant using I as base will sound like it's inevitable that IV will follow!

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