17 - Modified Chords

Modified Chords – Beginners Guitar Lesson 17


In this lesson, we’ll talk about modified chords. By now, you’ve learned that major and minor chords are made up of three notes taken from the major scale.
Modified chords are major or minor chords that contain other notes from the scale, and are really useful in creating certain moods, and making your chord playing sound more interesting.


Like everything else in music, there are rules to follow. Remember that each note in the scale is assigned a number from one through 8, but were going to take the numbering concept a bit further. If you repeat the notes in a long line, starting with the root note of the scale as number one, you can assign numbers to infinity.
We won’t go quite as far as that, and in fact, we’ll only go the number thirteen. So let’s take C major again as our sample scale, and assign numbers:
Modified Chords The reason we only go to thirteen is a matter of redundancy, as the names and numbers of notes will begin to repeat, and cause unnecessary confusion. To modify a guitar chord, we take its basic form, and add another note to it.
We’ll use C Major as our example: The three notes that make up a C Major chord are, C E and G. If we add the seventh note in the scale, B, we’ve created a Cmajor7 chord. That’s pretty simple, but of course there are other rules to consider, one of which we’ll talk about now because it comprises a very common chord: the Dominant Seven Chord, or simply, a Seven Chord. Note that C Major 7 is a seven chord, but it’s a Major 7 chord. A Dominant Seven/Seven chord uses the same methodology as C Major 7, but the seventh note, B in this case, is flatted.
This is the case for all Dominant Seven chords. You don’t have to say “Dominant”, as the chord is usually called a “Seven” chord, which is distinguished from the Major Seven, by not saying “Major”…get it?
Here are some basic modified chords for you to work on. C, D, A, and G Major Seven, and regular (dominant) Seven chords:
Modified Chords
As you work on your guitar chords, note that all modified chords may not fit into every song. Their use depends on the melody notes used, which we’ll get into more detail in future lessons. But as a general rule, when using modified chords such a dominant seven chords, the modified note in the scale also needs to be modified. If not, you’ll have a pretty bad sound clashing of notes. (In the audio portion of this lesson, I’ll give an example of note clashing.)
By now, you’ve got a pretty good collection of chords which you’ve learned here at learn the guitar lessons. Every guitarist needs to study and memorize chords, as they will be a vital part of your playing. The more chords you know, and their proper use within a song, will develop your playing style, and differentiate your playing from others.
Beatles’ music is a great example of different chords. You’ll notice that they use very rich modified chords which complement the melody in some very interesting ways. It does take a lot of thought and quite a few years of playing in order to use non-standard chords properly, but it is time well spent on your never-ending guitar playing journey.