Learn 6 Ways to Play D Major 7 | Chord by Chord


Welcome to the latest installment of Chord by Chord, a series designed to build your understanding of harmony and the fretboard. In previous lessons you’ve explored major seventh chords, learning how to build Cmaj7 from C and Gmaj7 from G. This time I’ll introduce a new major seventh chord, Dmaj7.


The Work

As a reminder, a major seventh chord is constructed of a major triad with a major seventh on top. So to build a Dmaj7 chord, take a D chord (D F# A) and add the major seventh (C#), as shown in Examples 1 and 2.

notation for a new major seventh guitar chord, Dmaj7

Example 3 demonstrates how to make a Dmaj7 from an open D chord—just move the D on the second string down a half step, to C#. Example 4 shows Dmaj7 derived from a D chord in fifth position. You might have noticed that this Dmaj7’s shape is identical to that of the Cmaj7 you learned in a previous lesson, but two frets higher. That’s because it’s a moveable chord—again, you can use the same shape to play 12 different chords by moving it along the fretboard.

Example 5 shows how to make Dmaj7 from a D chord in seventh position, with the fifth (A) as the lowest note. Further up the neck, the shapes in Example 6 use just the bottom four strings for a clean-sounding Dmaj7 voicing in tenth position. The Dmaj7 in Example 7 is also derived from that tenth-position D chord. Example 8 shows how to make a Dmaj7 chord way up at the 12th fret. This shape is most easily played on a 14-fret guitar, especially one with a cutaway.

The Result

You should now know how to make Dmaj7 from various D major shapes. Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” is one song that makes great use of the Dmaj7 chord. (In the video, I tune my sixth string down to D and use the Dmaj7 voicing in Ex. 7.) Next time we’ll work on some chord progressions involving some of the shapes you’ve already learned.

Kate Koenig
Kate Koenig

Kate Koenig is a singer-songwriter, music teacher, and music journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. They have been a regular contributor to Acoustic Guitar since 2017.

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