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 chart examples
Here is a chart of the notes included in Major 6 chords starting on every root note.
|Major 6 chord||1||3||5||6|
|C Major 6||C||E||G||A|
|D Major 6||D||F#||A||B|
|E Major 6||E||G#||B||C#|
|F Major 6||F||A||C||D|
|G major 6||G||B||D||E|
|A Major 6||A||C#||E||F#|
|B Major 6||B||D#||F#||G#|
|Db Major 6||Db||F||Ab||Bb|
|Eb Major 6||Eb||G||Bb||C|
|Gb Major 6||Gb||Bb||Db||Eb|
|Ab Major 6||Ab||C||Eb||F|
|Bb Major 6||Bb||D||F||G|
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
Shape 2: Major 6 chord – 6th string variation
Shape 3: 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.
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.
The note on the 1st string here fits with the chord so we can add it as well.
Major 6 chords on the 4th string
And here are the same drop 2 chord shapes starting on the 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
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.
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All the best,