Welcome to the latest installment of Chord by Chord, a series designed to build your understanding of harmony and the fretboard. In a previous lesson, we worked on the I–IV–V7–I progression in G. This time we’ll use the same progression, but with the Imaj7 chord instead of the I.
As you learned previously, a major seventh chord is built by taking a major triad and adding the major seventh. Example 1 shows the G major scale, the first, third, fifth, and seventh notes of which make a Gmaj7 chord (Example 2a). As another reminder of how the other chords in the Imaj7–IV–V7–Imaj7 progression are built, see Examples 2b and c.
Example 3 shows the Imaj7–IV–V7–Imaj7 progression using open chords. Try playing the progression with a basic open G chord instead, so that you can hear what a difference the Gmaj7 chord makes—it provides a peaceful, contemplative, and somewhat jazzy sound.
Example 4 shows the progression using barre chords. Note that this figure uses a slightly different maj7 shape than in previous lessons, with the highest note on string 2. For the smoothest movement between chords, avoid playing the notes on string 1. Example 5 also uses barre chords, but in this case the root note is always on string 6, rather than on either string 6 or 5, as in Ex. 4.
In Example 6, you’ll find compact three-note voicings on the top three strings. You might have noticed that the roots are missing from the Gmaj7 and D7. They still sound like the chords they’re meant to be, though, because they contain the defining notes of the third and seventh (B and F# on the Gmaj7 and F# and C on the D7).
You should now know how to play the Imaj7–IV–V7–Imaj7 using various voicings in the key of G major. Practice playing the progression in rhythm until next time, when I’ll introduce a new chord type—suspended.