In the universe of guitar chords, the Major 7th, especially the C Major 7th (Cmaj7), holds a special place.
Renowned for its dreamy, jazzy tone, the Cmaj7 chord brings a touch of sophistication to any song.
But what exactly is the Cmaj7 chord, how do you play it?In this article, we are going to answer all of your questions. So, without further ado, let’s get started.
What is a Cmaj7 Chord?
Before we dive into the specifics of the Cmaj7, let’s take a moment to understand what a “Major 7th” chord is. In music theory, a major seventh chord consists of a major triad and a major seventh.
The major triad is the root, major third, and perfect fifth, and the major seventh is an interval of a major seventh above the root.
In the case of the Cmaj7 chord, we’re dealing with the notes C (the root), E (major third), G (perfect fifth), and B (major seventh). Thus, the Cmaj7 is a four-note chord that includes these notes.
How to Play a Cmaj7 Chord
Now, let’s see how to translate this knowledge to the guitar fretboard. Here’s a simple way to play the Cmaj7 chord:
- Place your index finger on the B string (second string) on the first fret.
- Your middle finger goes on the D string (fourth string) on the second fret.
- Your ring finger is positioned on the A string (fifth string) on the third fret.
- The high E string (first string), G string (third string), and the low E string (sixth string) are not played.
This is just one of the ways to play the Cmaj7 chord, and it’s a relatively simple version that’s great for beginners.
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Advanced Ways to Play a Cmaj7 Chord
While the initial method described for playing the Cmaj7 chord is suitable for beginners, there are several other ways to play this chord that offer different voicings and tonal qualities.
Here are a few examples:
Barre Chord Version
You can also play the Cmaj7 chord as a barre chord on the third fret:
- Bar all of the strings at the third fret with your index finger.
- Place your ring finger on the A string (fifth string) on the fifth fret.
- Your pinky finger goes on the D string (fourth string) on the fifth fret.
- Place your middle finger on the G string (third string) on the fourth fret.
This version will provide a fuller sound as it uses all six strings.
Here’s a higher voicing of the Cmaj7 chord:
- Place your index finger on the D string (fourth string) on the ninth fret.
- Your middle finger goes on the G string (third string) on the ninth fret.
- Your ring finger is positioned on the B string (second string) on the eighth fret.
- Your pinky finger goes on the high E string (first string) on the seventh fret.
This higher voicing is often used in jazz for its bright and vibrant tone.
The Character and Use of the Cmaj7 Chord
The Cmaj7 chord is characterized by its jazzy, somewhat melancholic tone.
It’s less resolved than a basic major chord, which gives it an intriguing, slightly unsettled sound. This makes it perfect for songs that need a hint of complexity or sophistication.
You’ll often find the Cmaj7 chord in jazz and bossa nova music, but it’s also not uncommon in pop and rock.
Some popular songs that feature the Cmaj7 chord include “Something” by The Beatles, “Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers, and “She Will Be Loved” by Maroon 5.
Variations of Cmaj7 Chord
While we have discussed the basic way to play the Cmaj7, it’s important to note that this is just the beginning.
As you become more comfortable with the guitar and improve your dexterity, you’ll discover that there are many variations of the Cmaj7 chord that you can incorporate into your playing.
A common variation of the Cmaj7 chord involves playing it as a barre chord:
- Bar the 3rd fret with your index finger across all strings.
- Place your middle finger on the 4th fret of the B string (second string).
- Your ring finger goes on the 5th fret of the D string (fourth string).
- Finally, your pinky finger is positioned on the 5th fret of the G string (third string).
Playing Cmaj7 as a barre chord might be challenging at first, especially for beginners.
But with practice, it becomes easier, and it allows you to play the chord higher up on the neck, which can add a different tonal color to your music.
Cmaj7 in Chord Progressions
The Cmaj7 chord, due to its rich and full sound, is often used in chord progressions to provide a sense of resolution or completeness. A common chord progression you might see is the II-V-I progression, often found in jazz music. In the key of C, this progression would be Dm7-G7-Cmaj7. The Cmaj7 provides a satisfying resolution after the tension created by the Dm7 and G7 chords.
Another popular progression is the I-IV-V progression, a mainstay in many music genres. In the key of C, this progression would be Cmaj7-Fmaj7-G7. The Cmaj7 chord starts the progression, establishing the key and setting the harmonic foundation for the chords to follow.
Famous Solos Using Cmaj7
If you’re interested in examples of how the Cmaj7 chord can be used in a lead guitar context, look no further than some famous guitar solos. A great example is the solo from “Something” by The Beatles. George Harrison uses the Cmaj7 chord as a harmonic foundation over which he creates a beautiful, melodic solo.
Another notable solo is John Frusciante’s work in “Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers. Here, the Cmaj7 chord is used to create a moody, atmospheric sound, demonstrating how versatile this chord can be.
The Cmaj7 chord is a beautiful chord with a distinctive sound that can add a layer of complexity to your music.
Whether you’re just starting your journey with the guitar or you’re a seasoned player, learning to play and use the Cmaj7 chord can add another color to your musical palette.
The dreamy, jazzy sound of this chord invites listeners into a deeper musical experience and can be a powerful tool in your songwriting arsenal.
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Marko is a passionate composer, producer, and multimedia artist with a Master of Music degree. His career involves performing, creating, and producing his own music in his home studio using digital and analogue equipment. Marko is a multi-instrumentalist (he plays guitar, bass, piano, theremin, and other instruments). performs live acts and DJ sets, and works on feature and short films, documentaries, festivals, theaters, and government initiatives.