Major Seventh Chords (Maj7) - Drop 2, Drop 3 and Drop 2 & 4 Voicings with Guitar Diagrams
What Are Major Seventh Chords ?
Major seventh chords care four note chords built of root (1), major third (3), perfect fifth (5) and major seventh (7). They are built by stacking thirds (major and minor). They belong to the "tetrad chords" family.
Jazz harmony is (traditionally) founded on chords constructed in thirds. Let's take a C major seventh chord. It is made up of C, E, G and B.
You can notice that the interval between the first two notes is a major third. The interval between the second (E) and third note (G) is a minor third. And to finish, the interval between G and B is a major third. This is how a major seventh chord is built.
The other way to build major 7 chords is to take the first (1), the third (3), the perfect fifth (5) and the major seventh (7) of the major scale.
For example, the major scale formula is: root (1), second (2), major third (3), fourth (4), fifth (5), sixth (6) and seventh (7). You just have to take the first, the third, the fifth and the seventh of any major scale and you will get a major seventh chord.
As it is shown below you can see that the C major 7 chord has an additional note (the seventh) in comparison with the basic major chord.
|C major scale||C||D||E||F||G||A||B|
|Formula||1||2 (9)||3||4 (11)||5||6 (13)||7|
|C major chord||C||X||E||X||G||X||X|
|C major seventh chord||C||X||E||X||G||X||B|
There are several different ways of writing the same chord or scale sound. It is often complicated for a jazz student to become familiar with all the nomenclatures for writing chords. The most used symbols for major seventh chords (example in C) are CM7, C∆ and maj7.
Drop 2 Major Seventh Chords
Drop 2 chords are the most popular chord voicings used in jazz guitar and are very important devices for comping or building chord melodies.
They are built by dropping the second highest note of a four-notes close chord to the bass. Major seventh close chord formula is 1-3-5-7 that gives the following drop 2 chord formula 5-1-3-7.
What is an Inverted Chord ?
The root of an inverted chord is not in the bass. It means that the notes of a chord are inverted. As you can see in the guitar diagrams above, there can be a third, a fifth or a seventh in the bass.
Here are the four drop 2 major seventh chord voicings (The term "voicings" refers to the order of notes in a chord).
|Drop 2 root position||R||5||7||3|
|1st inversion (third in the bass)||3||7||R||5|
|2nd inversion (fifth in the bass)||5||R||3||7|
|3rd inversion (seventh in the bass)||7||3||5||R|
Drop 2 Chords on the Whole Guitar Neck
The three diagrams below include all the drop 2 chords and inversions in connection with the previous chart.
- The first includes drop 2 chords built from the E-string.
- The chords in the second diagram are built from the A-string.
- The third one includes chords built from the D-string.
Each voicing is represented by a color, demonstrating at the same time the relationship between the four major seventh chord positions on the whole guitar neck.
Drop 3 Major Seventh Chords
Drop 3 voicings are named thusly because the 3rd note in a close position chord has been “dropped". In other words, the 3rd highest note in a closed position chord is lowered by an octave. Notice that each drop 3 chord has a string skip between the lowest two notes.
Drop 3 major seventh voicings.
|Drop 3 root position||R||7||3||5|
|1st inversion (third in the bass)||3||R||5||7|
|2nd inversion (fifth in the bass)||5||3||7||R|
|3rd inversion (seventh in the bass)||7||5||R||3|
Drop 3 chords - Whole guitar neck
That's what the four drop 3 chords look like on the guitar neck.
Drop 2 & 4 Major Seventh Chords
Drop 2 & 4 chords are built by moving the second and fourth note of a close position an octave down. Thus giving a new voicing R-3-5-7 which will serve as a basis for three other voicings (inversions).
Drop 2 & 4 Maj7 Voicings
Drop 2 & 4 Maj7 Guitar Shapes
Maj7 Chord Extensions
Major seventh chords can be extended with extra notes to add flavour to your playing. These added notes are the ninth (9), eleventh (11) and thirteenth (13). Here are some basic shapes.
The first row of diagrams show that when adding a ninth (9), a thirteenth (13) and an eleventh (11) to a basic drop 3 maj7 chord you get a maj9 chord, a maj7add13 chord and a maj7 add11 chord.
The second row show how to extend a basic drop 2 chord shape using the previous extra notes.
Here are two easy examples that illustrates how a to play a major seventh chord in a major 2 5 1 progression. The first exercise contains a drop 2 major 7 chord in root position with the bass on the fourth string.
The second tab contains a drop major 7 chord in root position with the bass on the fifth string.
The following tab show how to mix three-note shell chords with walking bass lines.
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Last edited: 04/14/2020