Playing through EVERY key | Guitar seventh chords exercise | chords series, Ep. 10

chord melody chords how to learn guitar chords series jazz guitar music theory technique Dec 29, 2020

Here's a great guitar seventh chords exercise. This is how to practice seventh chords through EVERY key on the guitar. 

Weekly Lesson #55

*** Get my FREE essential 8 jazz chord shapes guitar booklet: https://bit.ly/3msntbe


Lesson Description

Last week I gave you an exercise for mastering several seventh chord quality shapes all over the guitar. 

But that approach doesn't address how those seventh chords can exist together to make progressions. 

In this lesson I'm going to show you how you can take those same guitar seventh chord shapes and map out which ones sound beautiful together in ANY key on the guitar.  

Once we can see the fretboard in this way learning and writing chord progressions that use seventh chords is a breeze. 

I LOVE powerful drills like this on their own but I always want to show you real music examples as well.

That's why I included the first phrase of a chord melody arrangement to a popular jazz standard that practically plays itself once we understand this amazing guitar exercise. 


Video Lesson Content Outline with Links:

0:00 - Lesson Introduction
0:22 - About this lesson & series
2:58 - Seventh chords in F on 6th string
3:45 - Seventh chords in Bb on 5th string
4:03 - Seventh chords in Eb on 4th string
4:42 - Crossing strings w/ seventh chords in a key off 6th
6:08 - Crossing strings w/ seventh chords in a key off 5th
7:33 - Seventh chords through Gb, B, E, A, D, G, & C
10:44 - Application: All the Things You Are chord melody
14:50 - Play any jazz chord using just 8 shapes 
16:08 - Outro / Up Next / Please Subscribe! :) 


Introduction

This is yet another jazz chord shapes guitar lesson. You’ll learn a very useful guitar seventh chords exercise to master root position seventh chords all over the guitar. 

This is episode 10 of a series on how to master chords on the guitar. Check out the whole series here

We started from the basics and we’re moving up into more advanced chords using super thorough exercises. 

In the last video, episode 9, I gave you the first of two exercises that I always recommend for thoroughly practicing seventh chords all over the guitar. 

That last exercise was a parallel practice method called the Chord Quality Cycle Exercise. That means we played a bunch of different chord types off of the same root.

This exercise is going to be a relative exercise, which means we’re going to practice all the seventh chords that exist together within one key. 

At the end I’ll give you a specific little solo guitar arrangement that uses these exact shapes to practice them in a musical way. 

Definitely check out the other lessons in this series, especially if anything is confusing, because I explain a ton from the ground up throughout these videos. 

Episode 8, for example, was a full lesson just on the music theory of how seventh chords are constructed and why. 

Even if you know this material conceptually, having thorough exercises like this is absolutely essential if we want to really apply this knowledge to our guitar playing in real music.

In episode 4 of this series, on understanding chord numbers in a key (one of my faves so far), we learned how to play these triad shapes through the major scale along the 5th string. 

This lesson is expanding on that. We’re going to do the same thing but add the seventh to each chord and then do it off of the 6th and 4th string as well. 

And THEN we’re going to do that through every single key while jumping between strings so we can see these tonal chord relationships when crossing strings as well as along single strings. 

I did a video lesson a while back that uses these same guitar seventh chord shapes along the 5th string but with added diminished 7 passing chords in between (which sounds really cool!). We won’t be using diminished 7 passing chords in this lesson, so check that lesson out if you’re interested. 


Guitar Seventh Chords Through the Key of ‘F’ Along the 6th String

For this exercise we’ll start in the key of F major. We’re starting in F simply because it’s the lowest fretted note. We want as much room as possible to go up the neck without using open strings. 

Here are the chord shapes we get when we play seventh chords through the F major scale along the 6th string. 

Be able to play those chord shapes up and down the neck in the key of F major. 

If you’re using a guitar that doesn’t allow you to play past the octave fret, don’t stop and turn around wherever you need to. Don’t worry about going all the way up if your guitar neck is short or if you don’t have a cutaway. We’ll be doing this through every key, so you’ll get plenty of practice with every shape. 

These seventh chord shapes and the music theory of them should be familiar from other videos in this series, so I’m just giving you the straight-up exercise in this lesson. This is all about what to practice to be able to master how seventh chords from a major scale fit together within keys all over the guitar. 


Guitar Seventh Chords Through the Key of ‘Bb’ Along the 5th String

When we change keys we want to go through the circle of fourths, so the key of B flat major is next. 

To go through the circle of fourths just move to whatever key is up a fourth from where you were after playing all the chords up and down through the previous key.

Here are the chord shapes we get when we play seventh chords through the B flat major scale along the 5th string. 

Be able to play those up and down. 


Guitar Seventh Chords Through the Key of ‘Eb’ Along the 4th String

Up another fourth is Eb, so let’s go through those shapes.

Here are the chord shapes we get when we play seventh chords through the E flat major scale along the 4th string. 
 


Crossing Strings with Seventh Chords

Those three keys were for the sake of playing up and down the neck and for giving us all the shapes we need to play in every single key for the rest of the full exercise. 

As we play the seventh chords through the rest of the keys we’re going to cross strings. This allows us to see the chord relationships within a key in another way and lets us eventually jump to distant chords in the same physical position—without having to jump way up the neck. 


Guitar Seventh Chords Through the Key of ‘Ab’ - Crossing Strings with Root Path 1

The next key is A flat and we’re going to start with Ab major 7 rooted on the 6th string. 

In order to cross strings with the chords we need to follow what I call a path or a root path. 

A root path is just a form structure on the fretboard—just like a scale form—but we play  chords off of each note instead of just playing them as single notes. 

