If you’re looking for some fun and smooth-sounding chords to add to your chord repertoire, then look no further than our seventh chords. In fact, the Fm7 chord happens to be one of these excellent-sounding chords that can add some nice color and variation to your chord progressions. So how exactly do these “seventh chords” work, and how can you play them? We’ll cover all of that and more as you read on. Let’s dive in!
How to Play the Fm7 Chord
Now, let’s get right to the nitty-gritty of things, and go over our Fm7 chord and a couple of its variations!
A chord chart of the Fm7 chord played from the first fret position.
A chord chart of the Fm7 chord played from the eighth fret position.
A chord chart of the Fm7 chord played from the ninth fret position.
Trouble With Chord Charts?
If you’ve never seen a chord chart before, this might feel overwhelming at first glance. However, it’s not as hard to understand as it might look! Let’s begin by drawing our attention to the big rectangular box, containing a number of vertical and horizontal lines. This represents our fretboard. The six vertical lines each represent a different string on the guitar. Looking from left to right, we have our low E, A, D, G, B, and high E strings. Each horizontal line, however, separates one fret from the next.
Within these frets and on top of our strings, we have circles containing numbers anywhere from 1 – 4. Each of these numbers represents a different finger to be placed on the fretboard to form our chord. The number 1 is for our index finger. The number 2 is for our middle finger. The number 3 is for our ring finger. Finally, the number 4 is for our pinky finger. Sometimes, you might see a long bar stretching from one string to another. This indicates you’re to form a “barre”. To form a barre, you simply drape your index finger across multiple strings of an individual fret and apply pressure. This will feel uncomfortable at first, but will get a little easier the more you practice!
Above the fretboard, specifically the strings, you might see an “O” or an “X” present. If there’s an “O”, you are to play an open note (a string to be played but not fretted). However, if there’s an “X”, this indicates you’re not to play the string to complete the chord. Finally, to the left of the fretboard, you may see a number present. The number indicates that you’re to start on that specific fret in forming your chord. If, however, there are no numbers present, it’s generally implied that you’re starting from the open note position. That’s all there is to it!
Breakdown of the Fm7 chord
Seventh chords can carry a very rich, smooth, and bluesy tone. At the same time, they can also carry a distinct dissonant tension, giving off a very jazzy vibe. As you can imagine, these chords are used extensively within the world of Jazz and Blues music. However, it’s not exclusive to Jazz and Blues as genres like hip-hop and deep house incorporate these chords to achieve a similar aesthetic. In fact, many widely popular hits incorporate seventh chords such as, “Jeff Buckley’s – Hallelujah”, “Metallica’s – Nothing Else Matters”, and even “The Beatles’ – Something”.
So how do these chords work? To better understand our seventh chords, our Fm7 chord, in particular, we need to understand three major components: the key, scale, and triad.
Let’s begin with our key. The key can be described as a collection of musical pitches, no different than what you would find in a scale. However, how are these pitches defined? This is where we tie in our key signature. Every key has its own key signature, which is often spotted after the clef on a piece of sheet music. The key signature is visually represented by a collection of sharps (#) or flats (b) defining the pitch of the various notes within a key. A note that is marked sharp is to be raised by a semitone. However, a note that is marked flat is to be lowered by a semitone.
So, how do we determine with the key signature of a given key is? This is where it can help to consult the circle of fifths.
Diagram of the circle of fifths, displaying the most commonly used key signatures.
The circle of fifths is a wheel-shaped diagram displaying all of our most commonly used keys and their corresponding key signatures. Within the circle, there are two rings. The inner ring houses all of our minor keys, while the outer ring houses all of our relative major keys (keys with a different root note, but share the same key signature). Starting from A minor, going clockwise around the wheel, you’ll notice that every key gains an additional sharp to its key signature. On the other end of the spectrum, starting from A minor, and going counterclockwise, every key gains an additional flat to its key signature. Since we’re in the key of F minor, we’ll mainly be focusing on the left half of the wheel.
Since we can count how many flats each key has now, how do we determine what notes become flat? We can use a simple acronym: BEADGCF. This stands for:
“Battle, Ends, And, Down, Goes, Charles’, Father”
Each word within this little saying represents a different note that becomes flat, in sequence. Let’s take a look at how this pattern appears on the left half of the wheel:
a = No sharps or flats.
d = Bb
g = Bb, Eb
c = Bb, Eb, Ab
f = Bb, Eb, Ab, Db
bb = Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb
eb = Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb
ab = Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb, Fb
Taking this information, we can see that G minor has two flats in its key signature. Using our fingers we can go, “Battle, Ends…” therefore, the flats in the key of G minor are Bb, and Eb. Let’s try Bb minor now containing five flats. Using our fingers once again, “Battle, Ends, And, Down, Goes…” therefore, the flats in the key of Bb minor are Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, and Gb.
