Exposed: Application Of The Major Seventh Chord In Gospel Music Harmony

Today, we will be looking at the application of the major seventh chord in gospel music harmony.

A vast majority of musicians have learned and can play the major seventh chord, however, only a few have a clear understanding of the diverse applications of the major seventh chord.

So many top players use the major seventh chord in the formation of other chord types and I’ll be showing you, step-by-step, how this is done.

Let’s get started by refreshing our minds on the major seventh chord.

A Quick Review On The Major Seventh Chord

For the sake of those who are not familiar with the major seventh chord, let’s start by answering the question: what is a major seventh chord?

“What Is A Major Seventh Chord?”

The major seventh chord is a chord of the first tone in the major key, encompassing a seventh and consisting of the first, third, fifth, and seventh tones of the scale.

In the key of C major:

…the major seventh chord can be formed on the first tone (which is C):

…encompassing a seventh (from C to B):

…and consisting of the first, third, fifth, and seventh tones of the C major scale (which are C, E, G, and B):

“Check Out All The Major Seventh Chords On The Keyboard…”


C major seventh chord:

Db major seventh chord:

D major seventh chord:

Eb major seventh chord:

E major seventh chord:

F major seventh chord:

Gb major seventh chord:

G major seventh chord:

Ab major seventh chord:

A major seventh chord:

Bb major seventh chord:

B major seventh chord:


Alright! Considering that we’ve refreshed our minds on the seventh chord, let’s go into its application in harmony.

Here Are Different Ways To Apply The Major Seventh Chord

#1. The Application Of The Major Seventh Chord In The Formation Of Chord 1

The major seventh chord can be applied in the formation of the chord of the first degree. It’s as simple as forming a major seventh chord on the first tone of the scale.

In the key of Ab major:

…the major seventh chord can be formed on the first tone (which is Ab):

…consequently, the Ab major seventh chord:

…which is chord 1 in the key of Ab major.

#2. The Application Of The Major Seventh Chord In The Formation Of Chord 2

The major seventh chord can be applied in the formation of chord 2: the chord of the second tone of the scale.

The major seventh that corresponds with the root of the second tone is always three half-steps above the second tone of the scale.

In the key of Ab major:

…the second tone is Bb:

The corresponding major seventh chord is three half-steps above Bb:

“Quickly…”

What tone is three half-steps above Bb?

Answer: Db

Bb to B:

…first half-step.

B to C:

…second half-step.

C to Db:

…third half-step.

“Alright!”

So the corresponding major seventh chord (which is the Db major seventh chord):

…played over the second tone of the scale (which is Bb):

…produces chord 2 (the Bb minor ninth chord):

Following the same procedure, chord 2 can be formed in any degree of the scale.

#3. The Application Of The Major Seventh Chord In The Formation Of Chord 3

The chord of the third degree (aka – “chord 3”) can also be formed using the major seventh chord.

Just like the formation of chord 2, the major seventh that corresponds with the root of the second tone is always three half-steps above the third tone of the scale.

In the key of Ab major:

…the third tone is C:

The corresponding major seventh chord is three half-steps above C:

“Quickly…”

Three half-steps above C:

…is Eb:

C to Db:

…first half-step.

Db to D:

…second half-step.

D to Eb:

…third half-step.

“Alright!”

So the corresponding major seventh chord (which is the Eb major seventh chord):

…played over the third tone of the scale (which is C):

…produces chord 3 (the C minor ninth chord):

Following the same procedure, chord 2 can be formed in any degree of the scale.

#4. The Application Of The Major Seventh Chord In The Formation Of Chord 4

The chord of the fourth degree can also be formed using the major seventh chord. It’s not difficult. All you need to do is to form a major seventh chord on the fourth tone of the scale.

In the key of Ab major:

…the major seventh chord can be formed on the fourth tone (which is Db):

…consequently, the Db major seventh chord:

…which is chord 4 in the key of Ab major.

#5. The Application Of The Major Seventh Chord In The Formation Of Chord 5

In the formation of the chord of the fifth degree of the scale (aka – “chord 5”) the major seventh chord can be applied.

The corresponding major seventh chord is always a whole step below the fifth tone of the scale.

In the key of Ab major:

…where the fifth tone is Eb:

…the corresponding major seventh chord is a whole-step below Eb:

…and that’s Db:

Playing the corresponding major seventh chord (which is the Db major seventh chord):

…over the fifth tone of the scale (which is Eb):

…produces the chord of the fifth degree (which is the Eb dominant thirteenth [suspended fourth] chord):

Chord 5 can be formed in any key as well, following the procedure.

#6. The Application Of The Major Seventh Chord In The Formation Of Chord 6

The major seventh chord can be applied in the formation of chord 6: the chord of the sixth tone of the scale.

The major seventh that corresponds with the root of the sixth tone is always three half-steps above the sixth tone of the scale.

In the key of Ab major:

…the sixth tone is F:

The corresponding major seventh chord is three half-steps above F:

“Quickly…”

What tone is three half-steps above F?

Answer: Ab

F to Gb:

…first half-step.

Gb to G:

…second half-step.

G to Ab:

…third half-step.

“Alright!”

So, the corresponding major seventh chord (which is the Ab major seventh chord):

…played over the sixth tone of the scale (which is F):

…produces chord 6 (the F minor ninth chord):

Following the same procedure, chord 6 can be formed in any degree of the scale.

Final Words

Those are different ways the major seventh chord can be explored. Try as much as possible to practicalize these in all the twelve major keys on the keyboard.

Most top players apply these seventh chords using the left hand especially while in a band situation, playing with a bass player, and that frees up the right hand to play upper structure chords, runs, and licks.

See you in the next lesson!

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Chuku Onyemachi

Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. I started teaching musicians in my neighbourhood in April 2005. Today, I'm humbled to work as a music consultant with HearandPlay Music Group for musicians in Africa and beyond.