The notes D, E, and A in the key of C major all build minor triads and m7 chords. There are 52 open m7 chords that can be built from the notes in C major.
That may seem like too many to choose from, but they offer you a lot of versatility in applying a minor sound in your guitar playing.
The open m7 guitar chord shapes I have are for m7, m9, m11, and m13 chords in the keys of D, E & A.
The m7 chord from major scales
Everyone should know the I, IV, and V major chords built on the 1st, 4th and 5th scale degrees in every major scale. Well, each major triad has its relative minor triad in the same scale.
For C major, that would be Dm, Em, and Am which are the relative minors for F, G, and C major respectively. Those minor chords are built on the 2nd, 3rd and 6th scale degrees.
Each minor chord is associated with a minor mode and they have slightly different intervals. The intervals in common to each minor chord/mode are the 1st, minor 3rd, perfect 4th, perfect 5th, and minor (♭7) 7th. Here are the intervals that define the minor modes in any major key (C major for this example):
D Dorian: associated with the Dm triad and has both a major 2nd and major 6th.
E Phrygian: associated with the Em triad and has both a minor 2nd and minor 6th.
A Aeolian: associated with the Am triad and has a major 2nd but a minor 6th.
Write out the notes for C major then reorder the scale starting first on D, then E, and finally A. Then make a note of the intervals for each mode/scale and you’ll understand how scales and modes relate to chords.
If you don’t know or understand intervals then read my Music Intervals article first. Below are the 4 types of minor 7th chords that can be built from the major scale:
Minor 7th chord
Chord intervals: Root, minor third, perfect fifth, minor seventh = R-m3-P5-m7 = 1-♭3-5-♭7
Alternate names: -7, mi7, min7
Equivalent chord: 6 on the ♭3, e.g. Dm7 = F6
Chord tendency: Use a m7 chord wherever and whenever it sounds good, but it does have a strong tendency to move to a major chord a whole step below, e.g. Dm7 > C but also going to Am or F also is smooth.
Scale degrees: the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th major scale degrees all build m7 chords.
Minor 9th chord
Chord intervals: Root, minor third, perfect fifth, minor seventh, major 2nd = R-m3-P5-m7-M2/9 = 1-♭3-5-♭7-9
Alternate names: -9, mi9, min9, m7(9)
Equivalent chord: maj13 on the ♭3, e.g. Dm9 = Fmaj13
Chord tendency: same as m7, Dm9 > C, Am or F
Scale degrees: the 2nd and 6th degrees build a m9 chord
Minor 11th chord
Chord intervals: Root, minor third, perfect fifth, minor seventh, perfect 4th = R-m3-P5-m7-P4/11 = 1-♭3-5-♭7-11
Alternate names: -11, mi11, min11, m7(11)
Equivalent chord: 6 add9 on the ♭3 and 9sus on the 4/11, e.g. Dm11 = F6 add9 = G9sus. This 5 note chord has all the notes of the minor pentatonic (Am11 = A minor pent) and the major pentatonic (C6 add9 = C major pent).
Chord tendency: same as m7 but also to the major on the P4, Dm11 > C, Am or F but also G. So for a smooth key change try Em11 to A major or Am11 to D major.
Scale degrees: the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th all build m11 chords
Minor 13th chord
Chord intervals: Root, minor third, perfect fifth, minor seventh, major 6th = R-m3-P5-m7-M6/13 = 1-♭3-5-♭7-13
Alternate names: -13, mi13, min13, m7(13)
Chord tendency: because of the tritone, it resolves best a whole step back, Dm13 > C
Scale degrees: only the 2nd degree builds a m13 chord
Special note on the m11 chord
A lot of jazz guys omit the perfect fifth in their m11 guitar chord voicings, but I don’t do that. A minor 11th chord without the perfect 5th equals a sus add9 on the ♭7 or a 7sus on the 11 (Dm11 no 5 = Csus add9 = G7sus). Though, I did include some of those closed voicings for anyone who is interested.
Open m7 guitar chord shapes for Dm (Dm7, Dm9, Dm11, Dm13)
I have 22 chord shapes for Dm7, Dm9, Dm11, and Dm13. And I have to mention the difference between the interval of a 4th versus an 11th.
Technically, the 11th should come after the 7th, but you don’t always have that option on the guitar. You’ll see it’s the 4th and not 11th in some voicings for the Dm11, Em11 and Am11 chords. I just want the chord tones and tendency and I am less interested in “correct” naming conventions.