This is our root path for playing seventh chords through a major key anytime we start on the 6th string (except for the key of F major).

Looks just like a scale diagram right? Well it is, except we want to follow each note as the root of a chord.

Play the ‘Imaj7’ chord off of ‘1’, play the ii-7 chord off of ‘2’, etc… 

We’ll call this “Path 1”.

Be able to play the seventh chords through this path starting A flat (the 4th fret of the 6th string). 

Follow the root path for the fret position of each chord, and play the shapes in this order.


You eventually want to be able to do this from memory, but using the chord charts at first is totally fine. 

Make sure you always come back down after playing up the scale. 

From now on anytime we start with the ‘I’ chord on the 6th string you’ll follow ‘Root Path 1’ in that exact same way. 


Guitar Seventh Chords Through the Key of ‘Db’ - Crossing Strings with Root Path 2

If we go up a fourth, the next key is Db. 

This time we want to start on the 5th string and follow a different path.

This is ‘Root Path 2’

 

Whenever we start our chords through the key on the 5th string we want to follow this path (except for the key of Bb).

There’s one catch to this path though: I want you to play the chords on the 6th string that are below the tonic chord as well. 

We want to play the chords below the tonic because we won’t see them as options if we don’t. 

So for this path you should play up and down starting on ‘1’ as you normally would, then play vii, vi, and V on the 6th string before resolving back to ‘I’. 

See the video here for a demonstration of this. 

Follow the root path for the fret position of each chord, and play the shapes in this order starting on Db on the 5th string.

 


Play that up and down and remember to add the chords below as well. 


Repeat Through the Rest of the Keys

That’s everything we need to play to play through the rest of the keys! And we’re almost halfway done anyway. There are only seven more keys to play through. 

Note that the only key in the entire exercise that starts on the 4th string root is Eb, and that’s just to get all those 4th string rooted shapes down, which we use when crossing strings through the other keys. 

Now we just go through all the rest of the keys through the circle of 4ths! 

Here’s what’s left. Follow the appropriate path and get through all the keys. 

  • Key of Gb/F# Major: Path 1
  • Key of B Major: Path 2
  • Key of E Major: Path 2
  • Key of A Major: Path 1
  • Key of D Major: Path 2
  • Key of G Major: Path 1
  • Key of C Major: Path 2

That’s all the keys! And that’s amazing practice. 

It’s the repetition we need when practicing, but keeping us on our toes because we have to adapt slightly for each key, physically and mentally. 


Application

You don’t need to master this exercise right now, but you do want to understand how to practice it and how it helps you. Then you can come back to it many times in the future. 

A lot of progressions using these types of guitar seventh chords go out of the key and change keys, so don’t expect them to always stay together like this. 

But this is a crucial first step in order to understand and recognize when keys do change.


All The Things You Are Example and Chord Melody

I want to show you how this works in real music so let’s look at the first phrase of the famous jazz standard, All The Things You Are

Here are the chords.


If we list these chords with our chord numbers, we get the following progression in the key of Ab major:

| vi    | ii    | V    | I    | IV    |

Then it changes key to C major

| ii    | V    | I    | I    |

That’s the kind of key change I was talking about  ;)

The point of showing you this is for two reasoning:

1)

We can count through the seventh chord numbers just like we did in the exercise to find what number each chord is in a progression.

By doing that we start to see common relationships in chord progression (like ii, V, I, etc…) 

2)

The melody of All The Things You Are is almost exclusively the 3rd of each chord through this progression. 

And luckily the voicings we’ve been practicing this whole time have the 3rd on the top! It’s very cool! 

By playing this progression through with the voicings we’ve been using in this exercise we are almost playing a chord melody of All The Things You Are. 

See the video here for a demonstration. 

More lessons about chord melodies here and here


How to Play ANY Jazz Chord

If you look up tunes to play that use seventh chords—like any classic standard or jazz tunes—you’ll see chord types that we haven’t talked about yet. 

Chords with crazy looking alterations and extensions like #5, #11, 7sus4, etc… 

To solve this challenge I created an approach to be able to play ANY (and I mean any) jazz chord or seventh chord, or any complex crazy chord from any song or chord progression, with only eight moveable shapes. 

And they’re accurate, legit chord shapes. 

I’ve laid it all out in a little fun easy method booklet called any jazz chord, and it’s totally free. 

You can get a copy of it here


Coming Up Next 

In the next few lessons we’re going to go over chromatic guitar chords—that is, chords that go out of a key—with tons of song examples to show how cool it is. 

I’ll also be talking about other chord types like sus chords and 6 chords, as well as extended chords like 9, 11, and 13. 

Can’t wait to see you in those lessons! 


Links Mentioned in this Lesson


Check out related lessons I've made on similar topics with these tags


Get any of my FREE PDF downloads that are awesome for guitarists

 

Resources used to make this video

  • Chord progression of All the Things You Are is from the iReal Pro app
  • The path diagrams were made with Guitar Scientist’s fretboard diagram generator - major shoutout! guitarscientist.com/generator/

 

Final Thoughts

Don’t ignore this exercise for learning guitar seventh chords in every key equally. It’s so powerful. We have to repeat everything so much when we practice anyway, when working on anything that is harmonic or diatonic, such as seventh chords and chord vocabulary, we might as well repeat them all over the guitar fretboard in every single key! Once you can do this on the guitar, seventh chords in any key for any song and any progression, or for writing your own progressions is SO much easier. 

I hope you enjoyed this and found it beneficial. Let me know what you thought. 

Thanks! :) 

- Jared

Like my video lessons?

I’ll send you an email when they come out each Tuesday
Just sign up here

I never spam or share your info