GBol Arts

Music Notes Archive

Arpeggios - Major Sevenths

George with Guitar

First a review of the structure of the Major Seventh chord. To build this chord, you use the first, third, fifth and seventh notes from the scale of the same name. Notice how all we are doing is adding a note to the Major triad. We keep saying, take something you know and use that to build more complex structures. So what we do here is, take a C Major chord, (C, E, G), and add a B note to it to get the Cmaj7 arpeggio.

As was pointed out last month, this is not interchangeable with a Dominant Seventh arpeggio. I catch beginning students making this mistake all the time. Also, always remember your harmonized scale and how each chord type functions in it for a starting point as to what scale to use with the arpeggio.

In the case of the Major Seventh chord, it functions as either a I or IV chord, and may appear as just a Major chord in the progression. As with the Dominant Seventh chord, you can use this arpeggio over that chord, which will still sound good, and extend the chord, giving it more "color". Whether this is appropriate or not is always up to your ear. In some styles of music this will work well, while in others it may not.

Always be sure to practice these in all twelve keys, over the full range of your instrument. Then try some of the more random patterns we discussed last month to keep from getting locked into the same pattern each time you use the arpeggio. Remember that the goal is to be musical and creative, not predictably patterned. This will only come from a good command of the arpeggio from every angle.

You may also want to experiment with arpeggio cycling. The more different ways you can practice these, the more ways you may then find on your own as you get real control of how these function. For instance, as you get into larger, more extended arpeggios, you may only want to use the upper part of the chord. Taking our Cmaj7 chord, the upper three notes are E, G, and B, which are an Em triad. Remember that works for all Major Seventh chords; play a minor triad starting on the third.

Start using these as much as you can, as soon as you can. You need to try them out in a real world situation to see what will and will not work. I used to take a recorder to gigs and record what I did that night and then listen to it the next day to see what did and did not sound good. Your ear is always your final judge as to what you think sounds good, and a lot of playing and using these the only way to really "make them yours".