Now, let’s use the scenario that you’re more experienced with the right half of the wheel containing sharps in their keys, but the key signature that you’re trying to figure out is on the left half. All you need to do is remember the number 7. For instance, if you’re trying to figure out the key signature of C minor, looking at C# minor we know that C# minor has four sharps. Taking the number 7 and subtracting 4, we get 3. Therefore, the key signature of C minor has the flats Bb, Eb, and Ab in its key signature.
Using either of these two methods, we can deduce that the key of F minor has four flats, Bb, Eb, Ab, and Db.
Now that we have the key signature for F minor, we can now look at the F minor scale. Here are the notes laid out:
F > G > Ab > Bb > C > Db > Eb > F
Our minor scales have a specific pattern that they follow consisting of tones (T) and semitones (S). Let’s take a look at how that pattern appears:
T > S > T > T > S > T > T
As you can see, looking at our F minor scale, the second interval from G > Ab is a semitone apart, as well as our fifth interval from C > Db. The rest are tones just like the pattern below. It never fails!
Now, let’s try playing our F minor scale:
Guitar tablature of the F minor scale, ascending and descending.
Trouble With Tablature?
Guitar tablature, also known as “tab” is a simple, yet very effective way for guitarists with no musical background to read, learn and share, some of their favorite songs and exercises. Looking at the tablature above, you can see six horizontal lines, each of which are representing a different string on the guitar. From the bottom to the top we have our low E, A, D, G, B, and high E strings.
On some of the strings, you’ll notice a number representing a different fret you are to play on the corresponding string. For instance, if you see the number 1 on the low E string, then you’re to play the first fret of the low E string. If you see a number 3 of the G string, then you’re to play the third fret of the G string, and so on. However, if you encounter the number 0 on any string, then you’re to play an open note on the corresponding string (a string to be played but not fretted). That’s all there is to it!
If you’re a self-taught guitarist or one who’s just starting out, tablature can be an excellent means to gain more experience. However, there is a drawback to tablature that might oftentimes be glossed over, in terms of detail. The quality of tablature quite often varies and doesn’t always supply you with the details on how things are meant to be played, different from musical notation. That means that it may be up to you the guitarist to use your ear to fill in the missing gaps. However, that is not to say that all tabs are lacking in detail. In fact, some do an amazing job of supplying that. Here are a few recognized symbols used in tablature that can help guitarists out:
H = Hammer-on
P = Pull-off
B = Bend
X = Mute
PM = Palm Mute
\ = Slide Down
/ = Slide Up
~~~ = Vibrato
One further point to make for self-taught guitarists using any form of sheet music is to exercise good playing habits. The habit being referred to here is good fingerwork. Most sheet music and tablature won’t supply you with this information, as it’s generally implied that you already know, or can figure it out. However, what most beginners might not know is how important fingerwork is in not just playing things easier, but in maintaining the overall flow, and cleaning up sloppy playing technique. A good practice is to read ahead of what you’re about to play, and plan where you’re hand and fingers would be placed best. The idea is you want it to fit within the space of your hand while keeping your hand nice and loose, but maintaining the overall shape, coming down on the strings.
Within our scales, every note plays an important role. We call these various notes, scale degrees. Each degree has its own unique name to help musicians refer to them more easily. Let’s run through each of these degrees within our F minor scale:
F = Tonic (1st Degree)
G = Supertonic (2nd Degree)
Ab = Mediant (3rd Degree)
Bb = Subdominant (4th Degree)
C = Dominant (5th Degree)
Db = Submediant (6th Degree)
Eb = Leading Tone (7th Degree)
F = Tonic (1st Degree/Octave)
Our first degree, the tonic, is our home and tonal center, where things tend to resolve. The second degree, the supertonic, functions as a predominant degree, building tension. The triad belonging to this degree shares two notes with our fourth degree’s triad. Next, we have our third degree, the mediant, sharing two notes with our tonic’s triad, making it an excellent degree for further drawing out our tonic. Upward, we have our fourth degree, the subdominant, building up some mild tension. Moving further away, we have our dominant, on the fifth degree. Next to our tonic, this is the most important degree, as it’s typically the climax, withholding the most tension. Next, we have our sixth degree, the submediant. The submediant functions as another predominant degree, sharing two notes with our subdominant. Upwards, we have our leading tone, an important degree for our seventh chords. The leading tone also holds a lot of tension. Try playing the C major scale and ending on B; your ears will want to hear it resolve to C. Finally, moving up, we’re back on the tonic, an octave higher from where we began.
A triad is a type of chord containing three notes played in unison. To form a minor triad, we need to take the tonic, mediant, and dominant degrees of our scale (1st, 3rd, and 5th degrees) and stack them on top of each other. In F minor, this gives us the notes: F, Ab, and C.
