One of the most commonly used, and important to learn, jazz guitar chord shapes, major based chords are found in just about every major key jazz standard in the repertoire.
There are two basic major chord types that you can learn how to build, and of course play on the fretboard, in jazz and those are the Maj7 and Maj6 chords.
There are other major chord types that you can learn, but having a strong understanding of these chord shapes will give you the foundation you need to explore more advanced chord types.
As well, there are many different ways to play Maj7 and Maj6 chords on the guitar, but we will focus on two commonly used chord shapes in this lesson, Drop 3 and Drop 2 shapes.
Again, once you have these shapes under your fingers in the woodshed, you will have the foundation needed to explore more advanced shapes such as closed position chords, Drop 2 and 4 shapes, and 4th voicings.
If you're looking for some more advanced chords, have a look here: Advanced Major Chords
To begin our study of major jazz guitar chords, let's take a look at Drop 3 Maj7 chords with the lowest note of each chord on the 6th string.
Drop 3 Maj7 chords are built with the following interval structure, which will allow you to understand their intervallic shapes as well as transpose these grips to other keys around the fretboard.
|Drop 3 Maj7 root position||R||7||3||5|
|Drop 3 Maj7 1st inversion||3||5||R||7|
|Drop 3 Maj7 2nd inversion||5||3||7||R|
|Drop 3 Maj7 3rd inversion||7||5||R||3|
After you have looked into the interval structure of Drop 3 Maj7 chords, you are ready to bring these four inversions to the fretboard.
Here are the four Cmaj7 Drop 3 chords with the lowest note on the 6th string that you can learn and then take into 12 keys as you explore these shapes further in the practice room.
As well as working on Maj7 Drop 3 chords on the 6th string, you can also alter one note from each of these shapes to form Drop 3 Maj6 chord shapes.
Often used in Bossa Nova tunes, Maj6 chords have a "softer" sound than their Maj7 cousins, and are built by lowering the 7th of a Maj7 chord by 2 frets, or one whole step.
When doing so, you are building the relative minor chord shape for the original Maj7 chord. For example, if you take Cmaj7 and lower the 7th by two frets, you form Cmaj7, which is also the same notes as Am7, the relative minor.
Armed with this knowledge, you can use any m7 chord shapes you know from the 6th of any Maj7 chord in order to produce a Maj7 sound in your comping or chord soloing ideas.
To help you get started with the theory side of Maj6 chords, here is a chart for each Drop 3 Maj6 chord inversion to study.
|Drop 3 Maj6 Root Position||R||6||3||5|
|Drop 3 Maj6 1st Inversion||3||5||R||6|
|Drop 3 Maj6 2nd Inversion||5||3||6||R|
|Drop 3 Maj6 3rd Inversion||6||5||R||3|
As well as learning how to build Maj6 chord shapes from a theory standpoint, you can take these shapes and learn them in four inversions on the fretboard.
Again, learn these shapes in the key of C first, and then practice them in all 12 keys in order to build a full understanding of these important jazz guitar chord shapes across the guitar as a whole.
Once you have learned to play both Maj7 and Maj6 chords on the 6th string, try moving between the two chord types for each inversion.
For example, Play Cmaj7-Cmaj6 in root position, then 1st inversion etc. until you go through all four inversions.
This is a great way to get the sound of both chord shapes under your fingers as well as your ears when working Maj7 and Maj6 shapes in the woodshed.
Now that you have worked major chords with the lowest note on the 5th string, you are ready to move on to learning and practicing Maj7 and Maj6 chord shapes with the lowest note of each inversion on the 5th string.
Since the interval structure of Drop 3 chords with a 5th-string root is the same as those on the 6th string, you can start by playing these shapes on the fretboard right away.
Here are four inversions of Drop 3 Maj7 chords on the 5th string to work in all 12 keys as you expand upon these shapes in the woodshed.
Again, the Drop 3 Maj6 chords on the 5th string use the same interval structure as their 6th-string cousins, and so you can immediately apply that knowledge to the fretboard.
Here are four inversions of Cmaj6 that you can explore in this key, and then all 12 keys, in the woodshed.
Though Drop 2 chords use the same intervals as Drop 3 chords, R-3-5-7, they are played in a different order, without any string skipping, which gives these shapes their own unique harmonic sound.
Here are Drop 2 Maj7 chords written out as intervals in order to help you get this knowledge into your theoretical tool belt before taking them onto the fretboard.
To learn more about these important chord shapes, check out our Drop 2 Chord Lesson.
|Drop 2 Maj7 Root Position||R||5||7||3|
|Drop 2 Maj7 1st Inversion||3||7||R||5|
|Drop 2 Maj7 2nd Inversion||5||R||3||7|
|Drop 2 Maj7 3rd Inversion||7||3||5||R|
With the theoretical knowledge under your belt, here are four inversions of Drop 2 Cmaj7 chords that you can learn in the given key, as well as take to all 12 keys around the fretbaord in your jazz guitar practice routine.
Just as you altered one note of the Drop 3 Maj7 chord shapes to build the Maj6 chord related to that shape, you can do the same thing with Drop 2 Maj7 chords.
So, you can take any Drop 2 Maj7 chord you know, lower the 7th by 2 frets, and voila, you have a Drop 2 Maj6 chord shape.
Here are those chord shapes written out in intervals for you to study in your practice room.
|Drop 2 Maj6 Root Position||R||5||6||3|
|Drop 2 Maj6 1st Inversion||3||6||R||5|
|Drop 2 Maj6 2nd Inversion||5||R||3||6|
|Drop 2 Maj6 3rd Inversion||6||3||5||R|
Now that you understand how to build Drop 2 Maj6 chords from a theoretical standpoint, here are those four shapes on the fretbaord in the key of C major.
Once you can play these shapes in the key of C, try and work them around the fretboard in all 12 keys.
Once you can play both Drop 2 and Drop 3 Maj7 and Maj6 chords on the 5th and 6th-string shapes, try moving between these chords grips as you practice comping over a Maj7 backing track.
For example, put on a Cmaj7 backing track and comp over that chord using any Maj7 or Maj6 Drop 2 or Drop 3 shape that you have learned so far in this lesson.
This will help you get the sound of these differet chords and inverisons into your ears, and onto the fretboard, as you progress with major chord types in a jazz guitar situation.
The final group of major chords you'll learn in this lesson are based on the top four strings.
Because there isn't enough room for any string skips, you can only play Drop 2 Maj7 and Maj6 chord shapes on this string group.
As you saw with the two string sets of Drop 3 Maj7 chords you've learned already, both share the same interval structure but are on different string sets.
The same is case for Drop 2 Maj7 chords, which you can see in the four inversions of Drop 2 Cmaj7 chords on the top four strings in the example below.
Again, the Drop 2 Maj6 chords on the 4th string have the same interal structure of Drop 2 Maj6 chords on the 5th string.
To help you take these sounds onto the fretboard, here are four inversions of CMaj6 on the top four strings to work in all 12 keys around the fretboard.
Now that you have explored all four inversions of Drop 2 and Drop 3 Maj7 and Maj6 chords in all inversions across three string sets, you are are ready to apply these shapes to your jazz guitar comping and chord soloing ideas in a jam situation.