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major guitar chords. Major 7 Chords 1) The C Major Scale The major scale (aka the Ionian mode) is the obvious choice of scale to play over a major chord. The Ionian mode is played over I chords, in II V I chord progressions for example. Something to look out for when using the major scale: the 11 (F in C major) is a so called avoid note for major chords because it is one half step above a chord note (the 3 or e). This does not mean you cannot play this note, but is rather disharmonic when you keep hanging on it or use it as a target note. Over the Cmaj7 we play the C Ionian scale: C Ionian Over Cmaj7 C 1 D 9 E 3 F 11 G 5 A 6 B 7
Here's the C Ionian mode in its root position on the guitar neck:
2) The Major Bebop Scale The major bebop scale is a major scale with a chormatic passing tone between the 6 and 5 (b6). C Major Bebop Scale Over Cmaj B 7 A 6 Ab b6 G 5 F 11 E 3 D 9 C 1
3) The Cmaj7 Arpeggio An obvious option as well: the C major arpeggio (C E G B). 4) The Em7 Arpeggio An Em7 arpeggio over C major gives us the 9 sound. Em7 Arpeggio Over Cmaj7 E 3 G 5 B 7 D 9
In this example there is an Em7 arpeggio with some chromatic notes:
5) Guitar Chord Shapes An effective way to outline the harmony of a song is by playing single note lines that follow the shape of a guitar voicing. Play the voicing like you would play an arpeggio, fret one note at a time (do not let ring). The following guitar lick uses the outlines of these basic chord voicing:
Major 6 Chords 6) The C Major Pentatonic Scale The C major (=A minor) pentatonic scale is the C major scale minus 2 notes (11 and 7). The 11 is gone, which might be a good thing because it is an avoid note. The 7 is ommited as well, which gives this scale a bit more basic and less colorful sound. Such a sound can be effective for major chords with a strong tonic function (like ending chords) or for traditional jazz styles like Dixieland. C Major Pentatonic Over Cmaj7 C 1 D 9 E 3 G 5 A 6
7) The E Minor Pentatonic Scale The E minor (=G major) pentatonic scale has every note of the C major scale minus the 1 and 11, the least important notes of a chord. E Minor Pentatonic E G A B D
Over Cmaj7 An example:
8) The Am7 Arpeggio The Am7 arpeggio gives us the C triad + the 6. Am7 Arpeggio Over Cmaj7 A 6 C 1 E 3 G 5
Major #11 Chords 9) The Lydian Scale The Lydian scale is the 4th degree of the modes and is played over major chords that have a IV function. Its only difference with the normal major scale is the #11. Because the 11 is raised a half tone, there is no avoid note in the Lydian scale. C Lydian Scale Over Cmaj7 C 1 D 9 E 3 F# #11 G 5 A 6 B 7
10) B Minor Pentatonic Scale The B minor (=D major) pentatonic scale works well over major #11 chords. It has the 3 and 7 + all the tensions. You can also use the B minor blues scale. B Minor Pentatonic Over Cmaj7 B 7 D 9 E 3 F# #11 A 6
In this example there is a blues lick and end with a F#m7b5 arpeggio
11) Gmaj7 Arpeggio The Gmaj7 is a good choice to play over Cmaj7#11.
12) D7 Arpeggio A D7 arpeggio works well as well: D7 Arpeggio Over Cmaj7 D 9 F# #11 A 6 C 1
13) F#m7b5 Arpeggio A F#m7b5 arpeggio sounds nice
F#m7b5 Arpeggio Over Cmaj7
14) Bm7 Arpeggio A Bm7 is good for ad lib phrases on ending chords because it contains the 6, 9 and #11, all popular tensions for end voicing. Bm7 Arpeggio Over Cmaj7 B 7 D 9 F# #11 A 6
Notes on using the below chord charts… The first chart shows the relationship between notes for the most popular chord types.Be aware that the more notes a chord contains, the more difficult it becomes to find comfortable fingerings for playing it on the guitar. It should also be noted that it’s impossible to play a complete 13th or m13th chord on the guitar. Theoretically these chords contain seven notes and a guitar has only got six strings. It isn’t always necessary to include every note in a chord, only those that give it the character you need. So, Theoretically a m13th chord contains 7 notes: 1 b3 5 b7 9 11 13. A piano player can play all these notes in 1 voicing, but a guitar player can't since there are only 6 strings. Not all notes are equally important though:
• • • • If you play with a bass player, omit the 1. 3 and 7 are important notes to express the nature of a chord and for voice leading. 5 is not an important note in jazz voicings and can sound harsh in dominant chords. Tensions are important for voice leading and to add color to a chord. You don't need to play all tensions: theoretically a m13th chord includes the tensions 9, 11 and 13, but
rarely are all tensions played at once. You can just play the 13 or combine it with the 9 for example.
There are of course plenty of other obscure chords, and this isn’t intended as a definitive list. You can always use this as a basis for making your own charts of the chords you like to use.
(*) Note that a 7b13 is not the same chord as a 7#5:
on a 7b13 usually the 5th mode of the melodic scale is the scale of choice. on a 7#5 chord usually the altered scale or the wholetone scale is used
Illustrations of the guitar fretboard usually just tell you where all the notes are, so that you can find them one by one, without really appreciating how they fit together as a chord. This chart shows you the relationships between the notes. It’s possible that the chart already exists somewhere, but I’ve never managed to find it. So I decided to make my own chart to show the relationships between all the strings and frets, in standard tuning. The chart doesn’t begin or end at any precise frets on a real fretboard. You decide what chord you want to look for and then start by finding its Root, ®. For example, to find an Am7b5 chord, first find the Root note ‘A’ on the 6th, 5th or 4th string, and then look for b3, b5 and b7 on the higher strings. Try looking for other combinations (and inversions) until you find the voicing that works best in your particular arrangement. To avoid cluttering the chart, I haven’t included 9th’s, 11th’s or 13th’s. Just remember that…
• • • A 9th is an octave above a 2nd An 11th is an octave above a 4th A 13th is an octave above a 6th
Ideally you should be able to visualize this chart in your head and find the note functions on the guitar neck without thinking. Working with the chart will help you achieve this goal.
In this exercise you can combines scales and chromatic notes. There are many ways to practice guitar scales, this is a particular good one because the chromatic notes give the scale a jazzy sound. This is a powerful exercise, use the same principle on other scales and positions. The example given uses the B Dorian mode. Here is what happens:
• • • • • On the 1st note of the scale I play an interval, the 3rd. I approach the 2nd note chromatically I play a 3rd on the 3rd note. I approach the 4th note chromatically. ...
Most of the time the chromatic notes come from below the target note, sometimes from above.
And here are the guitar tabs:
C, E-flat and G go into a bar. The bartender says, "sorry, but we don't serve minors." So E-flat leaves, and C and G have an open fifth between them. After a few drinks, the fifth is diminished and G is out flat. F comes in and tries to augment the situation, but is not sharp enough.
D comes in and heads for the bathroom saying, "Excuse me. I'll just be a second." Then A comes in, but the bartender is not convinced that this relative of C is not a minor. Then the bartender notices B-flat hiding at the end of the bar and says, "Get out! You're the seventh minor I've found in this bar tonight."
E-Flat comes back the next night in a three-piece suit with nicely shined shoes. The bartender says, "you're looking
sharp tonight. Come on in, this could be a major development." Sure enough, E-flat soon takes off his suit and everything else, and is au natural.
Eventually C sobers up and realizes in horror that he's under a rest. C is brought to trial, found guilty of contributing to the diminution of a minor, and is sentenced to 10 years of D.S. without Coda at an upscale correctional facility.
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