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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 went over the chord progression Imaj7–IV–V7–Imaj7 in the key of G major. This time we’ll do the same, but in A.

The Work

Each chord in this lesson is built from the A major scale, which is shown in Example 1. Remember that the first, third, fifth, and seventh notes make an Amaj7 chord, or an A major triad with the added major seventh (Example 2a). See Examples 2b–c for the IV (D) and V7 (E7) chords.


Example 3 shows the Imaj7–IV–V7–Imaj7 progression using all open chords. To hear what a difference in sound the Amaj7 makes, try playing the progression with an open A chord—remember, major seventh chords are known for their jazzy character. Next, try the progression mostly with barre chords, as shown in Example 4, and then a variation with an Amaj7 voicing in seventh position (Example 5).

End with compact three-note voicings on the top three strings (Example 6). Note that the Amaj7 and E7 chords are missing their roots (A and E, respectively), but this works because each includes the defining notes of third and the seventh (C# and G# for Amaj7 and G# and D for E7).

The Result

You should now know a variety of ways to play the Imaj7–IV–V7–Imaj7 in the key of A major. Work on strumming or fingerpicking this progression until the next lesson, when we’ll shift our focus back to suspended chords.