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Exploring the Depths of the Minor 7 Chord

The minor 7 chord is a cornerstone of modern harmony, widely utilized across various genres from jazz to pop to classical. Its rich, warm sound adds depth and emotion to musical progressions, making it a favorite among composers and performers alike. This article delves into the minor 7 chord, its construction, typical occurrences in major and minor keys, common progressions that feature it, famous songs utilizing it, guitar fingerings, and practical shortcuts for quickly finding it. 

The Anatomy of the Minor 7 Chord

At its core, the minor 7 chord is built from four notes:

1. Root (1st): The starting note of the chord.

2. Minor Third (♭3): Three half-steps above the root.

3. Perfect Fifth (5th): Seven half-steps above the root.

4. Minor Seventh (♭7): Ten half-steps above the root.

For example, in an Am7 chord:

- The root is A.

- The minor third is C.

- The perfect fifth is E.

- The minor seventh is G.

This combination of intervals creates a chord that is both stable and sonorous, exuding a gentle melancholic beauty.

The Role of the Minor 7 Chord in Keys

The minor 7 chord plays crucial roles in both major and minor keys, contributing to a variety of harmonic functions.

In Major Keys:

In major keys, the minor 7 chord often appears on the second, third, and sixth degrees of the scale. For instance, in the key of C major:

- The second degree is D, giving us Dm7 (D, F, A, C).

- The third degree is E, giving us Em7 (E, G, B, D).

- The sixth degree is A, giving us Am7 (A, C, E, G).

These chords provide essential harmonic diversity and are often used to create smooth and natural-sounding progressions. The ii7 and vi7 chords are particularly important in jazz and pop music, frequently appearing in progressions like ii7 - V7 - I and vi7 - ii7 - V7 - I.

In Minor Keys:

In minor keys, the minor 7 chord is typically found on the first and fourth degrees of the scale. For example, in A minor:

- The first degree is A, giving us Am7 (A, C, E, G).

- The fourth degree is D, giving us Dm7 (D, F, A, C).

These chords are fundamental in establishing the tonal center of minor keys and providing a rich, textural contrast to the often more tense harmonic elements of minor key music.

Common Chord Progressions

The minor 7 chord features prominently in a variety of essential progressions:

1. ii7 - V7 - I in major keys: A staple in jazz and pop, such as Dm7 - G7 - C in C major.

2. i7 - iv7 - v7 in minor keys: A foundational progression in blues and jazz, such as Am7 - Dm7 - Em7 in A minor.

3. vi7 - ii7 - V7 - I: A classic turnaround in jazz standards, such as Am7 - Dm7 - G7 - C in C major.

Famous Standards Featuring the Minor 7 Chord

The minor 7 chord is a beloved ingredient in countless songs across genres. Notable examples include:

- "So What" by Miles Davis: This iconic jazz piece revolves around a Dm7 - Em7 progression, defining the modal jazz sound. It can also be heard in “Footprints” by Wayne Shorter

- "The Thrill is Gone" by B.B.  King: The song features Bm7 and Em7 chords, adding depth to its melancholic melody. This is a classic example of a minor blues chord progression.

- "Ain’t No Sunshine" by Bill Withers: The smooth, laid-back groove relies heavily on minor 7 chords, giving it a soulful feel. This song is also based around the minor blues chord progression, but is built entirely from minor 7th chords.

Common Fingerings on Guitar

For guitarists, mastering the minor 7 chord is essential. Here are some common shapes for the Am7 chord:

1. Open Position:









2. Root on the 4th String (A String):







   E|--- --


3. Root on the 5th String (A String):







   E|------- --


4. Root on the 6th String (E String):









These shapes can be moved up and down the neck to form other minor 7 chords.

Shortcuts for Finding the Minor 7 Chord

A practical shortcut for quickly finding a minor 7 chord is to start with a minor triad and add a minor seventh. For instance, to form Am7 from an A minor chord:

1. Locate the A minor triad: A, C, E.

2. Add the minor seventh (G).

Alternatively, you can take a major 7 chord shape and lower both the third and the seventh by one half-step. For example, to find Am7 from A major:

1. Locate the A major triad: A, C#, E.

2. Lower the third (C#) by a half-step to C.

3. Lower the seventh (G#) by a half-step to G.

Using the Minor 7th Chord as an Extension

The minor 7th chord can also be found in the upper structure of extended chords. For example, a Cmaj9 chord contains the notes of Em7. An Am11 chord as an Em7 chord contained within it. This is an advanced technique where large chords contain many smaller chords. If you master it, you can expand your chord playing vocabulary to create interesting and colorful parts that evoke extended jazzy sounds.


The minor 7 chord, with its warm and rich sound, is a fundamental element of music that transcends genres and styles. Its role in both major and minor keys, its appearance in essential progressions, and its frequent use in beloved songs make it an indispensable tool for any musician.

For guitarists, learning the common fingerings and practical shortcuts for finding the minor 7 chord can significantly expand your harmonic toolkit. Whether you're delving into jazz, pop, blues, or any other genre, the minor 7 chord offers a wealth of expressive possibilities that can enhance your musical journey. So embrace the minor 7 chord and let its mellow tones enrich your playing and compositions.



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