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Mandolin Chord Shapes: Dom7 Shapes

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Learning mandolin chord shapes can seem tricky but an easy start is to focus on some of the basic chord shapes. In this series, I’m going to cover various chord shapes of a particular type.

In today’s review, we’ll look at the Dominant 7th or simply “the 7th” chord. While both are correct, I’ll be using “7th” in this post for the sake of simplicity. These are mostly grouped by what string the root is on – though with extensions, it’s possible to have a “rootless” chord, so it doesn’t always work.

What is a 7th chord?

The notes are simply the 1 3 5 and b7 of any key. You’ll see this chord notated as G7 or C7 etc. It can sound bluesy in the right setting and is a good “movement” chord. You’ll see measures like G | G7| C | C7| in tons of songs including Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms.

3 note vs 4 note Mandolin chord Shapes

In my diagrams I’ll mostly display 4 note chords, though I will explain 3 note variations in some cases. While you can certainly play just 3 note chords and be great (a la Jethro Burns for example), learning the 4 note variations gives you more bang for your buck without really any more effort. Plus, knowing the 4 note chord allows you the flexibility to drop one note to get a 3 note variation if you want – giving you a lot more options with less to memorize.

What’s the “starting fret”?

The shapes here are general moveable patterns – meaning there’s no specific starting fret. Simply find the root note on the fretboard and that will tell you what fret you should start on etc. Using a fretboard roadmap like this can help.

Mandolin Chord Shape names

I don’t know of any official naming of these shapes (aside from maybe “the Big Chop”). I do however enjoy making up my own names. Since I write the posts, you’ll have to deal with my silly names. On a side note, I think making up silly names for things can be a great way to remember them – and laugh about it. If you rename these, tell me what names you use! Enjoy.

Root on the G – Shape 1 – Standard 7th
This is a good standard 7th chord with the root on the G string. I like this shape because you get the full chord without repeating notes. Also, dropping the G string, you can play a nice 3 note variation of this chord. This can be a helpful base for getting into extended chords (like 9ths).

Generally fingers are:
G String – First
D String – First
A String – Ring
E String – Middle

Root on the G – Shape 2 – Extended 7th
I really love this shape for 7ths. I generally play one of the 3 note variations rather than the full 4 note chord for this shape – mostly for ease / speed – but the 4 note chord is definitely worth getting down.

The 3 note variation on the G D and A strings is probably my “go to” for this shape – but the rootless variation using the D A and E strings can be really useful too.

Generally fingers are:
G String – Pinky
D String – Middle
A String – First
E String – Ring

Root on D – Shape 1 – Reverse Extended 7th
I use this shape really often as it’s really versatile. The full 4 note chord is a bit of a stretch at first. Generally, I find I only use that variation on slower tunes if I do at all. Most frequently, I’ll play this chord as the 3 note variation using the G D and A strings but the variation using the D A and E strings is a great choice too. This is basically a mirror image of the Root on G Shape 2 chord.

A fun change with this chord is to use the Root on E Shape 7 after this. You basically keep your pinky in place and just move the First and Middle fingers into that position.

Generally fingers are:
G String – First
D String – Middle
A String – Pinky
E String – Ring

Root on D – Shape 2 – The Ladle
This shape is one I don’t use as frequently, but when I do, it’s usually the 3 note variation using the D A and E strings. Mostly that’s for the sake of ease since adding the 3rd can be a little difficult at speed.

Generally fingers are:
G String – Middle
D String – Ring
A String – Ring
E String – First

Root on D – Shape 3 – The L shape
I use the 3 note variation using the G A and E strings way more than the full 4 note chord. Mostly because there’s no need to play the 3rd twice in most cases and dropping that makes this chord way easier to hit!

Generally fingers are:
G String – Ring
D String – Pinky
A String – Middle
E String – First

Root on the A – Shape 1 – The Inside Equilateral Triangle
I really like this chord shape as it’s compact but is easy to change to different shapes in a progression as well being easy to extend into higher chords like 9ths and 13ths. Plus, it’s a triangle. You can play the 3 note variation using the G D and A strings as well.

Generally fingers are:
G String – Middle
D String – First
A String – Ring
E String – Ring

Root on the A (and G) – Shape 2 – The Line 7th
This is really similar to the Root on D Shape 3 chord just shifted up one string. It’s an easy to hit chord that has a lot of potential paths. Similar to that shape, I usually use the 3 note variation using the D A and E strings.

Generally fingers are:
G String – Ring
D String – First
A String – Middle
E String – Pinky

Root on the E – Shape 1 – The Scalene Triangle or Isosceles Triangle
More Triangles!! This chord is a go to one for me. It can be hard to hit the 4 note chord for some since you have to “bar” your first finger across the D and E strings. That said, playing the 3 note variation with the G D and A string is really common (this is a “rootless” 7th). The 3 note variation using the D A and E string is a great one as well.

Generally fingers are:
G String – Middle
D String – First
A String – Ring
E String – First

Root on the E (and G) – Shape 2 – The Outside Equilateral Triangle
While the full 4 note chord can be great – I generally play one of the 3 note variations when using this shape. Generally, I use the variation with the D A and E strings the most – but the G D and A string variation has a lot of great uses too.

Generally fingers are:
G String – First
D String – Ring
A String – Middle
E String – Pinky

Rootless – Shape 1 – Standard Inside 7th
This variation has no root – meaning it’s just the 3, 5, and b7. Often I just play the 3 note variation with the G D and A strings, but the full 4 note chord and the 3 note variation using the D A and E strings are both pretty solid choices too.

Quick note on dropping notes from a chord. You’ll see this becomes more common as you get in to higher extensions. 7th chords and higher often will be “missing” one or more notes.

Generally fingers are:
G String – First
D String – Ring
A String – Middle
E String – Pinky

Wrapping Up

These shapes are a great easy way to start getting comfortable with chords. Aside from just memorizing the shapes, I strongly recommend you memorize the note function of each chord (i.e. where is the b7th in the chord etc), the name of the note on each string, and how to spell chords. Longer term, this will pay off significantly.

A good way to learn these chords is through playing tunes. Just pick any song you like and try using these chords when appropriate. Use the chord diagrams above to create at least 2 variations of the progression – meaning you’ll use different voicings of each chord for each variation. Start with something simple like a I IV V song before moving to more complex tunes. Generally speaking, you can often can substitute a 7th chord for a major chord (i.e. D7 instead of D). It doesn’t always work, but often does 🙂

I hope this review helps! And remember – this is just the beginning, there’s so many other variations out there! Next we’ll be diving in to Minor 7th chords.

If you like’d this post or have questions, feel free to leave a comment below. If you’d like to take a deeper dive into chord shapes look click here for more information on private coaching. If you like this free content and would like more of it, considering donating to my site here – donations really help keep things going!

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