When it comes to intervals in music, the 7th is the biggest one before you get to an octave and start going around again. Knowing where common intervals fall across guitar strings is a useful skill to have for both improvising and working out guitar chords quickly and easily.

This guitar lesson looks specifically at the 7th interval (both the major and minor). Not how it falls into a chord or how to make chords with a 7th. Here’s how to play 7th chords on guitar if that’s what you’re looking for. Let’s explore the 7th, what it is, what it sounds like, and how to play it.

What Is A 7th?

A seventh is a musical interval that comes in two distinct flavours: major and minor.

The major 7th spans 11 semitones (11 guitar frets). Since an entire octave is 12 semitones, you’ll see that the major 7th falls just short. And of course it does! Typical scales in Western music contain eight notes (including the octave), so obviously the 7th is the last one before starting again.

The minor 7th, on the other hand, is one semitone lower, so only spans 10 semitones.

What Does A 7th Sound Like?

Since the 7th comes in both major and minor varieties, you need to remember two ways it sounds. That’s why it’s easier to remember popular songs where the interval appears.

For the major 7th, you’ll find that the interval is a bit dissonant and uncomfortable. This is because it’s so close to being an octave, the ear wants it to go up. Listen to the chorus of Take On Me by A-ha. The first two words (“take” and “on”) are a major 7th. It’s a bit of a leap to sing yourself, especially because the next note (“me”) goes up to the octave. You may not be able to sing it yourself, but you can hear it in your head.

For the minor 7th, the first two notes of Somewhere from Westside Story are a minor 7th. If you’re not terribly into musical theatre, perhaps you’ll have trouble remembering this one, but it was hard to find famous songs with this interval! 7ths (both major and minor) are such big jumps, and they’re dissonant, they’re not often found in melodies.

Playing A Major And Minor 7th On The Same String

Since a major 7th is 11 frets and a minor 7th is 10 frets, it’s not really an interval that you’ll often play on the same string. However, it does happen!

Single String Major And Minor 7th On Guitar

In the diagram, the bottom string shows a major 7th while the string above shows a minor 7th.

Finding Major 7ths Across Guitar Strings

If you’ve read my lesson on finding octaves on the guitar, you’ll be able to easily find a 7th. The major 7th is just a semitone below the octave and the minor 7th is a full tone below the octave.

Here’s a diagram showing major 7ths across the guitar strings. Each interval is in a different colour.

Diagram showing major 7ths across the guitar strings.

Remember that, because of the guitar’s unique tuning, the fingering is different across the B string.

Finding Minor 7ths Across Guitar Strings

The minor 7th is just one semitone lower than the major 7th, so all you need to do is bring your finger back one fret on the higher string. Here’s what it looks like in a diagram with the different intervals in different colours.

Diagram showing minor 7th intervals across guitar strings.

How To Practice 7th On Guitar

The minor 7th appears in the minor pentatonic scale and the Blues pentatonic scale, so if you’re jamming in either of these scales, add a couple jumps in there for fun. This interval wants to move up to the root note, so it can be a good interval for the end of a phrase before you land on the root again.

Finding opportunities to play a major 7th don’t come up as easily, unless you’re playing a whole major scale. That being said, you can spice up a general major pentatonic solo by throwing in an unexpected major 7th. It will be a little different, but could be fun!

 

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