Major 7th arpeggios are an important skill for any jazz guitar player to have.
Practicing these arpeggio patterns will help you improve your technique in both hands, develop ideas for improvisation, and learn the notes on the guitar neck.
You are also training your ears and fingers to find notes that are a part of the major 7th chord - so when you see one written on the page (or recognize the sound when you hear it), your fingers know what to do already.
What Should You Know First?
Before jumping in to Major 7th arpeggios, it would be helpful to know your major scales. This isn't 100% necessary, but it will make life a lot easier if you know your 5 major scale patterns already.
It would also be helpful if you know the notes up and down each string on the guitar neck. If you aren't familiar with this already, use the fretboard maps below as a reference point:
How To Practice These Arpeggios:
First, practice these patterns one at a time. Learn the 6th string form, then the 5th string form, continuing until you know all 5.
Take your time, and don't rush through it - only move on when you can play the current/previous forms from memory.
If you know the 6th and 5th string forms, you know enough to start playing these shapes through jazz standards or your jazz band music without having to jump around the neck too much.
Start by referencing the suggested finger patterns and practice example for each arpeggio.
These are the finger patterns that generally work best for my private jazz guitar students - if they don't work well for you, feel free to experiment and come up with your own solutions.
The practice example is a good reference for how to work through each shape so that the root of the arpeggio is easily recognized by your ear.
For an extra challenge once you know the pattern, try keeping track of the intervals/chord tones of each arpeggio. This will help you improve your ear training, and gain a deeper knowledge of the structure of each arpeggio.
You'll find more practice ideas at the end of this lesson
What Is A Major 7th Arpeggio?
A major 7th arpeggio is made up of the notes of a major 7th chord - played one at a time.
Major 7th arpeggios are made up of the following intervals:
Root (1), Major Third (3), Perfect 5th (5), and Major Seventh (7)
For shorthand in this lesson, we'll simply refer to them by the numbers listed above.
These intervals can all be sourced directly from the major scale - the root, third, fifth, and seventh notes of the scale give you your arpeggio.
This is why it's helpful to know your major scale patterns beforehand - the arpeggio becomes an exercise in eliminating some notes from your scale pattern.
5 Major 7th Arpeggio Patterns
Just like your major scales, there are 5 patterns for your major 7th arpeggios.
These patterns also start on the 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, and 2nd strings.
Using these patterns will help you Play the same arpeggio all over the neck.
These will also let you start finding arpeggios in different keys without having to move all over the place - no matter what arpeggio you just played, the next one you need will always be close.
Using consistent finger patterns like this helps you cut down on your learning time - everything new you learn can be related back to something else you already know.
6th String Form
5th String Form
4th String Form
3rd String Form
2nd String Form
More Practice Ideas
Once you have a good handle on the finger patterns, try playing them through the cycle of 4ths (you can get started with this as soon as you know the 6th and 5th string forms).
Cycle of 4ths:
C F Bb Eb Ab Db Gb B E A D G
Make an effort to play each arpeggio form you know as you work through the cycle.
You can also try the cycle of 5ths:
G D A E B F# C# G# D# A# F C
The cycle of 4ths gives you all 12 keys using flat keys, and the cycle of 5ths gives you all 12 keys using sharp keys.
The cycles are great to practice - especially if you need to work on learning where all of the notes are on your guitar (Which to be honest is most of us).
The best way for you to make these patterns usable in your playing is to play them through a tune - either a jazz standard or some of your jazz band music if you're playing in a group.
At first, just play through the arpeggio as shown below for each time a major 7th chord appears in your song.
As you get more comfortable, try improvising - limiting yourself to only the arpeggio notes for each major 7th chord.
You can play on each chord as long as you want to, or play it in time with the rest of the tune.
Just take it slow at first - you want to be able to use and practice these new arpeggio patterns as you go.
Making Major 7th Arpeggios Work For You
The more you practice these, the easier they will get!
Working with arpeggios by themselves or around one of the cycles above is a good way to start, and it's a good way to learn the guitar fretboard.
As soon as you can play these without too much trouble, your best bet is to start working them into songs you're already playing.
You can play the whole arpeggio whenever a major 7th chord is written.
Try to play as much of the arpeggio as you can before you have to move on to the next chord.
Ultimately, you want to be able to use these patterns as a way to help you create melodies that fit the chord changes of whatever song you are playing.
This is just the first step - there are other arpeggios you will need to learn. They are all related to this, so don't worry - it's not as much work as it sounds like!
Keep practicing, and let me know how it's going!