What Are Major and Minor 7ths and How Are They Formed?

Erik Satie's Gymnopédie 1
The first 8 bars of Erik Satie's Gymnopédie 1.

Erik Satie / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

You usually see these symbols on music sheets but may not know what they mean. The symbol used to signify a major 7th is maj7 while min7 stands for minor 7th. Here is an explanation of what is the difference between these two types of chords and how they are formed.

Playing the Major 7th

The major 7th chord is formed by playing the root (1st) + 3rd + 5th + 7th notes of a . It is important to learn how to form the major scales and assign the numbers 1 to 7 (with 1 assigned to the ) in order to learn how to play a major 7th chord easily. Here are the major 7th chords in every key:

Cmaj7 = C - E - G - B
Dmaj7 = D - F# - A - C#
Emaj7 = E - G# - B - D#
Fmaj7 = F - A - C - E
Gmaj7 = G - B - D - F#
Amaj7 = A - C# - E - G#
Bmaj7 = B - D# - F# - A#
C#maj7 = C# - E# (F) - G# - B# (C)
Dbmaj7 = Db - F - Ab - C
Ebmaj7 = Eb - G - Bb - D
F#maj7 = F# - A# - C# - E# (F)
Gbmaj7 = Gb - Bb - Db - F
Abmaj7 = Ab - C - Eb - G
Bbmaj7 = Bb - D - F - A

Playing the Minor 7th

A minor 7th chord is formed based on the major 7th chord, by lowering the 3rd and 7th note a half step (also means to flatten the 3rd and 7th). Here are the minor 7th chords in every key:

Cm7 = C - Eb - G - Bb
Dm7 = D - F - A - C
Em7 = E - G - B - D
Fm7 = F - Ab - C - Eb
Gm7 = G - Bb - D - F
Am7 = A - C - E - G
Bm7 = B - D - F# - A
C#m7 = C# - E - G# - B
Dbm7 = Db - E - Ab - B
Ebm7 = Eb - Gb - Bb - Db
F#m7 = F# - A - C# - E
Gbm7 = Gb - A - Db - E
Abm7 = Ab - B - Eb - Gb
Bbm7 = Bb - Db - F - Ab