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How to Play Maj7 Arpeggios For Jazz Guitar

When first learning how to play jazz guitar, many of us know we need to get a handle on arpeggios in order to develop our soloing chops, and maj7 arpeggios are a great place to start in this area of study.

In this introductory lesson, you will learn how to build, play, and solo with maj7 arpeggios in one and two-octave shapes on the fretboard.

If you are interested in learning more about arpeggios, please check out my other arpeggio related articles.

 

 

Don’t forget to download your FREE Jazz Guitar eBook!

 

 

What is a maj7 Arpeggio

 

Built by taking the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th notes of the Major Scale, maj7 arpeggios have the following interval structure:

 

  • Root
  • Major 3rd
  • Perfect 5th
  • Major 7th

 

Because they outline a maj7 chord, which shares the same notes as the maj7 arpeggio, these shapes can be used to solo over maj7 chords in a jazz improvisational context.

 

 

Maj7 Arpeggios One Octave

 

Now that you know how to build a maj7 arpeggio, here are 12 fingerings for maj7 arpeggios on the fretboard, written in one-octave shapes.

Let’s begin with maj7 arpeggios, one octave, from the index finger.

 

maj7 arpeggios 1

 

Here are those same maj7 arpeggios from the middle finger, with the exception of the 3rd-string root shape.

 

maj7 arpeggios 2

 

Lastly, here are the same maj7 arpeggios from the pinky, or ring if you prefer, finger.

 

maj7 arpeggios 3

 

Once you have any or all of these arpeggios down, put on a maj7 backing track and start soloing with these shapes in order to take them to the improvisational side of your playing as well as the technical side.

 

 

Maj7 Arpeggio Two Octave

 

Though one-octave maj7 arpeggios are great for soloing over fast-moving chord changes, there are times when you have more room to spread out across the fretboard, and this is where two-octave shapes come in handy.

Here are four different two-octave maj7 arpeggios to practice in all 12 keys across the fretboard.

 

maj7 arpeggios 4

 

As well, you can put on a maj7 backing track and practice soloing with these two-octave shapes, and moving between one and two-octave arpeggios as you begin to combine them in your studies and soloing ideas.

 

 

Maj7 Arpeggios – 3 Licks

 

To finish up our introduction to maj7 arpeggios, here are three licks that use maj7 arpeggios in their construction.

The first lick features a two-bar maj7 arpeggio phrase that you can learn and transpose to other keys across the fretboard.

 

Click to hear maj7 arpeggios 1

 

maj7 arpeggios 5

 

Next, here is a maj7 arpeggio applied to the Imaj7 chord in a ii-V-I chord progression.

 

Click to hear maj7 arpeggios 2

 

maj7 arpeggios 6

 

Lastly, here is a maj7 arpeggio applied to the two chords in the first four bars of “On Green Dolphin Street.”

 

Click to hear maj7 arpeggios 3

 

maj7 arpeggios 7

 

When you can play these three licks from memory, try coming up with 3 to 5 maj7 arpeggio licks of your own in order to take these shapes further in your studies.

 

Do you have a question about these maj7 arpeggios? Post your thoughts in the comments section below.



10 Comments

  1. Ivan, December 13, 2011:

    I really like this idea of 3-9 arpeggios, but, my problem is how to look at a chord progression and decide what to do as a solo. e.g. Scale or arpeggio.
    What would you suggest is the most practical way of breaking down chord chart please? Do you identify ii V i etc and stick to one scale/arpeg through it, OR do you look at the which key would fit over most of the tune……

  2. Matt Warnock, December 13, 2011:

    Hey Ivan,
    Good question. I would practice improvising over any new tune using only one approach. So I would solo over each chord with just the triad, then just the arpeggio, then just the 3-9 arpeggio and finally just the scale.

    Then I would mix them together in the practice room so that when I get on the bandstand my ears can guide my choice of scale vs. arpeggio when I’m soloing.

    Separating them will give you a good command of each approach, making sure that you are never stuck using only one because that’s all you can do over a certain tune.

    Try that out, you might be surprised how deep you can get into a tune with this easy approach.

  3. Alex, September 25, 2012:

    Hey man, I’m really hoping you can help me out with this.

    I’m really big on making sure I know the “proper” fingering for horizontal scales/arpeggios. I know people say that you should do “whatever’s comfortable” for you, but I like to know the rules before I can break them. Would you happen to have a link that lays this out? Maybe the proper technique in general? At the moment, for example, I’m trying to figure out just the two-octave CMaj7 arpeggio. Right up to the B on the 4th string I’m staying in one position, but then I switch to using my middle finger in order to be able to play the E on the 3rd string with my index finger. Is this correct? How would YOU do it? Really hoping you can help, this has been frustrating me for months now. Thank you, hope you check up on this stuff every once in a while!

  4. Matthew Warnock, September 25, 2012:

    Hey, yeah I shift there for the second octave, so for the 2 octave scale I move up to my middle finger on the C and then index on the E like you said, that’s the easiest way for me to do it. Hope that helps!

  5. Alex, September 28, 2012:

    Such a quick response! Thank you very much, I appreciate it. Keep up the good work!

  6. Jean, September 2, 2014:

    Hello dear instructor,

    These days, I spend a lot of time practicing Drop2, Drop3 and Arpeggios fingerings.
    This is an endeavor that will take some time, and I don’t think I should wait to create music until I’ve mastered every single single arpeggio and fingerings for maj7, dom7, min7, and so on and so on. I want to create music all along, as I move on!

    I am not completely helpless; I’ve already come up with one easy way to create small songs. What I do is; whatever song I like, I use a drum software and create a drum track that goes like the drum track in the song, then I record a bass track where I play each note around the circle of fifths, a certain number of measures, then I play the arpeggio, fingering, whatever I am practicing, over this. Sometimes I throw in a little piano also.
    This method has already given me a bunch of songs, that I like to call ”Academic songs”, that I am so proud of.

    My question to you is, do you have hints or suggestions about any other relatively easy ways I can create songs?

    By easy, I mean methods that are not so difficult as to draw my focus too far away from the main thing, which is practicing my arpeggios, chord fingerings, etc…

    Thank you.

    Jean

  7. Matt Warnock, September 2, 2014:

    that’s a good way to do it for sure. The other way is to take a common tune and work out the chord progression. Then write a new melody over those chords so you get to study the make up of the tune, but you are writing your own melody over it at the same time.

  8. Dave, September 29, 2014:

    HI, In question number two above, What is the 3-9 arpeggios Ivan mentioned?
    Thanks

  9. Matt Warnock, September 29, 2014:

    Hi Dave, check this lesson out, will help with that concept.

    http://mattwarnockguitar.com/building-bebop-vocabulary-3-to-9-arpeggios

  10. Dave, September 29, 2014:

    Thanks for all your help,and your website!

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