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Beyond E Major (Part 4)

jazz made bearable

How can you resist a musical journey around the fingerboard which encompasses Julie Andrews and Carlos Santana, and travels on two chords? Billy Jenkins takes on jazz and comes out whistling.


This month, I want to talk about L-O-V-E. In other words I want you to play the two chords in the photographs — F major 7 and B flat major 7. How slushy they sound!

The Major Seventh chord, which should contain the first, third, fifth and seventh notes of the major scale, always seems to be used when the tunesmith needs a touch of romanticism. "A Man and a Woman", "Midnight At The Oasis", "Everything Is Beautiful", "Breezin'", "Till There Was You", and "Girl From Ipanina" are just some of the respectful ditties that begin with this most lush of chords.

F Major Seventh Fingering

This is played using an E-shape and your first finger barred across all six strings. The second finger goes on the second fret, fourth string; the third on the second fret, third string; and the fourth on the third fret, fifth string. The notes sounded from low to high are F (first or tonic), C (fifth), E (seventh), A (major third), C (another fifth), and an F on top (although this is best left unplayed as a tonic on the top rather overshadows the lower-pitched major seventh — you can deaden it by raising your barre finger slightly).

Being an E-shape, the tonic is located with your first finger on the sixth string. So, by retaining your finger positions you can move your hand up the fretboard to play any major seventh chord you wish.


Bb Major Seventh Fingering

After you've become familiar with the Fmaj7 shape you will find it easy to move across into the A-shape by keeping your first finger clamped tight across, but repositioning the second finger on the second fret of the third string; the third finger on the third fret of the fourth string; and the fourth finger on the third fret of the second string. Don't play the low E-string in this shape as, once again, although technically correct, a fifth underneath weakens the tonic. So the notes read from low to high starting with the fifth string: Bb (first or tonic), F (fifth), A (seventh), D (major third), and F (another fifth).

At this point it's worth mentioning that apart from numbering each note of the scale (one to seven) there are also posh names that "classical" persons use. We know the first is called the tonic (keynote, or root), but did you know that the second is a supertonic, the third a mediant, fourth a subdominant, fifth a dominant, sixth a submediant, and the seventh a leading note? Of course it makes more sense to refer to each note by its number, but it's interesting to know that each interval can be so graphically described.

Anyway, practice the change from the Fmaj7 to Bbmaj7 and back again with a double time right-hand strum while thinking of incense, white flared trousers, and Carlos Santana. When you have both shapes memorised you can now play the little chord exercise shown in the box on the right. All the chords use an A-shape except for the Abmaj 7 and the F# maj which are played using an E-shape maj 7th.

It starts on C, so the first finger will be barring the third fret. To begin with, play it with a relaxed one-and-two-and-three-and four-and feel, using down- and up- strokes. As it's in 4/4 time what you're actually strumming is eight quaver beats to the bar. For a bit of colour, slide from one chord to the next. Glissando is what they call it in the business. Strum the F# maj 7 once and sustain it for eight beats (two bars). Remember to add some left-hand vibrato to enhance the tone.

Scale of the month

This is the one. This is the culprit that inspired that "Sound of Music" blockbuster your grandmother whistles every Easter, "Doh A Deer A Female Deer Ray A Drop Of Dollop". Yes, the good old C Major scale. All the white notes of the piano from C to C. Were Rogers and Hammerstein prejudiced? Don't blame me if you find your fingers hammering out the tune that made Julie Andrews a million — although I am about to show you the easiest way to do it.

The fretboard diagram should be self-explanatory: all you have to remember is the maxim One Finger — One Fret.

To increase your solo speed, your fingers must operate as fluidly as possible. So to play any major scale from the fifth or sixth string it is best to start with your second finger. The 1-8 and the CDEFGABC refer to the correct order of the seven steps of the scale (eight if you count the octave). Practice it both up and down. Practice it jumping two at a time, ie C-E-D-F-E-G-F-A-G-B-A-B-C. Practice it until your fingers hammer on with the power of a steamhammer and the crystal clear flurry of flying digits leaves John McLaughlin for dead.

And as a finale, get a pal to play the chord exercise below starting with the Cmaj7 while you run your fingers over this month's Scale Of The Month. My Goodness! It all fits together!

You have before you the basis for melodic improvisation. Remembering to start with your second finger you'll be able to play major scales of each of the chords in the exercise (C, Bb, Eb, Ab, F#). You should, after a time, begin to grasp the innumerable possibilities open to you as you begin to improvise a melody over, under, above, and around the chords shown. Eat your heart out, Carlos!


Read the next part in this series:
Beyond E Major (Part 5)

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BC Rich Bass

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One Two Testing - Jul 1984

Donated & scanned by: Simon Dell


Instrument Tuition / Technique


Beyond E Major

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 (Viewing) | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9

Feature by Billy Jenkins

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