Welcome to the latest installment of Chord by Chord, a series designed to build your understanding of harmony and the fretboard. In the last lesson I showed you a new seventh chord type, the major seventh, and how to get to Cmaj7 from C major. This time I’ll do the same thing, but with Gmaj7 and G major.
Remember that in order to make a major seventh chord, you just take a major triad and put the major seventh on top. So in the case of Gmaj7, start with a G major triad (G B D), which is shown in Example 1, and add the major seventh (F#) (Example 2).
Example 3 shows show to make Gmaj7 from an open G chord. Note that on the Gmaj7 chord, it’s best to leave out the third (B) on string 5, fret 2, as it can kind of muddy things up. Example 4a gives us a Gmaj7 chord built off a third-position G chord. We’re playing just the bottom four strings on this Gmaj7, as using all six strings would sound a little strange. You can also omit the D on the fifth string, for a tighter sound. In Example 4b, you’ll find a Gmaj7 chord based on the top four strings of a third-position G chord.
The G major shape in Example 5 is a bit uncommon, at least in popular music, but the Gmaj7 chord that follows is not. Example 6 gives a couple of shapes in tenth position. This Gmaj7 voicing might be more easily played by eliminating the D on string 1, fret 10—and with it the need for a barre. Lastly, in Example 7 we have a tightly voiced Gmaj7 that’s perfect for jazz but can also be used anywhere.
You should now know how to make a Gmaj7 chord from various G major shapes. A song that makes good use of the open Gmaj7 shape is James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain,” which is played with a capo at the third fret. We’ll continue exploring the major seventh chord in the next lesson, converting D chord to Dmaj7.