How to Play a Major 7th Arpeggio Over a Dominant 7 Chord

Major arpeggio over g7When a jazz beginner starts to improvise over a II-V-I progression, he generally plays arpeggios corresponding to the chords of the sequence. In other words, he learns to play minor arpeggios over the minor chord (II), dominant 7th arpeggio over the 7th chord (V) and major arpeggio over the major 7 chord (I). This way the harmony is highlighted without taking risks. Then, comes the modes, the basic rules concerning modes is that to play dorian over the minor chord , mixolydian over the dominant and ionian over the major chord. In short, in the long-run there is nothing exciting. That's why there is a nice trick used by number of jazz players to add smoothness to a line over a dominant 7th chord. This is a little tip that makes all the difference, simply play the notes of a major 7th arpeggio over the V7 rooted on its b7 degree.

Major 7th arpeggio shapes

What's a major seventh arpeggio

Any jazz guitar player must be able to build any major seventh arpeggio. Remember that major 7th arpeggios are made up of a root (1), a major third (3), a perfect fifth (5) and a major seventh (7). For instance, a C major 7th arpeggio is made up C (the root), E (major third), G (the fifth) and B (major seventh). Here is a wake-up call about guitar fingerings to play major seventh arpeggios on the guitar.

Major 7th arpeggio - Root on the sixth string

Major 7 arpeggio 2

Major 7th arpeggio - Root on the fifth string

Major 7 arpeggio

Major 7th arpeggio - Root on the fourth string

Major 7 arpeggio 3

Major 7th arpeggio over V7 chord

It is quite normal to apply the trick previously discussed over one of the most famous chord progression used in jazz standards, the II-V-I sequence. For simply learning we will play it in the key of C. So, we will get three chords Dm7, G7 and Cmaj7 respectively the II, the V and the I degrees. 

If the V7 chord is G7, you have to play a Fmaj7 arpeggio because F is the b7 of G7. Knowing that Fmaj7 is made up of F, A, C and E,  you will highlight the 9th, the eleventh and the thirteenth of the V7 chord. Indeed, the notes are the upper structure of G7 the fifth degree of the II-V-I progression. In other words, superimposing a  F major arpeggio to a G7 chord gives a G13 chord.


Major 7th arpeggio over V7


  1 3 5 b7 9 11 13
G13 G B D F A C E
Fmaj7       F A C C


Here is an example to illustrate this technique. Try to put this in your guitar solos.

Major arpeggio over g7


This second II-V-I example is in the key of Bb. So, we have three chords, Cm7 (II), F7 (V) and Bbmaj7 (I). As you can see in bar 2, you can play an Ebmaj7 arpeggio (Eb, G, Bb and G) from the minor seventh (b7) of the V7 chord that is F7. 

Major arpeggio over f7

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