The A Major 7 chord is a less commonly known chord when first learning to play guitar. You may often see this written as A Maj 7 on sheet music.
The A 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 A 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 an A Major 7 chord which you can start to incorporate into your playing.
Let’s get started.
A 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 A Major 7 chord has the chord tones A, C#, E, and G#.
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, an A minor 7 chord would contain the chord tones A, C, E, and G. 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.
A Major 7 open chord
Here is a simple way to play an A Major 7 chord with open strings on the first position. This is a common movable shape used for Major 7 chords on the 5th string.
A Major 7 open chord variation
Here is another simple A Major chord variation which is played around the middle of the fretboard. The additional open strings makes this chord sound brighter and easier to strum through from the 5th to 1st string.
A Major 7 barre chord 6th string
By adding a barre and rearranging your fingers from the previous shape, you can strum through all the strings. This chord is based on the open E Major 7 chord.
As a side note, I would be cautious with the A note on the 1st string because it can sound dissonant with the G# 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.
If needed, check out these 5 tips to get better at playing barre chords.
A Major 7 diagonal shape
Here is an A Major 7 chord starting on the 4th string, 7th 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.
A Major 7 mini barre chord
This shape uses a mini barre chord starting on the 4th string, 2nd fret. This is a drop 2 chord because the 2nd note from the top (E) gets lowered by an octave.
A Major 7 drop 2 chord
Here is another common drop 2 chord shape starting on the 4th string. This is a drop 2 chord because the 2nd note from the top (A) gets lowered by an octave.
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.
A Major 7 on the 5th string
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.
A Major 7 shell chord
This last A Major 7 chord 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.
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 an A Major 7 guitar chord and also how you can apply these shapes to other chords.
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All the best,