Augmented Major Seventh Chords For Jazz Guitar

When learning how to play jazz guitar chords, one of the uncommon, yet cool-sounding shapes, which you will run across, is the maj7#5 chord (aka augmented major seventh chord). Though it is not as commonly used as the maj7 or maj7#11 chord shapes, the maj7#5 chord is an interesting sound that you can add to your jazz guitar vocabulary over static maj7 chords, as well as ii V I progressions.

To help you get your fingers, ears, and mind around this major 7 chord alteration, you will learn how to build maj7#5 chords, how they can be applied to your comping, how you can improvise over them, as well as study a comping etude in order to bring these ideas to a musical situation.

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What is a Maj7#5 Chord?

An augmented major seventh chord is a maj7 chord with the 5th note raised by one half-step (one fret), to produce the #5 interval on that chord shape. Formula: 1 3 #5 7

The intervals of the maj7 chord are 1-3-5-7 and so the interval pattern for the maj7#5 chord is 1-3-#5-7, so you can see that they are only one note apart, the raised 5th.

Here is how those two chords look on paper so you can see the one-note difference between the two.

 

Maj7#5 Chords 1

Maj7#5 Jazz Guitar Chord Voicings

Here are 8 different maj7#5 chord fingerings that you can practice in order to get your fingers around these chords.

 

Maj7#5 Chords 4

 

C major 7 augmented chord chart

As was mentioned earlier, you can take any maj7 chord you know, in any inversion, find the 5th and raise it by one fret in order to create a maj7#5 chord. Try this out with your favorite maj7 chords, writing them down to keep a chord dictionary that you can refer to in your future practice sessions.

Ma7#5 ii V I Application

With the knowledge of how to build a maj7#5 chord under your belt, let’s take a look at how you can apply this interesting sounding chord to your comping ideas in a jazz setting.

Since this chord is built by altering a maj7 chord, you can theoretically use a major augmented 7 chord in place of any maj7 chord when playing tunes, just be aware that it will create tension when substituted for the more smooth-sounding maj7 chord.

In order to deal with this added tension, some players will use the #5 as a passing tone between the 5 and 6 of the maj7 chord.

Alternatively, you can resolve the #5 up to the 6 or down to the 5th of the underlying chord in order to create tension, but also resolve it over that change as well.

Here is an example of a ii V I in C major where the maj7#5 chord is added in place of the Cmaj7 chord, but not resolved as the tension is left to hang over the Imaj7 part of that progression.

 

Maj7#5 Chords 2

 

In the next example,  the Cmaj7#5 is used over the Imaj7 section of the progression, but in this case, the #5 note is resolved down then up in order to provide a resolution to the tension that that note creates in the progression.

 

Maj7#5 Chords 3

Maj7#5 Tune Up Chord Study

To help you practice the maj7#5 chord in a musical situation, here is a sample chord study written out over the Miles Davis standard Tune Up.

In this study, I’ve used the maj7#5 over each Imaj7 in the tune, with the same passing note pattern being used for each Imaj7 that occurs in the progression.

As well, I’ve used some new maj7#5 chord shapes as compared to the previous sections of this lesson in order to help you expand your vocabulary at the same time.

Go slow with this comping study, work it with a metronome, and then take it to a backing track.

 

Maj7#5 Chords 6-png

Soloing Over Augmented Major Seventh Chords

When learning to solo over major family chords, many jazz guitarists explore the Ionian mode (Maj7) and the Lydian mode (Maj7#11), but there is a third major chord color, and that is the Lydian augmented sound (Maj7#5).

Though you don’t see many Maj7#5 chords in jazz standard situations, especially compared to Maj7 chords, you can use the Maj7#5 arpeggio, pentatonic scale, and mode to add tension and color to your Maj7 soloing lines.

So, before we dig into these Maj7#5 melodic devices, keep in mind that you can use these devices to solo over Maj7#5 chords when you see them, but you can also use them to add a #5 color to any Maj7 chord you see in your playing.

 

Maj7#5 Arpeggio

To begin your study of how to solo over major seventh augmented chords, you will learn two positions for a Maj7#5 arpeggio, one from the 6th-string root note, and one from the 5th-string root note.

