How to Play Open-Position Major 7th Chords on the Guitar

By Mark Phillips, Jon Chappell

When you play major 7th chords on the guitar, you’ll notice that they have a different character than dominant 7th chords and minor 7th chords. Major 7th chords have a bright and jazzy sound. You can hear this kind of chord at the beginning of “Ventura Highway,” by America, and “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying,” by Gerry and the Pacemakers.

Take a look at the following figure to see the chord diagrams and proper finger positions for the four open-position major 7th (maj7) chords (Cmaj7, Fmaj7, Amaj7, and Dmaj7).


Notice that the Dmaj7 uses a three-string barre with the first finger. Rotating the first finger slightly on its side helps make the chord easier to play. Also, notice the Xs in the chord diagrams for these chords. Don’t play the 6th or 5th strings as you strike the Dmaj7 or Fmaj7. And don’t play the 6th string on the Amaj7 or Cmaj7.

When you move between Cmaj7 and Fmaj7, notice that the second and third fingers move as a fixed shape across the strings. The first finger doesn’t fret any string in a Cmaj7 chord, but keep it curled and poised above the first fret of the 2nd string so that you can bring it down quickly for the switch to Fmaj7.

Practice moving back and forth (strumming four times each) between Cmaj7 and Fmaj7 and between Amaj7 and Dmaj7.