When exploring minor key sounds as a jazz guitarist, one of the first chord qualities you will discover is the mMaj7 chord. Coming from the first mode of the Melodic Minor Scale, this chord can be used over various minor chord situations, in both major and minor keys, but it can be tough to work with at first due to the tension caused by the major 7th interval found in this chord shape.
In order to help you understand where this chord comes from, how you can use it in your comping and practice it further in the woodshed, we’ve put together this lesson that covers all of those topics from a technical and musical standpoint.
So, let’s dig in and check out this fun to use, cool-sounding and commonly used minor chord color.
What Are mMaj7 Chords
To begin our study of mMaj7 chords, let’s take a look at how these chord are the same and different from m7 chord shapes.
As you can see in the example below, mMaj7 chords are only one note different from m7 chords, they have a major 7th interval compared to the minor 7th interval.
Because of this, you can take any m7 chord you know, raise the 7th note by one fret on the guitar, and you’ve produced a mMaj7 sound.
Try this out with some m7 chord shapes that you know and see how these new mMaj7 chords sound in comparison as you begin to explore them in your studies.
As well as thinking about the mMaj7 chord in relation to the m7 chord construction, you can build this chord by taking the first, third, fifth and seventh notes of the Melodic Minor Scale and stacking them on top of each other.
Here is how that would look in regards to the D Melodic Minor and DmMaj7 chord.
Now that you’ve checked out the theory behind the mMaj7 chord, from both a harmonic and melodic perspective, you’re ready to begin applying this theory the fretboard as you learn mMaj7 chord shapes on the guitar.
mMaj7 Chord Shapes for Guitar
To help you get these cool-sounding jazz guitar chords under your fingers and onto the fretboard, here are 16 mMaj7 chords that you can work on in the woodshed.
Try learning these shapes over the given DmMaj7 chord, and then take them to other keys around the neck as you expand upon them in the woodshed.
As well, try and apply these shapes to your comping ideas over tunes you know or are working on in the practice room, which you can see examples of these applications below.
mMaj7 ii V I Application – Major Keys
When applying these chord shapes to musical situations, one of the first places you can start is playing them over iim7 chords in order to create tension in that part of major key ii V I progressions.
While you can play a mMaj7 chord on its own in place of a iim7 chord in this progression, one of the most commonly used patterns is to walk down from the root to the b7, which then leads to the 3rd of the V7 chord in the next bar.
When doing this, you produce a Dm-DmMaj7-Dm7-G9/B progression, as you can see in the example below.
Once you have worked this pattern out in the key of C major, work it in different keys and with different chord shapes as you expand upon this application further in the woodshed.
Try putting on a tune such as Tune Up and comping over each major key ii V I progression while applying mMaj7 chords in a similar context over each of these progressions in order to hear how these chords sound in a musical situation.
mMaj7 ii V I Application – Minor Keys
As well as applying mMaj7 chords to the iim7 chord in a major key ii V I, you can also apply these shapes to the Im7 chord in a minor key ii V I.
Here, you can emphasize the sound of the mMaj7 chord more as this is a tonic minor sound, which fits perfectly with the Im7 function in this context.
While you can apply mMaj7 chords over Im7 chords, it will apply more tension to your minor key ii V I’s than a Im7 or Im6 sound, so make sure you experiment with this sound at home before you take it to a jam or gig to avoid any awkward sounding moments.
Here is an example that you can work on in order to introduce this sound to your minor key ii V I comping phrases. Again, work this idea in the given key, then apply it to other keys around the fretboard before applying it to tunes such as “Woody n You” in order to hear it in a practical, musical situation.