Major Seventh Arpeggios | Guitar Diagrams, Theory and Licks

What's an arpeggio

An arpeggio is a chord whose notes are played one by one, it is a chord played like a scale. This technique is very used in jazz improvisation, easy to learn and very helpful to build clear jazz lines over specific chords.

Major seventh arpeggio is built with :

  • Root
  • Major third
  • Perfect fifth
  • Major seventh

If you want to play a D major seventh arpeggio you have to play the first (D), the third (F), the fifth (A) and the seventh (C) of the D major scale. It works with all the major scales, it's simple and efficient.

Here is a comparison between the C major scale, the C major seventh chord and the C major seventh arpeggio. As you can see the C major seventh arpeggio is made up of (as the chord) the first (C) the third (3), the fifth (5) and the major seventh (7) of the C major scale.

C major scale C D E F G A B
Formula 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
CM7 chord 1 X 3 X 5 X 7
CM7 arpeggio 1 X 3 X 5 X 7

 

The basic application of an arpeggio is to target the chord tones by playing the corresponding arpeggio. For example, in a II-V-I sequence ( Dm7 | G7 | CM7 ) you have to play a D minor 7th arpeggio (D-F-A-C) over the Dm7 chord, a  G dominant 7th arpeggio (G-B-D-F) over the G7 chord and a C major seventh arpeggio (C-E-G-B) over the CM7. It is that easy !!!

Major seventh guitar arpeggio | Pattern 1 & fingerings

Here is a first recommended guitar pattern with intervals and suggested fingerings. There are many other ways to play a major seventh arpeggio, feel free to experiment your own fingerings.

To understand and hear the sound of this arpeggio, it is important to play these patterns by starting on the root "R".

Playing the corresponding chord after or before the arpeggio is also a good way to hear its sound "colour".

For example, to play a C major seventh arpeggio using the first pattern (starting on the lowest root) you have to put your second finger on the sixth string at the eighth fret.

Pattern 1 w/ intervals. Roots on the sixth, fourth and first string.

Major 7th guitar arpeggio pattern 1

Pattern 1 w/ fingerings

Major 7th guitar arpeggio pattern 1 fingering

Major seventh guitar arpeggio | Pattern 2 & fingerings

Here is another recommended pattern with intervals and suggested fingerings. Unlike the previous pattern, roots are on the fifth and the second strings.

To understand and hear correctly this arpeggio, it is important to play these patterns by starting on the lowest root "R". You can also play the corresponding chord before or after playing this arpeggio.

If you want to play a C major seventh arpeggio using the second pattern you have to put your fourth finger on the fifth string at the  fifteenth fret.

Pattern 2 w/ intervals. Roots on the fifth and the second string.

Major 7th guitar arpeggio pattern 2

Pattern 2 w/ fingerings

Major 7th guitar arpeggio pattern 2 fingering

Major seventh guitar arpeggio | Pattern 3 & fingerings

These patterns are more difficult because of the diagonal playing.

To hear correctly this arpeggio, it is important to play these it by starting with the root "R". You can also play the corresponding chord before or after playing this arpeggio.

If you want to play a C major seventh arpeggio using this third pattern (starting with the lowest root) you have to put your second finger on the sixth string at the eighth fret.

You will have to slide with you third finger on the fourth string to play this arpeggio an octave up.

Do not hesitate to experiment your own fingerings.

Pattern 3 w/ intervals. Roots on the sixth, fourth and second string.

Major 7th guitar arpeggio pattern 3

Pattern 3 w/ fingerings

Major 7th guitar arpeggio pattern 3 fingering

Major seventh guitar arpeggio | Pattern 4 & fingerings

Here is the last pattern using the "diagonal playing".

To play a C major seventh arpeggio using this  fourth pattern you have to put your second finger on the lowest root, on the fifth string at the third fret.

You will have to slide with your second finger on the third string to play this arpeggio an octave up.

Fingerings are suggested.

Major 7th guitar arpeggio pattern 5

Major 7th guitar arpeggio pattern 4 fingering

CM7 arpeggio guitar lick

Here is an easy jazz guitar line using the CM7 arpeggio over a CM7 chord.

Major 7th arpeggio jazz guitar lick with tab

Guitar arpeggios | II-V-I sequence

We can see in this basic II-V-I jazz line how to make connections between the different arpeggios.

  • Ascending D minor 7th arpeggio (two octaves) over the Dm7 chord.
  • Descending G dominant 7th arpeggio starting on the major third (B) over G7.
  • Ascending C major 7th arpeggio (two octaves)  over the CM7 chord.

II-V-I jazz guitar arpeggios licks with tabs

Related major scales and modes

This following is a list of scales and modes that contain major seventh arpeggios. It is very important to make relation between scales, chords and arpeggios.

The Ionian mode is the first of the seven Greek modes. It has exactly the same notes as the major scale and surely the first scale to learn for a beginning jazz student. The major scale consists of a root (1), a second (2), a major third (3), a fourth (4), a fifth (5), a sixth (6) and a major seventh (7). 

C Ionian mode C D E F G A B
Formula 1 2 (9) 3 4 (11) 5 6 (13) 7
Intervals W W H W W W H

 

The Lydian mode is the fourth mode of the major scale. This mode has a special interesting sound because of its #4 (or #11). It has the same notes as the Ionian mode, but contain a raised fourth (#4) instead of a perfect fourth.

F Lydian mode F G A B C D E
Formula 1 2 3 #4 (#11) 5 6 7
Intervals W W W H W W H

 

The Lydian #9 mode is the sixth mode of the harmonic minor scale. As its name implies it contain a raised ninth. 

F Lydian #9 mode F G A B C D E
Formula 1 #2 (#9) 3 #4 (#11) 5 6 7
Intervals W W+H W H W W H

 

The major bebop scale is a octatonic scale (eight notes). It contains the same notes as the major scale (Ionian mode) including a chromatic passing tone (#5) between the fifth (5) and the sixth (6). 

C major bebop scale C D E F G G# A B
Formula 1 2 3 4 5 #5 6 7
Intervals W W H W H H W H

 

The major pentatonic scale is made up of five notes. It is built with a root (1), major second (2), major third (3), perfect fifth (5) and sixth (6). 

C major pentatonic scale C D E G A
Formula 1 2 3 5 6
Intervals W W W+H W W+H

 

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Last edited: 04/08/2018