How to Play Major 7th Chords on Guitar

Published Categorized as Chords

Emaj7This post will teach you how to play and construct Major 7th chords on guitar.

Major 7th chords are commonly confused with ?dominant 7th chords but the two are different chords altogether.

What are Major 7th Chords

Major 7th chords are major chords with a ?major? 7th.

On the other hand, dominant 7th chords (the most common 7th chords) are major chords with a ?minor? 7th note (a.k.a. flat 7th).

If you are looking to learn dominant 7ths rather than major 7ths check out the links below.

Major seventh chords are less common than dominant 7ths but can add a distinct flavor to your sound if you choose to incorporate them.

  • A major 7th chord uses the Root, Major 3rd, Perfect 5th, major 7th
  • A dominant 7th chord uses Root, Major 3rd, Perfect 5th, minor 7th
  • For example a Dmaj7 uses a D (root), F# (major 3rd), A (perfect 5th) and C# (major 7th).
  • Whereas the dominant 7th would use D (root), F# (major 3rd), A (perfect 5th) and C (minor 7th).

As you can see there is only one note difference. Simply by changing the minor 7th note in the dominant 7th chord to a major 7th (up one semi-tone) you create a major 7th chord. If you are new to this it can sound really confusing but playing it out on the guitar will help it to make sense.

Because a major 7th uses the major 7th note (just a semi-tone away from the root note) the chord tends to sound more dissonant than a dominant seventh and ironically sounds more “minor”?(to me anyway) ? despite the name.

How to Notate

The most common way to write a major 7th chord is by writing ?maj7? after the chord name. For example an E major seventh would be written ?Emaj7?.

There are other ways such as M7 (with a capital “M”) but maj7 is the most common and what I will be using in this lesson.

Common open major 7th chords

Below are the chord charts for 7 open major 7th chords.

If you aren’t sure about chord charts check out the link below.

Cmaj7

Cmaj7 chord

Dmaj7

Dmaj7 chord

Alternatively you could play this using your 1st, 2nd and 3rd fingers but I find it easier to barre the notes with 1 finger.

Emaj7

Emaj7

Fmaj7

Fmaj7

Gmaj7

Gmaj7

Amaj7

Amaj7

Bmaj7

Bmaj7

What next?

Now it’s time to practice!

Practice these chords and learn how to fit them in with other chords. These chords can really open up your repertoire whether you are learning songs or writing songs.

Next week I will take a look at how to construct major 7th chords using barre chords. Following that I will get into minor 7th chords.

I hope you?ve found this post useful. If you have any comments or questions please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.

If you think you?d prefer to learn via video lessons there are some good ones online these days. Check out some of my online lesson reviews here or check out the ?online lesson reviews? menu above.

FAQs Major 7th Chords Guitar

What are the notes in a major 7?

There are 4 notes that make up a major 7th chord. The major 7th chord is essentially an extended triad, one that has been made larger by 1 degree, adding on a note in the upper pitch range. In this instance, the triad that is being extended is a major chord, adding a major 7th scale degree. So, if a major chord consists of the root, the major 3rd, and the perfect 5th, then what extra pitch do we need to make a major 7th chord? That’s right, a major 7th. So, if we take the example of a G major chord, the major 7th would be F#/Gb, the note right before the octave of the root note, the leading note of the major scale.

How do you play maj7 chords on guitar?

On a guitar, playing chords is never as simple as playing one chord in one place on the fretboard. One of the many perks of the instrument is that you can play any chord just about anywhere you like. Many of the open chords you might already know can actually be extended or converted into major 7th shapes. Take an A chord – instead of playing it normally, play the 1st fret on the G string instead of the 2nd fret.

What chords go with maj7?

When you realize that any chord can technically be played alongside any other, then your horizons have gaped wide open, and are ready for experimentation of the highest degree. Of course, tonic triads will work well, both major and minor, as well as 6th chords, sus4’s, 6/9 upper structures, Lydian modes, upper-structure triads, and augmented-major 7th chords. However, what really works best is to use your own ears to decide what chords sound best together. If something sounds right to you, then it is right – you should not have to prove yourself or your music to anybody.

What is a major 7 in guitar?

A major 7th chord is the same for a guitar as it is for any other instrument calibrated to welcome western tonality. You can even work it out yourself using the formula – a major 7th chord is comprised of a root note, a major 3rd, a perfect 5th, and a major 7th. You can even skip the jargon and work this out by starting at the root note and ascending a major 3rd, then a minor 3rd, and then another major 3rd, after which you will have landed on each of the separate pitches of the chord. To take the example of an E major 7th chord – first, start with the root note E, then ascend by a major 3rd to the major 3rd of Ab/G#, then ascend by a minor 3rd to the perfect 5th of B, then finally ascend another major 3rd to reach the major 7th of Eb/D#.

By Nate Pallesen

Nate is just your average (above average) guitar player. He's no Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page - wait this site is about acoustic guitars (sorry) He's no Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, or Michael Hedges, wait? who!? He's no Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton or Ben Harper - more familiar? Anyway you get the point :-)

2 comments

  1. Hi, thank you so much for the clear explanation and illustration! I am a beginner at playing guitar and this has helped me a lot. Now I guess it’s time for practice. Keep up the good work!

    1. Hey Trang

      You’re very welcome. Yeah definitely time for practice – consistent, structured practice is the key to becoming a great guitarist.

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