Major 7th Chords

I find Maj7 chords to be more difficult to use than triads or min7 chords, and I don’t seem to be entirely alone. Finding rock songs that feature the Maj7 wasn’t as easy as I expected. Here’s what I found: U2 One, Led Zeppelin The Rain Song, Paul McCartney Band on the Run, Peter Frampton Show me the Way, and John Lennon’s Imagine. In jazz, I’m pretty confident this would be a lot easier, and I’d also guess that if I’d scoured the Steely Dan catalog, I’d have come up with more good examples.

Easily placed or not, it’s a good place to start when it comes to cataloging voicings being the 4-note form of the first degree of the major scale. Below are all the voicings I find most useful for a Maj7.

Major 7th chords, useful voicings

Chord Template 1: Strings 3/4/5

Chord template for strings 3, 4, and 5 in C Major

I’ve spent a lot of time working on chords and harmony lately, and I’ve concluded that I really need a good roadmap to move up and down or across the neck to speed the up the composition process. The most obvious place to start that wasn’t the 6th-string bar chords we all know was the 5th-string-root shape that seems to come up first for dominant 7th chords or the Hendrix chord. There are a few fantastic voicings in here.

The m9’s of the second and sixth degree are a chord I’ve highlighted before, and the m7 of the seventh was frankly a surprise. It never occurred to me to drop the flattened 5th to create a less tense seventh chord of the major scale, but it seems more useful than just avoiding the seven altogether. I also really like the maj7(add9) and maj7(add13) you get in the root and fourth positions. There’s a load of color on tap in this template. I’m looking forward to connecting seamlessly it across strings and to a larger set of voicings.

Intervals Across the Neck – Fourths

There’s a lot here, and for good reason. On their own, fourths are pretty useful. They work great as double stops, they’re inverted fifths from the top note, the ♯4/ ♯11 is the heart of Lydian & shares the same address as the blue note, and they’re almost always easy to play. Something I’ve only recently learned (from Truefire’s Interval Insights) is how many great approaches and departures there are from fourths. Hammers up to the major 2nd, up from the major third, and even up to the fifth or from the minor third all sound great from the perfect fourth. I’ve yet to experiment much with the ♯4 and it’s neighbors, but my sense is the 5th provides a nice resolution.

Hammering the root up to the second creates a nice minor third of its own and also provides the top two thirds of a C-shape triad on the lower string if you bring your pinky into the mix. You can’t help but hear Hendrix with this lick.

Spread Triads pt. 1 (bass note on string 6)

I’ve had trouble finding good simple charts of spread triads. Rick Beato did a great video on them recently, but I had trouble finding a simple reference for spread triads in his book (which I’d highly recommend here, as it is freakishly comprehensive). I figured it was worth working out my own reference to share on Pedal On. Here are the major spread triads with their bass note on the lowest string. They aren’t all easy to play, but they sound great. I’ll work across the strings and then into minor and maybe beyond.