How to play Major 6 chords on guitar

Last updated on February 2nd, 2024


In this post, we cover how to play Major 6 chords on guitar, which are more commonly used in jazz and can be used to add color to your chords.
We’ll first go over the music theory to understand Major 6 chords and then show you examples of how to play them throughout the fretboard starting on different strings. Let’s get started!

Major 6 chord theory

Major 6 chords are an extension of the Major triad and include the chord tones 1, 3, 5, and 6. The added 6th note adds a unique color to the chord. For example, a C Major 6 chord has the notes C, E, G, and A.

You can notate Major 6 chords with a 6 next to the root note. For example, C Major 6 can also be written as C 6 or C Maj 6.

As side note, Major 6 chords can be used interchangeably with Major 7 chords.

Major 6 chord formula

The formula for a Major 6 chord between each chord tone is 2 whole steps, then 1.5 whole steps, then a whole step. See the formula in the image below.

Major 6 chord formula

Major 6 chord chart examples

Here is a chart of the notes included in Major 6 chords starting on every root note.

Major 6 chord1356
C Major 6CEGA
D Major 6DF#AB
E Major 6EG#BC#
F Major 6FACD
G major 6GBDE
A Major 6AC#EF#
B Major 6BD#F#G#
Db Major 6DbFAbBb
Eb Major 6EbGBbC
Gb Major 6GbBbDbEb
Ab Major 6AbCEbF
Bb Major 6BbDFG

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.

Common Major 6 chords

Here are some more common and practical Major 6 chord shapes that you can start applying to your playing. Afterwards, we’ll look at more chord shapes and inversions using the drop 2 chord system.

The following chord shapes are movable, meaning that you can use them to start on any root note. The numbers to the right of some strings refer to the chord tones related to the root note.

Shape 1: Major 6 chord – 6th string

Major 6 chord on the 6th string (drop 3)

Shape 2: Major 6 chord – 6th string variation

Major 6 chord variation on the 6th string

Shape 3: Major 6 chord on the 5th string

Major 6 chord on the 5th string

Major 6 chords on the 6th string

These following Major 6 chords are drop 2 chords because the second highest note gets dropped by an octave.

Root position

Major 6 chord root position drop 2  6th string

1st inversion

Major 6 chord 1st inversion drop 2  6th string

2nd inversion

Major 6 chord 2nd inversion drop 2  6th string

3rd inversion

Major 6 chord 3rd inversion drop 2 6th string

Major 6 chords on the 5th string

The following Major 6 chords are the same as the four previous ones except starting on the 5th string.

Root position

Major 6 chord root position drop 2  5th string

1st inversion

Major 6 chord 1st inversion drop 2  5th string

2nd inversion

Major 6 chord 2nd inversion drop 2  5th string

3rd inversion

The note on the 1st string here fits with the chord so we can add it as well.

Major 6 chord 3rd inversion drop 2  5th string

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!

👉 Get it here!


Major 6 chords on the 4th string

And here are the same drop 2 chord shapes starting on the 4th string.

Root position

Major 6 chord root position drop 2 - 4th string

1st inversion

Major 6 chord 1st inversion drop 2 - 4th string

2nd inversion

Major 6 chord 2nd inversion drop 2 - 4th string

3rd inversion

Major 6 chord 3rd inversion drop 2 - 4th string

Bonus: Major 6 chords with extensions

The following shapes are Major 6 chords with added chord extensions. Also, note that the 6th degree is referred to as 13 whenever a 7th degree is included or implied in a chord. To learn more about chord extensions, see this post on how to play jazz guitar chords.

Major 6/9 on the 6th string

The symbol 6/9 is used to add the 6th and 9th to a chord. This can also be written as a Major 6 (9). If we include the Major 7 note, we can call this chord Major 7 (9, 13).


Major 6/9 on the 5th string

If we include the Major 7 note, we can call this chord Major 7 (9, 13).


Major 7 (13) on the 6th string

If we include the 9th, we can also call this chord Major 7 (9, 13).


Major 7 (13) on the 5th string


Wrapping up

In this post, we covered what Major 6 chords are, how to play them on the 6th, 5th, and 4th string, as well as some shapes with added chord extensions.

You can use these chords anywhere you would use Major 7 chords. Experiment with the sound of Major 6 chords to see how you can apply them in progressions and bring out different colors in your playing.

You can check out this other post to learn how to play minor 6 chords on guitar.

Get the free guitar practice guide here!

All the best,

JG

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