Instructor
Jonny May
Quick Tip
Intermediate
15:55

Learning Focus
  • Accompanying
  • Chords
  • Exercises
Music Style
  • Fundamentals
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Are you looking for a way to easily play Major 7 chords? With these 3 steps, you will master this Major 7 chord exercise and improve your playing and understanding in no time!

  1. 5-1 Relationship between major 7 chords
  2. Learn Major 7 chords in position 1
  3. Learn Major 7 chords in position 2

Let’s dig in!

Step 1: 5-1 Relationship Between Major 7 Chords

One of Jonny’s favorite things about this Major 7 chord exercise is that it helps you understand the relationship between chords, and how chord progressions can be formed and why they sound good. We will be working with Major 7 chords moving in descending 5ths. If you’re familiar with the circle of 5ths, we will be going backwards:

Circle of 5ths
Circle of 5ths

To find out where to go next, start with the first chord and count down 5 notes (or move to the next key counterclockwise). This gets us to F, and if we do it again we land on Bb. This is called the 5-1 relationship because as one chord moves to the next, it functions like the 5th of the next chord. C is the 5th of F, F is the 5th of Bb, Bb is the 5th of Eb, etc. This is key because you’ll notice that each chord moves smoothly to the next, and it gives the entire progression a feeling of forward motion. Cool! Next, let’s learn these Major 7 chords in the first position. Feel free to follow along with our Smartsheet as you work through this exercise.

Step 2: Major 7 Chord Exercise in Position 1

A lot of musicians typically play every chord in root position, meaning the root of the chord is the lowest note played. We are going to start this way, with CMaj7 in root position; however the key to making this exercise work is to use an inversion when moving to the next chord:

Major 7th Chord Exercise in Position 1
Major 7th Chords in Position 1

As you can see, we only have to move two notes to go from CMaj7 to FMaj7! Think about where the nearest inversion of the next chord is to make this exercise a little easier. Notice how there’s a BbMaj7 super close to the inversion of FMaj7? You only have to move the bottom two notes to get there!

Now as we move from BbMaj7 to EbMaj7, you’ll notice that the top two notes of BbMaj7 move down to form EbMaj7!  Each chord in this cycle has common tones with the chord that follows it. Try to recognize these common tones as you practice because it will make your practicing easier and more fun! This is also another one of the really cool things about the 5-1 motion these chords have. They are closely related both in notes and sound and is a big reason why this chord cycle sounds so good!

Start by playing each chord individually without the metronome to get a feel for the exercise. Once you’re comfortable with the exercise, start playing with the metronome, slowly! Gradually work your way up to 80bpm. This will help you avoid mistakes and the result is a much more professional sounding way to play! Next, let’s learn this exercise in position 2.

Step 3: Major 7 Chord Exercise in Position 2

Position 2 is essentially the same as position 1 except we are starting a half step higher. By doing this, you will actually learn both inversions of all 12 chords:

Major 7th Chords in Position 2
Major 7th Chords in Position 2

As you can see, the pattern is exactly the same as position 1! Practice this inversion of the exercise without the metronome first, then turn your metronome on slowly and gradually work up your tempo to 80bpm. Don’t forget to practice this exercise in both positions! The ability to play all 12 of  these chords in both inversions is super important when it comes time to play songs because it will give you more ways to play chords. Professional pianists can play chords in lots of different positions, and this is one of the things that gives them that professional sound.

If you’ve enjoyed this Quick Tip, check out our courses Major 7th Chord Exercises and Major 7th Chord Theory and Application for a much deeper dive into Major 7th chords. For a more colorful approach to Major 7th chords, check out our Piano Chord Extensions course.

Thanks for learning, and see you in the next Quick Tip!

Blog written by Austin Byrd / Quick Tip by Jonny May

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