Major 7th Arpeggio on Two Strings

In this exercise we expand what we know about triad arpeggios and look at a major 7th arpeggio and how to play it on two strings for some cool sounds!

In my guitar lesson on Major Triad on Two Strings, I showed you how to play major triad inversions on two strings, which is a great way to develop good sounding phrasing. A logical step from there is exploring a major 7th triad, which as you will see adds a whole other dimension of sonic possibilities!

Major 7th Arpeggio on Two Strings fretboard diagram Above shows the fretboard diagram where we see the various ways we can play a major 7th arpeggio (in this case Dmaj7) on the E and B string. I show the root position fingering just for the heck of it, but because of the stretching involved I don't think it is very practical - but go for it! The key is to not think of this as being about a Dmaj7 arpeggio. You should think of this as basic shapes for any major arpeggio and understand how to apply these shapes to any major 7th arpeggio (as well as understanding how to apply this to other consecutive strings).

A lot of guitar players look at lead guitar as this mystical idea. While there certainly is a lot of mysticism involved (with candlelit rituals of course), you can do a lot to improve your phrasing (which is what lead guitar is all about!) by learning certain key aspects of music. Arpeggios is one such aspect, and especially once you get into 7th arpeggios you will see a whole new world of musical possibilities open up.

A lot of you probably associate arpeggios with sweep picking. I will get to sweep picking, but what I want to get across is that the most powerful aspects of arpeggios are their melodic nature. If one sweep picks arpeggios all the time, then you really aren't capitalizing on the melodic possibilities.

Playing 7th arpeggios on two strings is a fantastic way to phrase these sorts of arpeggios. And for those looking to elevate their shred playing skills, have no worries - these sorts of exercises lend themselves to speed. But again, I hope what you will take away here is not so much a way to tear up the fretboard, but a way to expand your ability to come up with musical phrases.

Ok, now that we got that out of the way. In this exercise, you are going to play a D Major 7th arpeggio and its inversions on 2 strings. You will find that each bar, while essentially being a D Maj7 arpeggio, has its own unique sound. That is why inversions are so important - they provide a palette of great sounds!

Major 7th Arpeggio on Two Strings Guitar Pro tablature
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Guitar Lesson Exercise Performance Tips

Performance Tips

In the tab you will see I I don't indicate picking or legato - just play as you see fit. For an aggressive sound go for alternate picking, for a smoother sound use a combination of picking and hammer ons/pull offs. 

I notated the exercise as triplets, as I think the exercise lends itself nicely to triplets. So as you are playing really accent the triplet feel.

You will also notice that from one measure to the next I indicate a slide. The sliding may be the trickiest part of the exercise, so really pay attention to those shifts and execute smoothly.

For those looking to build their speed, once you are comfortable playing as triplets try playing as sextuplets at around 120 BPM or faster.

Criteria for Mastery: You can play the exercise cleanly as triplets at 180 BPM or faster and you understand how we constructed these major 7th arpeggio patterns on the fretboard


In the above fretboard diagram, I showed you a D Major 7th arpeggio and its inversions. What I want you to appreciate about this exercise is that the shapes are the same regardless of what root note you choose. If you wanted to play an A Major 7th arpeggio, you would use the same shapes, just moving them on the fretboard accordingly.

So, let's look at the fretboard diagram a bit differently. 

Major 7th Arpeggio Intervals

Instead of thinking about individual notes, let's think just in terms of intervals. Thinking this way will truly unlock many aspects of music that may have previously seemed mysterious, as intervals are essential to so many aspects of music mastery, be it chords, scales, harmony.

In the above, you are seeing R, 3, 5, 7.

This is how we define a Major 7th arpeggio. We relate it to the notes of a Major Scale, and if any note becomes flatted or sharped relative to the Major Scale that we are looking at then we add a flat or sharp symbol in front of the interval name. In this case, there are no flats or sharps to the intervals. For a D Major 7th arpeggio, we take the 1st (that is the root), 3rd, 5th and 7th notes of the D Major Scale which gives us the notes D, F#, A, C which you see in the exercise.

Following this line of thinking, we could consider a Bb Major Scale, which has the notes Bb, C, D, Eb, F, G, A. Taking the root, 3rd, 5th, and 7th gives us Bb, D, F, A.

But what if we consider R, b3, 5, b7? No worries, just relate it back to the Major Scale. So consider A Major which has the notes A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G#. R, b3, 5, b7 tells us to flat the 3rd and 7th notes. So the C# gets flatted to a C, and the G# flatted to a G. We then end up with A, C, E, G. You may recognize that has an A Minor 7th arpeggio/chord, and if you look at an A Minor Scale, you will notice that compared to an A Major Scale, it has its 3rd, 6th, and 7th notes flatted. In the above diagrams, you could flat every 3rd and 7th you see, and you would end up with Minor 7th shapes. Anyway, this might seem odd at first, thinking this way, but once you get deeper into scales and arpeggios, you will be thankful that you got your mind used to this viewpoint! 

Now, I am not saying that one has to be thinking about theory when they are playing guitar. Because my guitar lessons often have visual aspects that are meant to reinforce concepts, I hope that through enough practice these arpeggio shapes will be solidified in your mind's eye, and their sounds solidified in your mind's ear. But, it is good to have the theory, because it will help connect the dots with other concepts related to scales, arpeggios, and chords.