I have a terrible time keeping track of where the various triads live within the diatonic patterns, so I’ve begun drawing them out. I find transitioning between triads during improvisation (same shape, different position) to be an interesting way to move around the neck. I only used the top two string sets, as that’s where I find tend to use them.
Maj 9 Chords
I only really have one go-to voicing of this chord, the 5th-string-root version. That one isn’t overly muddy or difficult to grab and feels similar to a 6 or a 6/9 voicing.
Maj (add9) Chords
Major Add 9’s are great chords without being overly complex. The triad on strings 2/3/4 plus the 9 on the top string is a personal favorite, as is the movable form of the open C (add9). The root-3 version is really more of an inverted Mu (1/2/3/5) chord which I’ll dig into later.
Min 6 Chords
To be fair, I mostly threw this one in for the sake of completeness. I won’t claim I’ve had much success with the min6, though I did enjoy the root-5 variation that looks like an ‘M,’ as it is easily dropped to a minor add-b13 chord that I’d never played before. I also found that this chord works much better for me in arpeggio form. Sounding the notes individually scales the heavy dissonance back to a more usable tension, a strategy I plan to test further in other chords I’ve had trouble using.
Minor 7 Flat 5 (m7b5) Chords
Another chord that isn’t the easiest to use in a rock context but shows up frequently in jazz. Also referred to as the half-diminished.
Lots of overlap here with sus2 chords and easy to confuse the two sonically without resolution back to a major or minor. I personally overuse the two barre forms and don’t think enough about grabbing the odd suspended triad.
I can’t tell you I have a favorite sus2 form beyond the full barre with a 5th-string root, but working these out suggested some nice alternatives to work into progressions. In fairness, they are all triads, but I labeled the easy to grab three-note shapes as triads here.
Dominant 7th Chords
Dominant 7’s cover the last remaining core 4-note chord in the arsenal. I struggle to employ them effectively in composition as well, but this one is clearly on me. Dominant chords are the heart of the blues and jazz and are no strangers to rock.
Minor 7th Chords
Unlike Maj7 chords, I end up using the minor 7th all the time. Social distancing seemed like a great time to start mapping out a chord vocabulary, so here come all of the minor 7th chords I frequently use.
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.