Learn 6 Ways to Play D Major 7


Welcome to the latest installment of Chord by Chord, a series designed to build your understanding of harmony and the fretboard. In previous lessons you’ve explored major seventh chords, learning how to build Cmaj7 from C and Gmaj7 from G. This time I’ll introduce a new major seventh chord, Dmaj7.

The Work

As a reminder, a major seventh chord is constructed of a major triad with a major seventh on top. So to build a Dmaj7 chord, take a D chord (D F# A) and add the major seventh (C#), as shown in Examples 1 and 2.

Example 3 demonstrates how to make a Dmaj7 from an open D chord—just move the D on the second string down a half step, to C#. Example 4 shows Dmaj7 derived from a D chord in fifth position. You might have noticed that this Dmaj7’s shape is identical to that of the Cmaj7 you learned in a previous lesson, but two frets higher. That’s because it’s a moveable chord—again, you can use the same shape to play 12 different chords by moving it along the fretboard.

Example 5 shows how to make Dmaj7 from a D chord in seventh position, with the fifth (A) as the lowest note. Further up the neck, the shapes in Example 6 use just the bottom four strings for a clean-sounding Dmaj7 voicing in tenth position. The Dmaj7 in Example 7 is also derived from that tenth-position D chord. Example 8 shows how to make a Dmaj7 chord way up at the 12th fret. This shape is most easily played on a 14-fret guitar, especially one with a cutaway.

The Result

You should now know how to make Dmaj7 from various D major shapes. Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” is one song that makes great use of the Dmaj7 chord. (In the video, I tune my sixth string down to D and use the Dmaj7 voicing in Ex. 7.) Next time we’ll work on some chord progressions involving some of the shapes you’ve already learned.

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