Updated: JANUARY, 2018 ● ASK A QUESTION
In this article we show you how to build the G7 chord by starting with a simple G root note and adding one interval at a time, which will give you both the easiest and more complex G7 chord voicings.
To understand and play the G7 chord you need to grasp the following aspects of music theory and chord composition:
- Chord extensions
While the term "triads" can refer to any group of three notes played together, it is more formally defined as a chord with the following components:
In other words a triad is a three-note chord where each note is stacked in thirds on top of one another. A chord "extension" is considered any additional note above those three intervals. Thus, a proper G7 chord is a triad with a seventh extension above the root note.
The problem here is that full form G7 chords tend to be difficult to play on the guitar. Our solution is to build those chords from scratch, starting with the root note and building into the more difficult G7 chords at the most prominent fretboard positions. We'll also look at ways to omit less critical intervals like the perfect fifth. For example, you can have a G7 chord with just the following three notes:
We'll build our G7 chords in simpler forms- from the root up, giving you easier voicings and arrangements to choose from. Before we get into that, let's start with a quick look at the two most common forms of the G7 chord in diagram and tablature form.
The Most Common G7 Chord Voicings
Tab sheet with two of the most common G7 chord formations. (View Larger Image)
Diagram with two of the G7 chord forms from the previous tab. (View Larger Image)
Other G Chord Guitar Resources
Finding the Root Positions of G
Despite being common "default" G7 chord formations, the two chords we've listed are not the most optimal. Our goal is to understand how to be as minimal or thorough as we want when playing a G7 chord. We shouldn't have to default to the most difficult or involved voicings.
To start building our understand of the G7 chord in this way we need to first identify the most common locations of the root G note on the fretboard. Bobby has written a resource on identifying fretboard notes if that's helpful for you. If not, just keep going and we'll give you the locations.
Once we find these locations we can build out a G7 chord at each spot.
Here are four spots on the fretboard where we commonly use the root G note as the beginning of a chord.
Four common spots on the fretboard where G occurs, establishing base camps for the G7 chord arrangements we're going to build. (View Larger Image)
While there are other spots on the fretboard where G notes naturally occur, these four are the easiest and most common places from which you can build chords. We'll build chords at each fret, giving us the following G7 chord forms:
- Third fret low register
- 10th fret high register
- Fifth fret high register
- Open high register
Make sure you memorize the G root notes at these locations. Whenever you need to play a G7 chord - or any G chord - these four spots should jump out in your mind as viable positions from which to start the chord. This will also help when improvising, particularly as it concerns to playing in a key and understanding the music theory governing your fretboard.
We'll use some of that music theory in this lesson to build up to our G7 chords one note at a time.
Now that we have our root notes, let's add a major third to all four positions.
Adding a Major Third to the G Root Note
Our G7 chord contains a major third, the second in our list of intervals, but is not the same as a Gmaj7 chord. This can be confusing if you don't know how the intervals are worked out and how the chords are named. Let's talk about this distinction first then build our dyadic chords.
What's the difference between G7 and Gmaj7?
It's easy to get G7 and Gmaj7 confused. However they are slightly different, making the interchangeable use of the two terms incorrect. Here's the note arrangement of each chord:
- Gmaj7: G, B, D, F♯
- G7: G, B, D, F
An easier way to remember it is that Gmaj7 has a major seventh and G7 has a minor seventh, distinctions which would apply to those two chords - maj7 and 7 - regardless of the root note. This is how we can have a major third but not a Gmaj7 chord. The "maj" in that chord title is referring to the type of seventh interval, not the type of third.
Root and Major Third
To establish a base dyad for our G7 chord, we add the major third interval to each root. This gives us a basic G major dyad with a root G and major third interval (B), which are extremely simple to play.
Here's each dyadic chord with its own bar:
Root and major third for each position creating a basic G major dyad. (View Larger Image)
Now that we have a root and major third we can build forms of the G7 chord without the fifth interval, which is the least crucial of the four notes in the chord. In other words, you need the root, third and minor seventh interval, but the fifth can be added later as the "most optional" element of our G7 chord shapes.
