8 ways to play a D Major 7 chord on guitar

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

The D 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 D 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 8 ways to play a D Major 7 chord which you can start to incorporate to your playing.

Let’s get started.

D 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 D Major 7 chord has the chord tones D, F#, A, and C#.

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 D minor 7 chord would contain the chord tones D, F, A, and C. 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

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.

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

D Major 7 open chord

This first shape is an easy way to play a D Major 7 chord. The notes are on the first 3 strings are all on the 2nd fret which makes it easier to remember.

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

D 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.

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

D Major 7 5th string variation

This shape comes from the open C Major 7 chord. If this chord feels like too much of a stretch, first try playing it without your pinky (4th finger). Once you’re able to play the barre down including your 3rd finger, try adding the note on the 4th string. This will get easier as you keep practicing it.

D Major 7 drop 3 chord

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 (D) gets lowered by an octave.

D Major 7 barre chord 6th string

This barred chord shape 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.

As a side note, I would be cautious with the D note on the 1st string because it can sound dissonant with the C# 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.

D Major 7 shell chord

This D Major 7 is a shell chord which includes the root, 3rd and 7th chord tone. Shell chords are simplified shapes that highlight the essential notes in a chord.

D Major 7 mini barre chord

This shape uses a mini barre chord starting on the 4th string, 7th fret. This is technically a drop 2 chord because the 2nd note from the top (A) gets lowered by an octave.

D Major 7 diagonal shape

Here is one more D Major 7 chord starting on the 4th string, 12th 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.

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 to broaden your understanding of how to play a D Major 7 guitar chord and also how you can apply these shapes to other chords.

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All the best,


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