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7th Chords

Voicing Techniques

From the above mentioned Cmaj7 chord and its inversions, there is actually only one voicing left that is practically transposable onto the guitar. This voicing is the root position (sometimes referred to as piano voicing). All other inversions require terrible stretches and are not practical.

Here are the two maj7 voicings in root position:

Cmaj7 (root on D string)

Cmaj7 (root on A string)

In order to be able to play all maj7 inversions we have to use an arranging technique that is called Drop 2.

Drop 2

Drop 2 means that you drop down the second voice (from the top) of a closed voicing by an octave. This sounds more difficult than it actually is.


If you like you can take all Cmaj7 inversions and apply the Drop 2 technique to analyze the result. I will make a long story short and tell you that this is an important way to generate voicings, not only for guitar but also as a technique for harmonization in general.

Top 4 Strings

Now we take our Drop 2 voicings that we generated from the four Cmaj7 inversions and transpose them onto the guitar.

Before you start practicing the different voicings I'd like to mention that there are two things I encourage you to memorize.
  • Memorize the string on which the root is located to enable quick transposing.
  • Memorize the top note in terms of intervalic relation to the root. This is very important. The top note sticks out as the actual melody note of the chord.

Drop 2 Exercises

I strongly recommend to do all exercises with a metronome. To play through all 12 keys you can use the "Cycle of Fifth" (C, G, D, A, E, B, Gb, Db, Ab, Eb, Bb, F). But feel free to make up your own combinations.

1) Take one voicing at a time and play it through all 12 keys. This will help to train your ability to locate the root and place the voicing.

2) Start on a voicing and try to stay as close as possible to the original position while going through all 12 keys.


3) Play all four voicings of a chord up the neck, then change the key and play all four voices down. Go through all 12 keys.


Middle 4 Strings

These are the "pictures" for the maj7 Drop 2 voicings on the middle four strings.

You should apply all exercises from the top four strings to the middle four strings.

Time Out

Well, eight different voicings for one chord (with the piano voicings there are 10). What is this all about and/or how can can we bring some order to this mess?

Each individual voicing has its distinctive sound and timbre because of the intervalic structure and the strings it is played on.

Try to evaluate them in terms of how you like the different sounds. Experiment by playing different voicings in the same musical situation and see whether they work and how they sound and feel.

Get those voicings down! Practice them 'till you are really comfortable with them. They are very important. All future chordal considerations will be in a way related to these voicings and fingerings.

Drop 3

If you want you can figure out the Drop 2 type fingerings on the bottom 4 strings but for everyday playing they are too low and muddy. They could be used in e.g a chord solo.

Now I want to introduce you to another arranging technique that is called Drop 3.

You can guess that instead of dropping down the second voice of the closed maj7 inversions we drop down the third voice what leads to a bigger span between the voices.

Drop 3 voicings on the guitar are mostly used with the bass note on the low E string and the rest of the voicings on D, g and b string. Although I listed all four voicings I encourage you to focus and learn the one with the root on the E string. Notice that we get two C6 chords because of b2/b9 danger.

Here are the fingerings for Cmaj7 (Drop 3) in order of their importance:

This marks the ending of the first part of this article. As mentioned I encourage you to go through the second part on your own. I will guide you through the remaining seventh chord families by showing you how they are constructed. Your part of the deal is to figure out the guitar voicings.

Part 2: Do it Yourself >>