E7 Blues With Thirds

Here's a fun way to apply some thirds in a blues style format over an E7 chord.

There are two types of thirds: major and minor. The major third is four semitones, and a minor third is three semitones. On your guitar, if you play a G on the 3rd fret, 6th string, at the same time as a B on the 2nd fret of the 5th string, you get a major third. That kiddy-corner pattern you get will produce a major third anywhere in the lower four strings.

To get a minor third, simply drop the B to a Bb. That same pattern will give you a minor third anywhere on the lower four strings.

The "progression" we're playing over here is actually just one chord - E dominant 7. I like playing it with the added D on the 3rd fret, 2nd string. The D is the flatted 7 (b7) that makes this chord sound so cool. Remember, E7 is neither major nor minor, and as such it can stand in like a body double for either one. In this particular case we're treating it like a minor chord.

When you're using thirds, think about what chords are in the key. If your I IV V chords are major, then the related thirds are going to be major as well. For instance, in the key of G, we have D major. Thus, when you're looking for a third to play off a D, play the major third.

If you're looking for a great way to apply the riff you learn in this lesson, I recommend working it over while playing along with these blues jam tracks. (There's a free sample track available at that link)

Alrighty - ready to dig into this? Let's get started.

Watch on Youtube

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19 Responses to “E7 Blues With Thirds”

  1. Dpgibb55 August 23, 2012 at 3:48 am #

    so far yourm lessons have been easy to follow and awsone.

  2. Dusty August 23, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

    Thanks Jonathan!  I'm still working my way through your 1-4-5 course and this little lesson just gave me another point of view...and I had an "a-ha" moment!

    • Jonathan August 24, 2012 at 7:50 am #

       Good stuff Dusty...

  3. Billy_etal August 24, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    Yeah but what are you playing in between those thirds?

    • Jonathan August 24, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

       All it is is an E7, and then the thirds... not sure what part you're referring to?

  4. Carl August 25, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    Jonathan:

    What is the strum pattern you are using with the E7 Blues with Thirds video?

    Carl

    • Jonathan August 27, 2012 at 8:33 am #

       Hey Carl, just had a look back and I think it is D - D - UDU (D=Down, U=Up).

  5. Prfadz August 26, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

    Thanks,    Jonathan that's  a great tip. Paul

  6. Ozzymbs August 26, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

    Hey Jonathan, just wanna tell ya that I always enjoy your lessons dealing with intervals. I always take away some really cool stuff from those lessons. I'm not saying that any of your other lessons are not cool also, it's just that the interval lessons are the ones that give me that "aha" moment. Thanks a lot bro cuz you're doing a wonderful job in my eyes. And I know I have said this before also but man I soooo dig the sound of your Tak. Awesome tone on that lil beauty. Take care and looking forward to more.

    • Jonathan August 29, 2012 at 8:04 am #

       Thanks Ozzy, I appreciate that! I'm sure there will be more on intervals coming...

  7. Lookee September 23, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    So i assume you would actually be playing in the key of A - as E 7 is the dominant of A. In A you have ii minor -bminor ...but C major  is not in the key of A or E. .... Dmajor is in the key of A.... Gmajor is not diatonically in either key of A or G... unless you consider it the flatted 7th chord of the key of  A . You need to explain  how these major and minor 3rd's are related to ...the key you are thinking of .  So if the major or minor 3rds are not the root and major 3rd of a chord ...are they the minor third of some other base note ....ie c f and g are all sharped in A major and E major . i like the lesson ...just could just be clearer on this point.

    • Jonathan Boettcher October 15, 2012 at 8:13 am #

       The E7 is a bit of a fence-sitting chord, because of the intervals it has in it: it can be "heard" as either a major or a minor chord. In this case, I'm essentially treating it as a minor chord, so think of it as an E minor. The first third I play is a minor third, off the E, which reinforces this. Then there's the D major third, then C major... thus we're essentially in the key of G major.

  8. John November 23, 2012 at 4:52 am #

    Could you expand on your statement that "E7 is neither major nor minor"?  Are you saying that there's no difference between E7 and Em7?  An E7 chord, as usually played in open position, has a G# on the third string -- a major third.  Lift that finger, and you've got an Em7, with a flatted third (G natural).  Not the same chord at all.

    • Jonathan Boettcher November 23, 2012 at 8:56 am #

      Hi John, no, I'm not saying there is no difference between E7 and Em7; there clearly is. However, E7 is not a major chord, and it isn't a minor chord. The reason for this is the notes in the chord are E G# B D. An E major chord is E, G# and B. So the notes for E major are all present; however we've also added an extra minor third, the B to D interval. (E-G# = major 3rd, G#-B = minor 3rd, B - D = minor 3rd).

      Still with me?

      Anyways, this means you now have a chord that is major, minor, minor, just looking at the thirds. So it can lean either way - it has the major sound in it, but it also has a strong minor flavor as well. Thus, it can fill in as either one.

      Keep in mind, minor chords have a major third in them as well, only it is the second third, not the first third. Ie a minor chords is minor 3rd + major 3rd.

      In my Unlocking I IV V course I go into much more detail on how to build chords using thirds. It's useful stuff to know!

    • Jonathan Boettcher November 23, 2012 at 8:58 am #

      Hi John, no, I'm not saying there is no difference between E7 and Em7; there clearly is. However, E7 is not a major chord, and it isn't a minor chord. The reason for this is the notes in the chord are E G# B D. An E major chord is E, G# and B. So the notes for E major are all present; however we've also added an extra minor third, the B to D interval.

      (E-G# = major 3rd, G#-B = minor 3rd, B - D = minor 3rd)

      Still with me?

      Anyways, this means you now have a chord that is major, minor, minor, just looking at the thirds. So it can lean either way - it has the major sound in it, but it also has a strong minor flavor as well. Thus, it can fill in as either one.

      Keep in mind, minor chords have a major third in them as well, only it is the second third, not the first third. Ie a minor chords is minor 3rd + major 3rd.

      In my Unlocking I IV V course I go into much more detail on how to build chords using thirds. It's useful stuff to know!

  9. Will Smeaton April 16, 2013 at 8:20 am #

    Doesn't download the thirds lesson

    • Jonathan Boettcher April 16, 2013 at 10:11 am #

      Hi Will, I'm aware of this problem and I believe it is only on older versions of Internet Explorer. We're trying to fix it, but in the meantime I would recommend upgrading to the most recent version of Internet Explorer, or else use FireFox or Chrome or Safari instead.

  10. Douglas October 18, 2014 at 6:12 am #

    Keep rocking. What a fun way to play guitar

  11. John Celeste October 14, 2017 at 11:24 am #

    I fhave be it useful if you include the tabs in a PDF to go along with the video.

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