Maj7#5 arpeggios are built by playing the four chord tones that make up the Maj7#5 chord (1-3-#5-7). If you already know your Maj7 arpeggio shapes, you can also take any Maj7 arpeggio, raise the 5th by 1 fret, and you will have created a Maj7#5 arpeggio in the process.

 

Gmaj7 ArpeggioGBDF#
1357
Gmaj7#5 ArpeggioGBD#F#
13#57

 

Both arpeggios below are written from the root note G to keep things organized in your studies from the beginning. But, once you can play one or both of these shapes from the root G, make sure to practice it in other keys as you begin to work these shapes around the fretboard.

Here is a Gmaj7#5 arpeggio from the 6th string root note.

 

Listen & Play Along

augmented-1

Moving forward, here is a Gmaj7#5 arpeggio from the 5th-string root note.

 

Listen & Play Along

augmented-2

As well as working these shapes in various keys around the fretboard, make sure to put on a Gmaj7#5 backing track and practice soloing over that static chord vamp using one or both of these arpeggio shapes to build your improvised lines and phrases.

 

Maj7#5 Pentatonic Scale

Though many of us are familiar with modes and arpeggios over chords such as Maj7#5, you might be surprised to know that you can also play a pentatonic scale over these augmented chords.

The Maj7#5 pentatonic scale is built with the interval structure 1-2-3-#5-6, which is the same structure as a major pentatonic scale, 1-2-3-5-6, with the 5th raised a fret to get that augmented sound in your lines.

 

G Major Pentatonic ScaleGABDE
12356
G Maj#5 Pentatonic ScaleGABD#E
123#56

 

To begin your study of this 5-note scale, here is a GMaj7#5 pentatonic scale that you can practice in the given key, as well as take into other keys as you expand upon this sound in your studies.

 

Listen & Play Along

augmented-3

As well, you can learn to play this pentatonic scale from the 5th-string root, which you can see below from the root note G.

 

Listen & Play Along

augmented-4

Once you have these shapes under your fingers, try applying them to your soloing practice by improvising over a Gmaj7#5 backing track and using these scale shapes to create your lines and phrases. From there, you can mix the Maj7#5 arpeggios and pentatonic scales together in your lines to hear how these two melodic devices compare and contrast in your solos.

 

Maj7#5 Mode – Lydian Augmented Scale

The last melodic device you will study in this lesson is the Maj7#5 mode, also known as the Lydian augmented scale. This scale is the 3rd mode of the melodic minor scale, and so for Gmaj7#5 it is like playing an E Melodic Minor Scale starting from the note G.

When doing so, the interval structure for the Lydian augmented scale is 1-2-3-#4-#5-6-7, which is like a Lydian mode with the 5th raised by a fret, hence the name Lydian augmented.

 

G Lydian ScaleGABC#DEF#
123#4567
G Lydian Augmented ScaleGABC#D#EF#
123#4#567

 

Here is a 6th-string root fingering for the G Lydian augmented scale:

 

Listen & Play Along

augmented-5

You can also play the Lydian augmented scale from the 5th-string root note, which you can see in this example written from the root note G.

 

Listen & Play Along

augmented-6

 

Major Augmented Seven Licks

Here are three sample licks that use the arpeggio, pentatonic scale, and mode from above.

This first sample lick uses the Maj7#5 arpeggio over the Cmaj7 chord in the progression below.

 

Listen & Play Along

augmented-7

 

Moving on, the second lick uses the Maj7#5 pentatonic scale over the Cmaj7 chord in the given progression.

 

Listen & Play Along

augmented-8

 

Lastly, here is a Maj7#5 mode applied to the Cmaj7 chord in the chord progression below.

 

Listen & Play Along

augmented-9

 

After you have learned these three sample licks, try writing out 3 lines of your own in order to take these melodic devices into a practical, musical situation in your own studies.

 

Do you have a question about the maj7#5 chord? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

The Easy Guide to Jazz Guitar Chords

  • David Norcup says:

    Pretty new to more complex theory but could you use mode 3 of harmonic minor? Similar vibe but without the #11?

  • James Framus says:

    You guys are doing a great service putting the “Real Deal” out there. I’m a former guitarist in the USN; I also taught guitar at a community college. Thank You !!! Personally, I’d like to see a gradual library of Real Book tunes covered using numerical functional analysis take root on your site. It covers an expansive array of territory. Great job on ATTYA BTW !!! Peace, Jim Framus

  • steve neaves says:

    I really enjoyed this lesson it has opened my ears and eyes to so many things.

