Triads and 7th Chords

By beginning with a thorough explanation of jazz chord symbols we will lay a solid foundation on which to build.  This first lesson will address triads and 7th chords.

Use the attached documents at the bottom of this article, in conjunction with this (and the next) lesson.  Chords with more than 4 notes will be explained in lesson #2: Chordal Extensions and Alterations.

* note: at 1:31 in the video, I mistakenly typed b5, when it should be a natural 5.

I. Triads:

There are four basic triad types: major, minor, diminished and augmented.

Assign numbers to each note, in relation to a major scale.  Below, after listing the numbers for each chord type, I have listed several chord symbols one might encounter, beginning with my preference.  For this example I will use the key of D.

Major: 1, 3, 5 D
Minor: 1, b3, 5 Dmi, Dm, Dmin, D-
Diminshed: 1, b3, b5 Ddim, Do
Augmented: 1, 3, #5 Daug, Dx, D+, D(#5)

II. Seventh Chords


Now, let’s progress to 4-note, “seventh” chords, working our way through the various chord families.  In tonic chords (both major & minor) the sixth can substitute for the seventh.

Major Family (tonic function):

Maj7:    1, 3, 5, 7

Maj6:    1, 3, 5, 6

Maj7(#5):    1, 3, #5, 7

Minor Family (tonic function):

mi(maj7):    1, b3, 5, 7

mi6:    1, b3, 5, 6

Dominant Family (also known as “seventh chords”):

7:    1, 3, 5, b7

7(b5):    1, 3, b5, b7

7(#5):    1, 3, #5, b7

Minor pre-dominant Family:

mi7:     1, b3, 5, b7

mi7(b5):     1, b3, b5, b7


dim7:      1, b3, b5, 6

PDF Attachments:

Chord Construction Worksheet
Chord Symbol Notation & Identification

KEY – Chord Construction Worksheet

Homework Practice Assignments:

  1. Construct all of the above listed chords in 2 keys every day.  On “day 1”, work in the keys of C and Db. On “day 2”, play through D and Eb, etc.  Because you will be relating all numeric formulas to major scales, play the scale first, before building any chords.
  2. If you have a firm grasp of the 12 major scales, have a friend quiz you, asking for random, root position triads in random keys. For example: Emi, Bbdim, Faug, B, etc.

Comments are closed.