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Exotic 7th Chord Workout for Advanced Jazz Musicians

7th chords have been covered here before on LJS, so in this post, I want to expand our ideas about 7th chords and offer up a fun way to practice 7th chords in all 12 keys.

Most of us are already pretty familiar with the most basic and common types of 7th chords: major, dominant, minor, half-diminished, and fully diminished (if you want a quick review, click here).

But a 7th chord can be any combination of 4 notes stacked in thirds with all the possible combinations of lowering and raising the top 3 notes a half step.

So first, let’s look at some of the less common but super interesting possible 7th chord varieties:

#1: 7(b5) usually implies C Lydian, though it could also imply C Lydian augmented (A melodic minor played from C)

#2: 7(#5) could imply C Lydian augmented, C Ionian #5 (A harmonic minor played from C), or C harmonic major (C major with a b6)

#3: C7(b5) could imply C Lydian dominant (also called C Mixolydian #4), C diminished dominant (C diminished starting with a half-step), C altered, or C whole tone

#4: C7(#5) could imply C altered or C whole tone

#5: C-(maj.7) strongly implies C melodic or harmonic minor

#6: (maj7,#5) could imply C diminished or C harmonic minor (sometimes called “minor augmented”)

#7: (maj.7) implies C diminished (starting with a whole step)

#8: 7(sus4) implies C Ionian (C major)

#9: C7sus4 often implies C Mixolydian (though it could very likely also imply C Dorian or C Phrygian)

#10: Cmaj7(sus4,b5) implies C diminished

#11: C7(sus4,b5) could imply some type of C Locrian (Locrian, Locrian natural 2, or Locrian natural 6)

Here are all of these somewhat exotic and obscure 7th chords notated:

And here’s the exercise notated.

The idea is to arpeggiate the 7th chords in this order (or whatever order you like) so you can get to know what the feel like and sound like on your instrument (be sure to think about the root name and quality of the chord you’re arpeggiating as you practice for best results).

If you don’t like this order, feel free to try mixing it up. I enjoy trying to find a sequence of 7th chords where I’m arpeggiating chords and changing only 1 or 2 notes per chord.

Happy practicing!

Josiah Boornazian
Josiah Boornazian is a saxophonist, composer, educator, and scholar primarily active in Brownsville, New York City, Miami, and California. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Jazz and Applied Saxophone at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. For more information, please visit:


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