Major 7th Arpeggio on Two Strings - adding the 13th

In this exercise we will see how to add the 13th to some of the two-string Major 7th arpeggio patterns that we previously covered, to create a more interesting sound.

In my exercise Major 7th Arpeggio on Two Strings I showed you various shapes that lend themselves to a Major 7th arpeggio on two strings.  With some basic understanding of extensions, we will now see how to add the 13th into the arpeggio shapes that we already know to add melodic color to the Major 7th sound.

Major 7th Arpeggio on Two Strings - adding the 13th fretboard diagram

In the fretboard diagram, on the left I show two different shapes for a C Maj7 arpeggio on two strings. On the right I show how to modify the basic Maj7 shape to form a Maj7(13). You might recall what I mentioned in the theory section of this lessonA 9th can replace the root. An 11th can replace the 3rd. A 13th can replace the 5th.

In the diagrams on the right I am showing the 5th, but you could just as well leave it out using this principle of replacing certain chord tones with extensions. And in the exercise I am in fact doing this at some points in the arpeggio passage - I am replacing the 5th with the 13th. So in the diagrams on the right you will notice there is a G (the 5th of a Cmaj7). You can play the CMaj7(13) with or without the G if you want, no problem either way - just good to know that to simplify chords and arpeggios, you can often do away with certain notes especially when using extensions.

In this exercise you will be playing a sequence made up of a Cmaj7 and a CMaj7(13) arpeggio. By understanding how to build arpeggios in this way, you will be able to add color to your arpeggio lines. It is hard to describe what color really means, but the best way to appreciate the use of extensions is to solo over ordinary Maj7 chords. In the Guitar Pro file I added a backing track that contains a C Maj7 chord so that you can hear how that 13th adds a certain vibe. The backing track also contains an Em7 and Am7 chord which I talk about below.

Really, that is what extensions are all about - adding some vibe that you the player are going for. Once you start getting experienced with various 7th arpeggio types and their extensions you will even start seeing how to use extensions to connect various chords, with the extensions almost acting like a melody in their own right. So spend some time absorbing the material here because I guarantee that you will find creative ways to use extensions in your soloing!

Major 7th Arpeggio on Two Strings - adding the 13th Guitar Pro tablature
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Note: To download and view exercise tab you need Guitar Pro

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Guitar Lesson Exercise Performance Tips

Performance Tips

In the tablature you will note that you are adding the 13th to some Cmaj7 arpeggio shapes on two strings. Nothing fancy here, just a simple progression that gets your ears and fingers used to the 13th. I recommend downloading the Guitar Pro file so you can hear how these shapes sound not just over a Cmaj7 chord, but over Em7 and Am7 chords as well, since Em7 and Am7 can substitute for Cmaj7 (more about that idea in the theory section above).

I don't indicate alternate picking or legato so of course just play as you see fit. The toughest part is the position shift down to 8th fret. If you have gone through my other lessons and exercises you probably noticed I use slides a lot. At first it might seem tricky to execute those sorts of slides accurately and quickly, but over time you will be amazed at how well you can position shift! And it adds a certain nuance to your phrasing.

Criteria for Mastery: You can play the exercise cleanly at 100 BPM or faster and you understand the idea behind adding the 13th to Major7th arpeggios on two strings.

If you haven't done so already, I highly recommend you take a look at the theory section of this lesson where I talk about extensions.

Now I want to talk about something else: chord substitution.

The basics of chord substitution is replacing one chord with another chord that is similar in quality with same root (like A Cmaj7 instead of C Maj, or C6 instead of Cmaj7), or with another chord that plays same harmonic function.

In any Major key we say there are three basic types of harmonic functions: Tonic, Subdominant, and Dominant.

In my 7th Arpeggios on Two Strings lesson I talked about the types of 7th chords that are associated with each degree of the Major Scale. Turns out, these chord types tend to play certain harmonic functions. Below summarizes:

Harmonic FunctionChords with this FunctionDescription
TonicImaj7, IIIm7, VIm7These are the chords that set the tonality of the piece, so listener has clear idea about tonality. Like the introduction in a book.
SubdominantIIm7, IVmaj7These are the chords that start moving away from the stable tonic chords and start adding some tension. Like plot development in a book.
DominantV7, VIIm7(b5)These are the chords that have the most tension and are the ones that resolve nicely back to a tonic chord. Like a point of maximum tension in a book right before things settle back down.

If you download the Guitar Pro file you will notice on the backing track that I use Cmaj7, Em7, and Am7 chords. These are all Tonic function chords in C Major, since in C Major the Imaj7 is Cmaj7, the IIIm7 is Em7, and the VIm7 is Am7. A progression strictly using tonic function chords is a bit boring, but the idea is that you can play Cmaj7 and Cmaj7(13) arpeggio lines over Em7 or Em7 and it has a different vibe than if you were to play just over a Cmaj7 chord. In fact, just outlining a chord with an arpeggio in your soloing doesn't really add much other than emphasizing the harmony. So by using the idea of chord substitution, you can play an arpeggio of a tonic function chord over any other tonic function chord.

I highly suggest you experiment with this idea, in other keys as well. Play some backing track that has a tonic chord, and play Imaj7 and Imaj7(13) lines over it. For instance, in G Major, play Bm7 and Em7 in a backing track and solo over those chords with Gmaj7 arpeggio lines. I will expand on this idea after I talk about other 7th arpeggio types so be sure to go through all the exercises in this lesson!