Learn how to extend all your barre chord shapes!
Once you know your barre chord shapes, the next step is to extend them to maj7, dom7, min7 and min7b5.
Contrary to previous exercises, these first chord extension exercises are not supposed to be played to a click and pushed in BPM.
Instead, make them sound as musical as possible. Aim to experience and describe each sound to yourself.
The exercises move from major to maj7, from minor to min7 and so on. This will enable you to hear and see which note that changes.
Turn all your major chord shapes into maj7 chords
A triad has three notes, a 7th note chord has 4 notes, the first 7th note chord we look at is the major 7 chord.
You can notate the major 7 chord as maj7, Δ7 or Δ.
You build this chord by taking the root of the triad (not the lowest root) and move it one fret down the neck.
Since the chord now has a more complex sound it’s a good idea to eliminate as many notes as possible from the shape to achieve a more desirable sound.
Some shapes will be easier to fret and remember than others. The G shape, for example, becomes so big that we can’t include the low root.
To solve the problem, a smaller version of the G shape is a better solution, see video lesson below.
Turn all your major barre chord shapes into dom7 chords
You can build a dominant 7 chord by lowering the root yet another step, this gives you a b7 instead of a maj7th.
You notate this by simply writing a 7 after the chord. The video lesson below demonstrates the concept in A.
As with the maj7, it is a good idea to leave the lower part of the G shape out when playing a G shaped dom7 chord.
The C shapes b7 has to move to the next string in order to become a dom7 chord. This means that we no longer have a 5th within the chord. That’s OK since the rule of thumb is that the 5th is the first note you leave out when building bigger chord. A 5th only really effect the sound when it is altered.
Turn all your minor barre chord shapes into min7 chords
You can extend a minor chord into a minor 7 chord by using the same principle as with the dom7 shapes, simply move the root two frets down. You also need to remove all unnecessary notes.
Make sure you mute the 5th string with the flesh of the middle finger when you’ve turned the Em shape into an Em7, the same goes for Gm7 shape.
In order to get the Cm shaped min7 chord we have to move the root up to a minor third and the 5th up to the b7th, again the C shape now no longer has a 5th.
It is actually not until at this stage that the Cm shape becomes useful as a full chord shape.
Turn all your min7 chord shapes into min7b5 chords
The min7b5 is chord VII from the chords within a key concept, below displayed as 7th note chords.
Looking at all seven chords in a key we see that it’s only chord VII that has a b5 inside it.
Chords through the Cycle of 4th
The next bunch of exercises deal with the cycle of 4th in a new way.
Instead of moving a 4th up and down the neck we now start moving to the closest chord shape possible. Watch the video lessons to fully understand this concept.
Start at the 5th fret (that’s the E shaped A chord) then play through the cycle of 4th until you arrive at a D shaped A chord. The cycle runs: A – D – G – C – F – Bb – Eb – Ab – Db – Gb – B – E and back to A.
The maj7 chord shapes through the cycle of 4th
There are two ways you can practise this exercise:
- As in the video, slowly, exploring the sound of each shape.
- One strum per chord, two chords in a bar, pushing the BPM.
Both ways should be looked into, the quicker you can do it, the better you become at fretting the maj7 chord shapes.
The dom7 chord shapes through the cycle of 4th
This exercise will teach you the dom7 shapes.
When you can play the exercise to a click, using one strum per chord shape, two chords in a bar, without making mistakes – you can stop practising this exercise!
Whenever you practise something you should always have a clear goal like this or you’ll end up practising the same things forever.
The min7 chord shapes through the cycle of 4th
Same principle as with maj7 and dom7, run them through the cycle of 4th as the video demonstrate.
At what BPM can you play this exercise, and how far up the neck can you go?
Measure this by playing 2 chords per bar, one strum each.
The min7b5 chord shapes through the cycle of 4th
As far as useful shapes go for the min7b5, the Cm shape might not be the most common shape in the world. Not too many songs have this chord and if they do it’s usually for only half a bar.
However, we can actually use the min7b5 whenever you see a dom7 chord by using something called chord substitution. This is how it works:
When playing a standard major blues all chords are dom7 chords. Perhaps you want an even bigger sound, the next step would be a 9 chord.
Let’s say we play in G, these are the chords:
- G7: G – B – D – F
- C7: C – E – G – Bb
- D7: D – F# – A – C
Instead of adding another note to each chord (an A for the G chord, a D for the C chord and an E for the D chord) we can substitute. Simply play a min7b5 from the third of each chord, like this:
- Bm7b5: B – D – F – A
- Em7b5: – E – G – Bb – D
- F#m7b5: F# – A – C – E
What will happen is that you’ll play all the notes from a dom9 chord, apart from the root, leave that for the bass player!
In order to substitute like this on the fly, you first have to learn all your min7b5 shapes, including that Cm shape! The video lesson below shows you the quickest way to achieve this.
The 7th note chords are built from the barre chords by adding one more note, like this:
- Maj7: 1 3 5 7
- Dom7: 1 3 5 b7
- Min7: 1 m3 5 b7
- Min7b5: 1 m3 b5 b7
The best way to learn this is to start with your normal major and minor barre chords and modify each shape individually. When you can do this you need a set rhythm so you can push the BPM. The cycle of 4th, closest shape possible exercise is perfect for this.
Combine these exercises with studying songs that use these chords to gain a full understanding of each extension and its effect on an arrangement.
This is exactly what you’ll do in the advanced guitar course.