How to Play Am7, Em7, and Dm7 | Chord by Chord


Welcome to the latest installment of Chord by Chord, a series designed to build your understanding of harmony and the fretboard. In the last lesson, I taught a new chord type, the major ninth, and this time I’ll be introducing another new type, the minor seventh, commonly abbreviated as m7.

The Work


You should already know that a minor triad is made of three notes: the root, the minor third, and the fifth. Example 1 shows the notes in an A minor chord (A C E). To make it a minor seventh chord, just add the minor seventh (in this case, G), as shown in Example 2).

Example 3 shows how to go from Am to Am7 using open chords—all you have to do is lift your third finger from the Am shape. To get to Am7 from Am using barre chords, see Example 4a. For a tighter jazzier version of that fifth-position Am7, try the shape in Example 4b. Note that you could play this voicing as written, but I prefer to use my first, second, third, and fourth fingers, lowest note to highest. And, feel free to omit the note on the second string.


Now let’s move on to the Em7 chord. Example 5a shows how to get to Em7 from Em using open chords—just remove your third finger from the Em shape. (Note that in the video, I use my first and second fingers for the Em, rather than second and third as notated.) For two common variations on the open Em7 chord, see Example 5b. Example 6 shows how to form Em7 as a seventh-position barre chord; all you need to do is remove your fourth finger from the Em shape.

Next try going from Dm to Dm7 in open position (Example 7). After that, move to the fifth position (Example 8)—the same as you did for Em/Em7 barre chords, but two frets lower. End this lesson with D and Dm7 in tenth position (Example 9), or similar to Ex. 4a, but five frets higher. 

The Result

You should be able to make various A, E, and Dm7 shapes from their minor-triad counterparts. Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” is an excellent example of a song making use of an open Am7 chord. Practice those minor seventh voicings until next time, when we’ll move on to dominant ninth chords. 

Kate Koenig
Kate Koenig

Kate Koenig is a singer-songwriter, music teacher, and music journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. They have been a regular contributor to Acoustic Guitar since 2017.

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