Did you know that minor triads carry a specific set of intervals giving them their distinctly melancholy sound? Here are the intervals within the F minor triad:
- Minor 3rd – Between the 1st and 3rd degrees. F > Ab.
- Major 3rd – Between the 3rd and 5th degrees. Ab > C.
- Perfect 5th – Between the 1st and 5th degrees. F > C.
To convert a minor triad to a minor seventh chord, we need to take our existing triad and stack an interval of a 7th from the tonic on top. This gives us the notes: F, Ab, C, and Eb. We now have our Fm7 chord.
Finding Chords Compatible With Fm
Making chord progressions can be challenging, especially when it comes to making ones we really like. Thankfully, there’s a method to make this process a little easier, and hopefully, pull you out of writer’s block! This involves building triads on every degree of our F minor scale. Let’s take a look:
F minor = F, Ab, C (Tonic/1st Degree)
G diminished = G, Bb, Db (Supertonic/2nd Degree)
Ab Major = Ab, C, Eb (Mediant/3rd Degree)
Bb minor = Bb, Db, F (Subdominant/4th Degree)
C minor = C, Eb, G (Dominant/5th Degree)
Db Major = Db, F, Ab (Submediant/6th Degree)
Eb Major = Eb, G, Bb (Leading Tone/7th Degree)
There you have it! These are all of the chord progressions that are compatible with the key of F minor.
Now, you may see all of these chords, and still struggle, because you don’t know where to begin. In which case, it can’t hurt to refer to some tried and true chord progressions. Let’s run through a couple of them:
i – iv – v
The “one-four-five” chord progression is one of the most common chord progressions you’ll see. It starts off on our tonic, F minor. Next, it’ll shift over to our subdominant, Bb minor, where you’ll notice some slight tension. Moving further away, we’ll land on C minor, the dominant. We’re at the peak of our tension now, we have to resolve. Therefore, we’ll return home to our tonic, F minor to repeat it all again.
Our chord progression looks like this: Fm > Bbm > Cm
i – VI – VII
This three-chord progression will once again start on the tonic, our home, F minor. From here, we’ll instead move to the submediant, a happier-sounding chord, Db Major. This chord acts as a predominant chord, sharing two notes with the Bb minor chord, adding some mild tension. From here, we’ll move to even greater tension, our leading tone, Eb Major. Eb Major, a tone under Fm wants to resolve home to our tonic. Therefore, we’ll return back to our tonic to do it all again.
Our chord progression looks like this: Fm > Dbmaj > Ebmaj
Fmin7 to Fmaj7
When comparing the Fm7 chord to the Fmaj7 chord, there are some key differences to go over. Firstly, the keys of F major to F minor are that of a parallel key relationship. What this means is that the keys share the same tonic, but carry a different key signature. The key signature of F major contains only one flat, Bb.
Since our key signature is different, our scale must be different as well. Let’s take a look at the F major scale:
F > G > A > Bb > C > D > E > F
Much in the way that our minor scales do, major scales have their own strict pattern of tones (T) and semitones (S) that they always follow:
T > T > S > T > T > T > S
As you can see, the third interval A > Bb is a semitone apart, shifting the fourth interval Bb a tone away from C. Furthermore, the seventh interval E > F is a semitone apart, supporting the pattern.
Now, let’s try playing our F major scale:
Guitar tablature of the F major scale, ascending and descending.
Now that we’ve gone over our F major scale, let’s talk about the F major triad. Major triads are formed in the same way minor triads are done; using the tonic, mediant, and dominant degrees of our major scale. This gives us the notes: F, A, and C.
Major triads have their own slightly different set of intervals from our minor triads:
- Major 3rd – Between the 1st and 3rd degrees. F > A.
- Minor 3rd – Between the 3rd and 5th degrees. A > C.
- Perfect 5th – Between the 1st and 5th degrees. F > C.
Do you see the difference? It’s reversed! In a major triad, the 1st interval is a major 3rd, while in a minor triad it’s a minor 3rd. In a major triad, the 3rd interval is a minor 3rd, while in a minor triad it’s a major 3rd. The perfect 5th remains the same in both.
Moving on, if we want to take our F major triad and turn it into a Fmaj7 chord, we simply need to stack the 7th degree of our scale on top. This gives us the notes: F, A, C, and E.
Let’s try playing the F major seventh chord now:
A chord chart of the Fmaj7 chord played from the first fret position.
Now you have all of the tools at your disposal in getting started with the Fm7 chord. Seventh chords can be an excellent means of challenging yourself and improving your fretboard knowledge and theory. In fact, to build on this you may even look into practicing inversions, or seeking out the CAGED system. What’s the next step for you? What other seventh chords will you learn? Whatever you decide, it’s important that you have fun doing it, and take your time with the process! Keep on rockin’.