I've been practicing seventh chords on piano using a number of patterns.

I'm playing all four inversions for major, minor, half-diminished, and dominant sevenths.

One pattern I use is to play full four note voicings in each hand and ascend or descend the octave. My target speed is around eighth notes at 60 bpm.

I do a variation on this where I play each chord in three octaves before ascending/descending to the next root. That pattern is at a much slower rhythm. I also try shakes between two finders while holding the other two fingers down. Another is arpeggiating the chord along the lines of Girl With the Flaxen Hair at m. 24.

I think this is helping me get to the point where I can instantly hit just about any common chord in any voicing anywhere on the keyboard.

Any recommendations for or against these kinds of drills? Are there particular aspects to focus on?

3 Answers 3


This is effective 100% as long you are reflecting what you’re playing. When it becomes fully autmatisized it could be hindering the development of harmonic understanding. The controlling can be by audtive or notation or the abbreviation vor the chords.


All that is all very well. How often do you think you're going to be playing a piece where you're expected to play any seventh chord arp. and then play one a semitone up or down? Probably never? So why not reach reality and play them in a real situation, in a sequence from real songs?

  • 2
    Not all drills work that way. How often do you play two octave scales in contrary motion in real music. I've never seen that in Mozart, Haydn, etc. I've seen other drills that move by chromatic root, but not specifically for seventh chord But I am also playing other patterns like sequences of descending fifths or fourths. Feb 12, 2019 at 21:02
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    Actually, parallel-chromatically descending seventh chords are common in Blues – of course this is very easy on guitar. Feb 12, 2019 at 21:26
  • @leftaroundabout, that's a good point, in the turnaround esp. parallel chords. In fact I've had trouble with those moves even though it wasn't the purpose of this exercise for me. As you mention, it's easy on guitar, but on piano there are a lot of finger adjustments. My fingers get 'tied up in knots' and I was trying to work through that. Feb 12, 2019 at 22:07
  • You're right about scale playing. In the real world they generally need to be learned, thus practised, for exam purposes only! Not a lot of use for playing real music! Perhaps a more practical, because it happens in music, would be to go through the cycle of fourths/fifths.
    – Tim
    Feb 13, 2019 at 8:33

I do a similar thing but without inversions. I just go across all scales and arpeggiate each of the seven diatonic seventh chords. So in major it'd be Imaj7, ii7, iii7, IVmaj7, V7, vi7, viidim7. Really try to commit all notes and especially each chord's overall sound to memory. Then after going linearly from 1-7, randomly think of a progression for example 2-5-1. As far as inversions, I find that they take care of themselves once I know the sound so I just try the different inversions when I'm playing an actual song.

Another thing I've been doing is not looking at my fingers as I play the scale or these chord based arpeggios. You can use the black keys as braille to know where you are. I'm not quite there yet but I keep practicing this. I think looking at the keys is detrimental because then you start seeing visual patterns instead of "feeling patterns". To me, muscle memory is of higher importance, much like touch typing on a computer keyboard.

As an aside, I find that if you have a miniature midi controller such as Keith McMillen's K-Board or Korg Nanokey2 it helps with practice inside of a workplace cubicle when you need a break (I'm a software engineer). Because they don't really look like standard piano keyboards, and are so tiny, nobody really notices. Funny I was practicing sevenths right when you wrote this question.

  • I have a few cheatsheets of harmonic sequences to practice. Ascending/descending chromatically is just one of them. These seventh chord patterns I'm trying may have some application in jazz, but I was thinking more along the lines of Satie and Debussy or neoclassical stuff. Feb 12, 2019 at 21:19
  • @MichaelCurtis sequences are really cool. I heard alot about them from classical improvisation videos I've seen. but I haven't found much videos on them.
    – user34288
    Feb 12, 2019 at 21:22

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