  • Richard says:

    A perfect amount of information and a doorway to a great sound. These lessons are unequaled.

  • emiliano says:

    VERY impresive. it sounds like high quality jazz… just because there is the proper altered soundies there. thanks!!

  • Francesco from Rome says:

    Great ! 2nd and 3rd Lick very effective …

  • Germano says:

    Very helpful

  • alex adapoyi says:

    This was one of the best lessons ever..i will not forget this

  • mark says:

    nice lesson

  • John says:

    Perception is reality, as they say. Like all (parallel) chords, this could be a IMaj7#5, or it could be: I/bVI slash chord, VIminMaj9, VIm/#v slash chord, etc.

    So, whatever we call the chord, the name is for our analytical thinking. The music could care less, just how the voicing fits and works in the context of the composition.

    Out of the 4 examples in this lesson, 3 of them resolve. Only the 2nd example is unresolved. By these examples, one could conclude that this chord is functionally a passing chord, its purpose being to create a moving voice.

  • Sharon Kathleen Johnson says:

    Max, my initial reaction was similar–what in the Sam Hill is the purpose of this deliberate and pugnacious dissonance? I finally realized that the more treacherous and intransigent the atonality, the more welcome and winsome the resolution. It’s the same reason that a melodic phrase sung above a rackety ukulele (which is dissonance personified even when tuned) has an ENHANCED melodicity by way of contrast. Alt-rock stars are capitalizing on this conundrum (Zoe Deschanel, etc.). Dissonance within an ultimately harmonious composition tends to ENHANCE your resolutions.

  • michael says:

    Great lesson!
    Been in my toolbox awhile, a little light shed on it,,,
    ( as you do so well,,,) is power!

    Good on ya Bro!

    Thanks for sharing!

  • ernest says:

    you really have it. it’s GOD GIVEN keep it up. i love all your revelations.
    thank you i will follow raptly.
    GOD BLESS you.

  • sergio says:

    Finally, the Melodic Minor is a great source of jazz sounds. Thank’s Dirk!!

  • Stanley Ruiz says:

    yes its a useful chord. I tend not to use this chord as a resolved tonic due to its restless feel. However I will tend to use it as a substitute for Dom7th. In this case CM7#5 being the mediant chord of A melodic minor, I can appegiate it over a D7 to create a lydian dominant sonority since it contains the note Ab(G#)which is the flatted 5th of the D7.To me its using a lydian augmented structure (CM7#5) to render a lydian b7 sonority on (D7b5)

    I can apply this CM7#5 over perhaps E7,B7 and Ab7 (a super locrian approach )

    Will really appreciate your comments or corrections ,I am a student for life and open to your lectures.

    kind regards,

    Stanley Ruiz

    stanleyruiz@hotmail.com

  • Lee Ramirez says:

    Dirk, thanks so much for your sharing knowledge on Jazz guitar. What a blessing! One of my favorite chord melody players is Tony Mottola. Please include aome of his works in your teaching! Lee Ramirez

  • max says:

    Maj7#5 chords don’t sit well on the guitar. It’s a pretty ugly sound although it can resolve. Why are jazz musicians obsessed with this stuff? Little wonder there are no audiences! Maj7#5 chords should come with a (financial) health warning.

    • Adam Smale says:

      That’s why I tend not to vist forums like this very often because of excruciatingly asinine comments like this one our friend max left!

      • Stanley says:

        ADAM I AGREE WITH YOU, THIS GUY MAX DOES NOT UNDERSTAND JAZZ AS A LANGUAGE AND PERHAPS NEED A PREPARATORY COURSE BEFORE ENTERTAINING ANY KIND OF MUSIC DISCOURSE WITH MUSICIANS WHO PERHAPS ARE MORE EXPERIENCED THAN HIS GOOD SELF.

        I RECOMMEND A BASIC JAMEY ABERSOLD ON SCALES AND THE RELATED HARMONIZATIONS

  • roger bonnici says:

    So, That’s what I’ve been using? LOL! Sounds Great!

  • John Ellard says:

    Interesting lesson, especially the last part, “Maj7#5 Tune Up Comping Study.” I like anything that puts movement between chords; it makes the guitar more piano-like.
    Thanks for the lesson, Matt!

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