Adding the Minor Seventh Interval
Interval quality chart. (View Larger Image)
If you check the guitar intervals diagram above you'll see that a minor seventh is 10 semitones above the root note. This means that, in the case of our G root, the minor seventh of that G would be an F. We'll look for F notes that are easiest to play in relation to the root position.
The minor seventh interval is 10 semitones from the root, which in the case of a root G would be F. (View Larger Image)
For example, if our root G is positioned at the third fret on the sixth string, the most optimal minor seventh (F) would be positioned at the third fret on the fourth string.
Visualizing a compound interval, which is just an interval that exceeds 12 semitones. (View Larger Image)
Now, this is an F note an octave above the F that is 10 semitones above the root.
This is called a compound interval, which simply means you're using the same intervallic note at a different octave than the original. Any interval that is more than 12 semitones above the root is a compound interval. Applying this minor seventh interval to each dyadic pairing we get the following chords:
Four G7 chords comprised of a root, major third and minor seventh. (View Larger Image)
Despite omitting the fifth, these shapes sound the part of a G7 chord and are significantly easier to play. They're "theoretically correct" in that they provide all the crucial elements necessary to form a G7 chord. We've also avoided any kind of barring or full form chord shape.
Here's the diagram for all four G7 chords:
Diagram for all four G7 chords. (View Larger Image)
Note that for the form at the bottom left, there are two usable major thirds. When we add the perfect fifth to this chord shape, having both those available will become much more important.
Adding the Perfect Fifth
Once you're comfortable with the triadic G7 chord formations you can then take the leap of adding the perfect fifth and playing the full, formal shapes of the chords at each position.
This is a far more intuitive process than starting with these shapes since they're conceptually and technically difficult.
Here's a quick recap of what we've done instead:
- Plotted the root notes (G) at four common fretboard locations
- Paired each root with a major third, creating a basic G major dyad
- Added the minor seventh interval (F) to each dyadic pair
When you're ready, here's the full form of each G7 chord:
Full form of each G7 chord with the root, major third, perfect fifth and minor seventh. (View Larger Image)
And the diagram version:
Same chords in diagram form. (View Larger Image)
Note that for the shape on the bottom left with the root at the fifth fret we chose the major third (B) at the seventh fret-to make room for playing the fifth (D) on the third string at the seventh fret position. Also note that the D we used for the voicing on the bottom right inverts the chord, putting the fifth at the bass of the arrangement.
These shapes will take some getting used to and in most situations, shouldn't be your go-to G7 chords. While the additional perfect fifth interval is the only difference, they're still significantly more difficult than the triadic versions.
Moreover, some of the common G7 chord shapes are even more difficult.
We would advise being able to play to full form versions, but don't rely on them as your primary G7 option.
While it requires understanding some music theory, looking at guitar chords in the context of structure and chord building is more helpful than starting with full patterns that contain non-crucial intervals, like the perfect fifth. You'll have an easier time mastering the G7 chord using this method, starting at the most basic element - the root note - and building out from there.
To recap the build-out:
- Root note (start here)
- Major third
- Minor seventh (minor seventh for G7 chord, major seventh for Gmaj7 chord)
- Perfect fifth (end here)
Get the root notes down first and build up your knowledge of the chord from there. Not only will you learn the chord in a more functional way, but you'll also learn a lot of valuable theory that can be reused and applied to other chords and musical challenges.
For questions, disagreements or thoughtful additions to this guitar lesson, feel free to leave a line in the comments section below.
You can also get in touch with us via Twitter.
We have additional guitar lesson content that we recommend and/or have published, covering this and numerous other topics.
Additional Resources and References
Guitar Tricks lessons provides over 11,000 instructional videos, properly organized into courses that includes a ton of material on learning chords, chord progressions, rhythm guitar and the applicable theory. They'll even let you try it all out FREE for two weeks →
Flickr Commons image courtesy of Kmeron