How to Play a C Major7 Chord

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C Major7 Chord

c major7 guitar chord

If the diagram above is unfamiliar to you, take a moment to learn how to read chord charts.

The C major7 chord (you'll see it written as Cmaj7 or even sometimes confusingly CM7) is an easy-to-play open chord shape with a little more color than a traditional major chord. Before we explain exactly what it is, let's walk through how to play it.

  • Place your third (ring) finger on the third fret of the fifth string.
  • Place your second (middle) finger on the second fret of the fourth string.
  • Play strings five through one (three, two and one are open), making sure that you avoid playing the low E string.

Sounds pretty, right? It should sound similar to a traditional C major chord, but with a little extra flavor. This is a chord that you can substitute for a C chord sometimes, but it definitely won't work all of the time.

When to Try Substituting Cmaj7 for C major

  • When you're playing a song in the key of C and are holding C major for several bars. In this case, try initially moving to a traditional C major chord, then momentarily removing your first finger to play a C major7, then adding it back to return to a C major. In most popular music today, this is the way you'll hear a C major7 chord used the most.
  • When you're playing a C major chord on a song in the key of G. This is another situation where a C major7 can sound great, and not jarring. You can try moving quickly from C major7 back to C major, or try using C major7 the entire time you're supposed to be playing C major.
  • When you're playing a C major chord on a song in the key of E minor. This one sounds fantastic - if you consider a basic open E minor chord, and then the Cmaj7 chord above, you can see the only difference is the note on the fifth string moves from the second to the third fret. Try playing an E minor chord for a while, then moving to a C major7 chord, then back to an E minor. Maybe this sounds familar? Pink Floyd fans will recognize this progression as the the backbone of "Welcome to the Machine" (see video lesson on YouTube).


What the C major7 Chord Is

A traditional C major chord (like any major chord) has only three different notes:

  • C - the first note of the major scale (C D E F G A B C)
  • E - the third note of the major scale (C D E F G A B C)
  • G - the fifth note of the major scale C D E F G A B C)

Although when you strum a C major chord on guitar, you typically play more than three notes at a time, there are only three distinct notes - you're repeating some of the same notes in different octaves.

A C major7 chord adds one extra note to the mix - instead of including the first, third and fifth of the major scale, you're now adding the seventh note to the scale. In the key of C, the seventh note in a C major scale is B, making the entire C major7 chord C, E, G and B.

In looking through the chord shape outlined above, the string by string notes (from fifth to first string) are - C, E, G, B and E.

Note: the C major7 chord is definitely not the same chord as a C7, and the two can really never be used interchangeably.

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Your Citation
Cross, Dan. "How to Play a C Major7 Chord." ThoughtCo, Oct. 30, 2015, Cross, Dan. (2015, October 30). How to Play a C Major7 Chord. Retrieved from Cross, Dan. "How to Play a C Major7 Chord." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 24, 2017).