After you have worked out the various basic jazz guitar major chords, you are ready to up the ante as you begin to explore rootless major voicings in the practice room.
When moving on to more advanced shapes in the woodshed, you will add the 9th to each maj7 chord shape you learned in the basic lesson, using it to replace the root in each chord as you add this new harmonic color to your grips.
When doing so, you maintain a four-note chord, yet there is no root to refer to when applying these shapes to a chord progression or jazz standard tune.
Because there is no root to reference, having a strong understanding of the basic shapes, as well as the fretboard, is essential when studying and applying these advanced major jazz guitar chords to a comping or chord soloing situation.
Check this link out for a refresher on basic major shapes: Basic Major Guitar Chords
To begin our study of advanced major chords, we’ll take a look at how to build Drop 3 Maj9 chords from an intervallic standpoint.
When doing so, you take the same Maj7 formula you learned in the basic lesson, but replace the root with the 9th, which is a tone (two frets) higher on the guitar.
Though it can be difficult to visualize these shapes at first on the guitar, since there is no root note, a bit of theory can make this easier.
When you replace the root with the 9th, you are essentially creating a m7 chord from the 3rd of the underlying chord change.
This means that if you want to play Cmaj9, you can play Em7 over that chord to bring out the 3-5-7-9 intervals in your playing.
This bit of theory can save you hours in the woodshed as it will allow you to use chords you already know, m7ths, to sound new shapes in your playing, maj9.
Here is the intervallic formula for all four inversions of the Drop 3 Maj9 chord for you to study and memorize.
|Drop 3 Maj9 Root Position||9||7||3||5|
|Drop 3 Maj9 1st Inversion||3||5||9||7|
|Drop 3 Maj9 2nd Inversion||5||3||7||9|
|Drop 3 Maj9 3rd inversion||7||5||9||3|
Now that you have a mental understanding of how to build these inversions, let’s take them to the fretboard.
Here are all four inversions of a rootless Cmaj9 that you can practice in this key, and later in all 12 keys, as you apply this shape to your jazz guitar practice routine.
Once you have these chords under your fingers, try putting on a Cmaj7 backing track and alternating between root-based Cmaj7 chords and rootless Cmaj9 chords in your comping in order to hear these sounds in a musical situation.
As well as creating rootless maj9 chords, you can also create rootless maj9#11 shapes by applying the same concept.
Here, you will take a Drop 3 maj7#11 chord, raise the root to the 9th, and you’ve built a maj9#11 chord.
Here are the four inversions for Drop 3 maj9#11 chords for you to memorize from an intervallic standpoint before taking them onto the guitar.
|Drop 3 Maj9#11 Root Position||9||7||3||#11|
|Drop 3 Maj9#11 1st Inversion||3||#11||9||7|
|Drop 3 Maj9#11 2nd Inversion||#11||3||7||9|
|Drop 3 Maj9#11 3rd inversion||7||#11||9||3|
Here are those four inversions of Cmaj9#11 with the lowest note on the 6th string to explore in the woodshed.
With these shapes under your fingers, you are ready to move between Maj9 and Maj9#11 chords in your comping in order to explore how each of these shapes sounds different, and similar, in a performance situation.
You can now move on to practicing rootless Drop 3 maj9 chords with the 5th string as the lowest note of each shape.
As the intervallic structure is the same for any Drop 3 rootless maj9 and maj9#11 chord, you can jump right in and learn these eight shapes in all 12 keys in your studies.
And here are the maj9#11 shapes on this string set.
At this point, put on a Cmaj7 backing track and comp using any of the sixteen inversions, on the two string sets for each chord type, that you have studied for the rootless Maj9 and Maj9#11 chords to comp over that track.
When you can do this comfortably, you are ready to move on to studying Drop 2 rootless maj9 chords on the guitar.
Here are the four inversions of Drop 2 maj9 rootless chords written out for your to study and memorize before applying these shapes to the fretboard in your practice room.
|Drop 2 Maj9 Root Position||9||5||7||3|
|Drop 2 Maj9 1st Inversion||3||7||9||5|
|Drop 2 Maj9 2nd Inversion||5||9||3||7|
|Drop 2 Maj9 3rd Inversion||7||3||5||9|
Here are those four rootless Drop 2 maj9 chords on the fretboard so that you can memorize these shapes and work them in 12 keys in the practice room.
Again, try comping over a Cmaj7 backing track and alternate between Drop 2 maj7 and Drop 2 maj9 shapes in order to compare them from a sonic position in your playing.
Here are the four inversions of maj9#11 Drop 2 chords to memorize and study in the practice room before you apply this knowledge to the fretboard.
|Drop 2 Maj9#11 Root Position||9||#11||7||3|
|Drop 2 Maj9#11 1st Inversion||3||7||9||#11|
|Drop 2 Maj9#11 2nd Inversion||#11||9||3||7|
|Drop 2 Maj9#11 3rd Inversion||7||3||#11||9|
Here are those chords on the fretboard to explore from a playing standpoint.
With both the maj9 and maj9#11 Drop 2 chords under your fingers for this string set, you can practice moving between these two harmonic sounds as you apply them to chord progressions and tunes in your jazz guitar workout.
As was the case with the Drop 3 chords, the formula is the same for any Drop 2 rootless inversion on any string set from an intervallic standpoint.
This means you are ready to dive right in and memorize the final string set, on the top-4 strings, for these rootless Drop 2 maj9 chords.
After working out the Drop 2 maj9 chords in your routine, here are four inversions of Cmaj9#11 that you can practice in order to get both of these sounds under your fingers on this string set.
Learning rootless major jazz guitar chords can seem like a daunting challenge at first, but with a little practice, some theory knowledge, and determination, you will have these shapes under your fingers and into your playing in no time.