Once you have learned how to play major and minor chords on the guitar, you may wonder what is the next step. And the answer to your question is the Major Seventh Chord (or Delta Chord, like it is called un Jazz).
So, if you want to continue expanding your musical knowledge I invite you to read this post in which I will explain what a major seventh chord (major 7th) is and how to play it on guitar:
Before we start, do you remember what seventh chords are?
In any case, I’ll give you a quick summary:
- The root (1).
- Third (3).
- Fifth (5).
- Seventh (7)
But there is more.
Because depending on the third, fifth and seventh we will construct a different type of seventh chord.
In this article we are going to focus on major seventh chords.
What is a major 7th chord?
A major 7th chord is a tetrad (group of 4 notes) that sounds soft and sweet. That is the reason why they are used in Jazz as well as in Brazilian music (the famous Bossa Nova).
But that’s not all, since major 7th chords are more present than you think in today’s music. For example, the famous song Californication by Red Hot Chili Peppers has an F major seventh chord (Famaj7 or Fmaj7).
Another song that you must have heard more than once and twice is Imagine by John Lennon, which has a C major seventh chord ( Cmaj7). In fact, this song is a must if you want to practice seventh chords because it has the dominant, the minor and the major.
How to build a major seventh chord
A Delta or major seventh chord is tetrad (4-note chord) consisting of the root, major 3rd, perfect fifth and major 7th.
Thus, the major seventh chord formula is:
1 – 3 – 5 – 7
Therefore, the structure of açthis type of seventh chord can be understood in two different ways:
- Major triad + major 3rd.
- Major 3rd + minor 3rd + major 3rd.
I will explain you both so you can choose the one you understand better 🙂
Let’s start with the first method: if you remember the article about musical triads, a major chord is built using the 1st degree (also referred to as the root), the major 3rd degree (at an interval of 4 semitones from the root) and the perfect 5th degree of a major scale (at a distance of 3 semitones from the root).
And if we add a major third interval to the fifth, we have as a result our 7th major chord.
Another way to understand these chords is as a sum of intervals of third: a major seventh chord is formed by a major third interval (4 semitones), followed by a minor third interval (3 semitones), followed by a major third interval (4 semitones).
In any case what you have to remember is that to make a major seventh chord you just need to add the 7th scale degree.
A couple of examples to understand what is a major 7th chord
To understand the theoretical explanation of the previous point we will see two examples step by step.
C major 7th chord
We are going to see how to make a c major 7th chord guitar.
And for this, we are going to start from the very beginning: the root, which is the note that gives name to the chord (C). Now that know that we will look for its third, which is major, so it is at an interval of 4 semitones:
Once we have the root and third, we need the perfect fifth, which is always at a distance of 7 semitones:
And finally, the key part, the major seventh, which is at a distance of 11 semitones from the root:
Note: The seventh major is called a leading tone.
Therefore, the C major seventh chord is created wirh C – E – G – B.
And how would we represent this chord on the guitar? Well, as you see below.
Although you probably already got it, let’s see how we would create the F major 7th chord. This time we will go faster.
F major 7th chord
This chord is built off of F which is the root. At 2 whole steps we have its third, which is A. At 7 semitones we have again the perfect fifth, C. And finally, we find the major seventh at a distance of 11 semitones, E.
And this chord on the guitar has the form below:
How do you notate a major 7th chord?
Major seventh chords are named first with the root note of the chord, followed by the word Maj or maj, and then followed by the number 7.
Let’s see some examples to make it clear:
- Cmaj7: C major seventh chord.
- Dmaj7: D major seventh chord.
- Emaj7: E major seventh chord.
- Fmaj7: F major seventh chord.
- Gmaj7: G major seventh chord.
- Amaj7: F major seventh chord.
- Bmaj7: B major seventh chord.
Another less common way to name seventh chords is with a capital M followed by a 7. For example, the D major seventh chord would be DM7, the E major seventh chord would be EM7 and so on.
And another much less common way is with the delta symbol Δ. And this is because, like a said at the beginning of the post, these chords are also called Delta chords. Although this nomenclature will only be found in the field of Jazz (remember that this is a very common jazz chords to play on guitar).
How to play a major seventh chord on
Now that we know the music theory about this topic let’s how to form a major seventh chord on the guitar.
A quick trick to play all chords with a single shape
As you may have already noticed, the Bmaj7 chord is obtained by moving the A chord two frets towards the bridge (CAGED system with A major seventh on guitar).
This is a very good trick to build all the 7th major chords on guitar.
However, there is a better way to make any major seventh chord on the guitar (which by the way is even easier).
The F major seventh chord is a very useful resource that will allow us to build new chords in a very simple way.
Look at the image above, all you have to do to create new major seventh chords is to move the Fmaj7 chord along the fretboard and include the little finger to cover the 4 notes of the new chords.
This way, you can get the chord of Gmaj7, Amaj7, Bmaj7… and as many as you want!
And that’s all you need to know about major seventh chords. I hope I have helped you with this post.
I love learning to play guitar, music theory and music in general. I never get tired of learning and trying to keep improving every day, step by step.
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