7 ways to play a C Major 7 chord on guitar

Last updated on September 9th, 2023


The C Major 7 chord is a less commonly known chord when first learning to play guitar. You may often see this written as C Maj 7 on sheet music.

The C Major 7 chord has an easy open chord shape but there are many different ways you can play this chord throughout the guitar fretboard. By knowing different C Major 7 chord variations, you’ll be able to use them in different musical contexts. 

We’ll first go over some basic chord theory and then cover 7 ways to play a C Major 7 chord which you can start to incorporate into your playing.

Grab your guitar and let’s get started!

C Major 7 chord theory intro

Every Major 7 chord is built upon the following four chord tones: 1, 3, 5, and 7. These chord tones can also be thought of as the scale degrees related to a Major scale.

For example, the C Major 7 chord has the chord tones C, E, G, and B. This is essentially a C Major chord with an added 7th chord tone.

Here is the formula for Major 7 chords below.


In contrast, minor 7 chords contain the chord tones 1, b3, 5, and b7. For example, a C minor 7 chord would contain the chord tones C, Eb, G, and Bb. However, we will only be covering the different Major 7 chord variations in this post.

Now that you know what notes belong to the chord structure, let’s look at how to read the chord charts.

How to read the chord charts

For the charts below:

  • The top horizontal line of the chord chart represents the high E string and the bottom horizontal line represents the low E string.
  • The vertical lines separate each fret. 
  • The numbers in the blue dots tell you which fingers to use on the fretting hand. 
  • The letters on the right of the charts tell you what notes you are playing on each string.
  • Circles on the left represent open strings.
  • Red X means to avoid that string.

You can check this link for more on how to read guitar notation symbols.

C Major 7 open chord

This first shape is an easy way to play a C Major 7 chord. The third finger goes on the 5th string, 3rd fret and the 2nd finger goes on the 4th string, 2nd fret. You can think of this as simply removing your first finger from an open C Major chord.

C Major 7 open chord

C Major 7 barre chord 5th string

This next barre chord is a common movable shape that starts on the 5th string. This shape comes from the open A Major 7 chord. If you can’t get the chord to sound clear, first try to get the notes from the 5th to the 2nd fret. Then as you develop more strength in your fingers, you can try adding the 1st string as well.

C Major 7 barre chord 5th string

If needed, check out these 5 tips to get better at playing barre chords.

C Major 7 drop 3 on the 6th string

Here is another common movable shape used for Major 7 chords. This is called a drop 3 chord because the 3rd note from the top (C) gets lowered by an octave.

C Major 7 drop 3 on the 6th string

C Major 7 barre chord 6th string

This barred chord shapes shares all the same notes with the previous drop 3 chord shape. However, we have to rearrange our fingers and add a barre to play every string. This shape comes from the open E Major 7 chord.

C Major 7 barre chord 6th string

As a side note, I would be cautious with the C note on the 1st string because it can sound dissonant with the B note on the 4th string (minor 9 interval below). Although the note belongs to the chord, use your ears and judgment to see if you want to add this string to the chord voicing.

C Major 7 mini barre chord

This shape uses a mini barre chord starting on the 4th string, 5th fret. This is technically a drop 2 chord because the 2nd note from the top (G) gets lowered by an octave.

C Major 7 mini barre chord

C Major 7 on the 4th string

Here is another common drop 2 chord shape starting on the 4th string. In this case, the 2nd note from the top (C) gets lowered by an octave.

C Major 7 on the 4th string

Another way you can play this shape is by barring the notes on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd string with your 3rd finger. Go with whatever is more comfortable for you.

Easily look up guitar chords with the Essential Guitar Chords Chart!

This chart covers how to play:

  • Major chords
  • Minor chords
  • Major 7 chords
  • Minor 7 chords
  • Dominant chords
  • Half diminished chords
  • Diminished chords
  • Chords starting on all (12) root notes
  • Over 80+ chords!

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C Major 7 diagonal shape

Here is one more C Major 7 chord starting on the 4th string, 10th fret, which comes from the open F Major 7 shape. This chord is easier to remember because of the diagonal shape across the top four strings.

C Major 7 diagonal shape

Wrapping up

All these chords were mostly in root position, meaning the root note is in the bass. However, you have even more variations if you use different chord inversions. This is when you play a chord with notes other than the root in the bass.

It’s good to know many possibilities of playing the same chord because you have more flexibility to move around the fretboard. Also, you can use different chord variations when you need a certain note at the top to help define a melody that you are playing over.

I hope this helped you understand how to play a C Major 7 guitar chord or learn new ways of playing it. You can also try shifting the shapes that have all fretted notes to play other Major 7 chords on the same string.

If you’re interested in improvisation, you can learn how to play Major 7 arpeggios on guitar.

Also, check out how to play a C minor 7 or C 7 chord on guitar.

Get the free guitar practice guide here!

All the best,

JG Music Lessons

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