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Exploring Maj7b5 – A Versatile Jazz Guitar Chord for a Modern Sound Part 2

By: Adam Smale

In Part I of these 3-part series on jazz guitar chord voicings, you learned that you can superimpose a Maj7(b5) chord over four different other chord qualities.

In Part II, you’ll continue learning how to use these substitutions in practical and musical ways so that you can instantly take them into the practice room and out on the bandstand.


TOPIC 5: Jazz Guitar Chord ii V I Sub


Now let’s start by applying the Maj7(b5) chord to a Minor II V I chord progression.

Since you can substitute a Maj7(b5) for the IIm7(b5), the V7alt, and the Im6/9, you will be able to apply this voicing to all of the chords in the progression.

This first example shows a simplified formula for applying three parallel Maj7(b5) chords to create a Minor II V I chord progression.



ii V I Sub


Trick: Since you can substitute a m7(b5) chord with a Maj7(b5) chord, the same exact moves can also be done: up a minor 3rd (3 frets) to the V chord, then up a major 3rd (4 frets) to reach the I chord.


The next example shows what you would see written in a chord chart verses what you would play to create the minor II V I that was explained in the previous example.


Click for Example 5 Without Root

Click for Example 5 With Root



minor ii V I sub


Trick:  Play parallel Maj7(b5) chords using the motion up a minor 3rd, then a major 3rd.



TOPIC 6: Dominant 7 Sub


Since you used a Maj7(b5) voicing to create a 7alt sound, do you you think that you can use a Maj7(b5) voicing to substitute for a regular, unaltered Dom7 chord?

Yes you can.

Matter of fact, it creates a somewhat sophisticated chord with very few notes as was the case with the previous superimposition.

Here is an example of that chord in action.


Click for Example 7 Audio


Dominant 7 Sub



Trick: Play a Maj7(b5) chord from the b7 of a Dom7 chord to create a Dominant 13 sound.


TOPIC 7: Major ii V Subs


Alright, now that you know that you can substitute a Maj7(b5) voicing to create a Dominant 13 chord, let’s see if we can come up with ways of playing through a major II V I using a Maj7(b5) for each chord in the progression.

Let’s take this opportunity to investigate a new way to play the same chord voicing on a different string groups, as well as mixing in some new voicings with some possibly familiar ones.

The next example demonstrates a few ways that you could tackle a II V I in C Major in this fashion.

Use the “what you see” section to compare with a), b), and c) each time.



Major ii V I Sub


Explanation of Previous Example:

a) Fmaj7(b5) substitutes for Dm7, a minor 3rd up from the Root. Again Fmaj7(b5) substitutes for G7 producing a G13.

Lastly, using Cmaj7(b5) to substitute for Cma7 all the while done with parallel voicings on the same string grouping.

b) Uses some stock chord voicings mixed in for a more smooth voice leading approach.

c) Also mixes in some stock chord voicings with the new substitution chords more or less using the same string grouping and providing a smoother voice leading.


What do you think of these uses for the Maj7(b5) chord? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


About the Author

For more on Adam Smale visit For more info on Adam’s book, New Approach to Scales for Guitarists, visit


  1. Tom, October 24, 2013:

    I figured out another cool trick with the maj7b5. If you play a maj7b5 from the b3 of a major 7 chord you get a M6/9 with an added #9. I’ve only tried it over a maj7 chord in first inversion but it sounds interesting. So, an example would be an EMaj7b5 over Db Maj7 1st inversion. Understandably in most situations the #9 would be undesirable over a major 7 but in it’s own context it provides for some interesting harmony. Just thought I’d share that and thank you for the information here. Definitely helpful stuff.

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