Dm7 chord tones: D-F-A-C, equals F6
Dm9 chord tones: D-F-A-C-E, equals Fmaj13
Dm11 chord tones: D-F-A-C-G, equals F6 add9 & G9sus
Dm13 chord tones: D-F-A-C-B
Here is a chord diagram of the symbols I use in my chord blocks:
Notes on the chord voicings
Dm7 chords: They all sound great so pick your favorite.
Dm9 chords: #4 sounds great but #3 is one of my favorite chords, especially if you appegiate it slowly.
Dm11 chords: I’m not happy about the open A, D & G strings on these voicings, but I had to do it. I prefer #’s 4 and 5.
Dm13 chords: I like them all but #1 is the best and I do not like #3.
Open Em11 guitar chord shapes
I have 8 chord shapes for Em11. Check my Em7 guitar chords article for 13 open Em7 chord shapes.
Em11 chord tones: E-G-B-D-A, equals G6 add9 & A9sus
Notes on the chord voicings
Em11 chords: For #1 you could strum all open strings after or before any chord in the keys of C, G, and D major, and best done as quick strums and mutes. Or you could fret any strings at the 12th fret – I like the A, G, and high E strings (0-12-0-12-0-12). I prefer #’s 5 and 6.
Open m7 guitar chord shapes for Am (Am7, Am9, Am11)
I have 22 chord shapes for Am7, Am9, and Am11.
Am7 chord tones: A-C-E-G, equals C6
Am9 chord tones: A-C-E-G-B, equals Cmaj13
Am11 chord tones: A-C-E-G-D, equals, C6 add9 & D9sus
Notes on the chord voicings
Am7 chords: For #4 you could barre with your middle finger or individually fret each note, whichever you prefer. I like #’s 1, 3, 6 and 4.
Am9 chords: I can’t pick a favorite – I like them all. #7 is similar to the first Em11 chord – you can choose which strings at the 12th fret to play. Try the 3rd finger on the G string and pinky on the high E (x-0-10-12-0-12).
Am11 chords: I prefer #’s 2 and 3 but none of them sound interesting to me.
Songs using m7 chord shapes
I only found one m7 guitar chord example in my country songbooks, so it seems the m7 chord is not a common chord in country music. However, I don’t have enough country songbooks to know if that is true or not.
The most common closed m7 guitar chord shapes that I saw in songs is #1 and #4 from above.
Minor 7th chord examples
A Day in the Life, Across the Universe and All You Need Is Love (Em7)
The Fool on the Hill (Em7 & Bm7)
Don’t Let Me Down, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, and Strawberry Fields (F#m7)
Something (F#m7, Am7)
Magical Mystery Tour (F#m7, Gm7)
Penny Lane (Bm7)
Lady Madonna (Bm7, Dm7)
The Long and Winding Road (Cm7, Fm7, Gm7)
Earl Bud Lee: Friends in Low Places (Bm7)
It Ain’t Me, Babe (Fm7)
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Am7)
Allman Brothers: Midnight Rider (Gm7)
Box of Rain (Bm7)
Tennesse Jed and Uncle John’s Band (Dm7)
Shakedown Street (Dm7, Em7)
Cassidy (Fm7, Gm7)
Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You and Stairway to Heaven (Am7)
The Rain Song (Bm7)
No Quarter (C#m7)
The Song Remains the Same (Dm7)
Willin’ (Am7, Bm7, Em7)
Time Loves A Hero (Bm7)
Spanish Moon (C#m7)
Feats Don’t Fail Me Now (Dm7)
Old Folks Boogie (Gm7)
Silverman’s Folk Song Encyclopedia, Vol. II: In The Pines, I (Em7)
Simon & Garfunkel:
Kathy’s Song (Bm7)
59th Street Bridge (Cm7)
The Boxer (Dm7)
I am a Rock (Dm7, Em7)
America (Fm7, Gm7)
Minor 9 chord examples
Allman Brothers: In Memory of Elizabeth Reed (Am9)
Led Zeppelin: The Rain Song (Gm9)
If I Had the World to Give (Fm9)
Lady with a Fan (Am9, Dm9)
Doobie Brothers: Taking it to the Streets (Cm9)
Minor 11 chord examples
Don’t Let Me Down (F#m11)
With a Little Help from My Friends (C#m11)
The m7 chord is one of the best jam chords there are, especially for practicing guitar licks. Record yourself playing one of the minor 7 chords above and loop it. Then experiment with all the minor scales that build a m7 chord to find some juicy licks.