BY KATE KOENIG

Welcome to the latest installment of Chord by Chord, a series designed to build your understanding of harmony and the fretboard. In previous lessons, we’ve gone over several major seventh chords: Cmaj7, Gmaj7, and Dmaj7. This time, we’ll work on Amaj7.

The Work

Remember that a major seventh chord is essentially a major triad with a major seventh on top. Example 1 shows the notes in an A major triad (A C# E) and Example 2 shows Amaj7 (A C# E G#).


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musical notation and tab showing how to play A and Amaj7 chords in a variety of positions on the guitar fretboard

To get to Amaj7 from a basic open A chord, see Example 3. Notice the interesting color that the major seventh adds to the chord. Example 4 demonstrates how to turn a fifth-position A barre chord into Amaj7. Note that since it’s uncommon to play major seventh barre chords on all six strings, this particular shape uses only four.

The next few voicings (Examples 5–7) take advantage of the open A string, the last pair of voicings being the least common but worth having under your fingers. Lastly, Example 8 shows how to get to Amaj7 up the neck, most easily played on a 14-fret guitar, especially one with a cutaway.

The Result

You should now know several ways to play Amaj7 on the fretboard. One song that makes use of this chord is “Our House” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. In the next lesson, we’ll continue exploring major seventh chords.

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