Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Confused 7th vs Maj7th Chords

Hi @BanjoBen What’s the difference between 7th & Maj7th Chords.

I come across these labels from time to time on Guitar TABs but what’s the equivalent on the banjo. I am confused.

G7 vs Gmaj7
C7 vs Cmaj7
D7 vs Dmaj7

Chord shapes and locations on the fret board ?

Hi, @Archie, I’m not Ben (obviously) but I do know what the answer is. A 7th chord is a major chord with an added note, which is the 7th. So a 7th chord is constructed: root, (major)3rd, fifth, 7th. That is the arrangement of notes in f shape on banjo, and you play a normal f shape chord, and then bar the first and second strings with your index finger, and it’s a 7th. The major 7th requires some finger shuffling. You play the f shape, then put your pinky on the fourth string, replacing your ring, then place your ring finger on the first string on the fourth fret, assuming you’re using G for this. The difference between the major and dominant 7th sounds is big, and a (small) portion of the theory is this, in the major scale, you have the whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half, pattern of notes. Note (pun) that the seventh note in that scale is a half step down from the root. In the minor scale, the pattern is, whole, half, whole, whole, half, whole, whole. Note the 7th is a whole step down from the root. Therefore, when you play a major 7th, you are adding a note from the scale, and when you play a dominant (aka standard) 7th, you add a note outside the scale. Its also worth noting that there are three basic chord types, and all chords serve the purpose of either, major, minor, or dominant. So a Sus4 serves the role of a major, just an embellished one. Likewise a minor 7th (minor with added 7th note) is used as a minor chord. I believe that both augmented and diminished chords are dominant. So I hope this may have helped, and not confused you further :slight_smile:

Hi @K_G Thank you much appreciated, but this kinda adds to the confusion.

I am an audio visual learner and for me to retain this kind of info I have to see and hear it in order to memorise it.

Sorry, I do understand that, I had to grab a uke to work out the intervals of the minor scale :joy: I hope someone can post a video explaining it. I can tell you, in bluegrass 7th chords are fairly common and the flat (minor) 7th is a common blues note found at the third fret d string in key of g. The maj7th is rare in bluegrass as it’s sound doesn’t match, but the note itself is used frequently (in the d chord most) but there I go waxing eloquent again :roll_eyes:

@Archie : let me try to de-confuse the situation :slight_smile:

Any 7th chord has 4 notes : the root, the third, the 5th and the 7th. The root is the note of the chord you are playing, e.g. C, G, D…
The major 7th note is the note leading to the root note, so for C it’s B, for G it’s F#, for D it’s C#.

The minor and dominant 7th is a flatted 7 (a major 7 a half step down), so for C it’s Bb, for G it’s F, for D it’s C.
The difference between a minor and dominant 7th chord is that the minor 7th is, well, a minor chord (i.e. with a minor third) and the dominant has a major third.

The major and minor 7th chords are not usually played much in traditional bluegrass, more in jazz and the like (e.g. bossa nova). Leaves only the dominant 7th chord, i.e. a major chord with a flatted 7. This gives a bluesy feel to a chord.

I could draw chord diagrams here, but the fun part is when you try to detect them on your own, using the bar, X- and Y shape as your basic pattern to which you add the 7th. When you’re looking for the shape of a chord, but feel that there not enough strings, you can always drop the root or the 5th of the chord.

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Wow, thanks for that clarification, @Erwin1 that was much more explanatory than my post

In a nutshell, the minor 7th interval is 10 half steps and a major 7th is 11 half steps. That means a maj7 chord contains the major 7th of the root note. Same with the min7 chords. So a G maj7 contains an F#, a Dmaj7 contains a C# etc. Hope that helps.

Thanks @Erwin1 It’s still a bit murky. I know some flatted 7th positions from a tutorial by Alan Munde I studied many years ago but more than that I am at a loss. Theory just goes over my head.

I took 2 or 3 years of theory while studying piano so I am fairly familiar with theory.:grin: Even so, I still get tangled up sometimes.

Ok, let me put it this way :
Y-position: the root is on the 1st and 4th string. Let’s say G. The pinky is then on the 5th fret. All you need to do is to find a way to fret not the root, but the flatted 7th, 2 frets below. You could do it by lifting your pinky and fret the first two strings with your index finger.
X-position : the root is on the 2nd string. Let’s say G. The middle finger is on the 8th fret. All you need to do is to find a way to fret the 6th fret on the 2nd string, still fretting the other notes. You might need to change your fingering…
Bar-position : the root is on the 3rd string. Let’s say C. The index bars all strings on the 5th fret (including the C on the 3rd string), but that won’t do anymore : you need to change your fingering so you fret the 3rd fret on the 3rd string, keeping the other notes fretted as they are…
Hopefully, this helps you to experiment a little :slight_smile:

Alternately, in bar position, you can maintain the root and add the 7th by, if we’re in C, barring the fifth fret, and then also fretting the eighth on either D string

Exactly ! Point is that you can look on your own where that darn flatted 7th is on your fretboard (and there may be several places !), with 1 of the 3 shapes as your solid base, but changing it when necessary…

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Yep, to play the major 7th you just raise the 7th tone in the chord by a half step (or fret).

So let’s take one of the G7 shapes:

The 3rd fret on the first string is the 7th tone. Since it’s flattened, it’s called a dominant 7th. It’s the 7th tone/chord you’re used to hearing in bluegrass/country.

To get a major 7th chord, you raise that flattened 7th up a half step (single fret) to the actual 7th tone used in the major scale. It would look like this:

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Just to add, a 7 chord is also known as dominant 7.

In a C chord, travel one octave above the root note. Then, go down one half step to the B and you have Cmaj7. Go down one more half step to the Bflat, and you have C7 or as it’s also called Cdominant7.

Tough to visualize, but if you do it on a keyboard, it becomes much clearer.


Hi @BanjoBen Thanks this is just what I needed. A visual image. It’s weird how I can instantly memorize an image and yet I struggle to memorize text. I presume the same is true of the G Shape and Bar Chords

Every 7th chord includes a flatted 7th note that is not in that key’s major scale. The maj7 is the chord that includes the 7th note in the major scale.