Major 7 chords sound so nice that they are the perfect chords for love songs. And that is true for the Fmaj7 chord as well as the maj9 and maj13 chords in other keys.
I cover the intervals that make up the maj7, maj9, and maj13 chords and the resolution tendency for each chord. Finally, I have 21 closed and open guitar chords for Fmaj7, Fmaj9, Fmaj13, and Fmaj9/13 chords and list popular song examples that use those chords.
The Fmaj7 chord in the keys of C or F major
The Fmaj7 chord can be built on the 1st scale degree of F major or the 4th scale degree of C major. You can also build an Fmaj7 chord on the 6th scale degree of the A harmonic minor scale, as well as other scales.
But only the major scale builds a major 7th, major 9th, and major 13th chord, so let’s look at those chords in detail.
The major 7th chord and extensions
All seventh chords are built by adding a major, minor or diminished 7th to a 3-note chord like the 4 triads. The major 7th chord is when you add the interval of a major 7th to a major triad. You could also look at the major 7th interval as the note 1 half-step \ fret behind the root of the chord.
I assume everyone is familiar with a major triad, but if you don’t know all the intervals, then take a look at my Music Intervals article. Also, read my Triads In Music article for some insights on all 3-note chords.
The other 2 major 7th chords that sound fantastic is the major 9th and major 13th chord. Dominant 9ths and 13ths are common in many genres so understanding major 7th chord extensions should be easy. All ninth, eleventh, and thirteenth chords are 7th chords with extensions.
The 9th of any chord is the major 2nd one octave higher, or 7 notes away (7+2=9). For F the major 2nd is G, and the G note one octave higher is the ninth of F. The 13th of any chord is the major 6th one octave higher or the note D for an F major chord.
Here are the notes in F major and F Lydian (4th mode of C major) up to the 13th scale degree:
Intervals in major 7th chords
Chord intervals: Root, major third, perfect fifth, major seventh = R-M3-P5-M7 = 1-3-5-7
Alternate names: major 7th, M7, Ma7 or an upward-pointing triangle (jazz)
Chord tendency: resolves best to the 5 of the chord, e.g. Fmaj7 > C
Chord intervals: Root, major third, perfect fifth, major seventh, major ninth = R-M3-P5-M7-M9 = 1-3-5-7-9
Alternate names: major 9th, M9, Ma9
Chord tendency: resolves best to the 5th of the chord, e.g. Fmaj9 > C
Chord intervals: Root, major third, perfect fifth, major seventh, major thirteenth = R-M3-P5-M7-M13 = 1-3-5-7-13
Alternate names: Major 13th, M13, Ma13
Equivalent chord: m9 on the 13, e.g. Fmaj13 = Dm9
Chord tendency: resolves best to the 5th of the chord, e.g. Fmaj13 > C
Chord intervals: Root, major third, perfect fifth, major seventh = R-M3-P5-M7-M9-M13 = 1-3-5-7-9-13
Alternate names: maj13 (no one seems to add the “9” in the chord name)
Equivalent chord: 6 add9/11 on the 5th, e,g, Fmaj9/13 = C6 add9/11
Chord tendency: resolves best to the 5th of the chord, e.g. Fmaj9/13 > C
Open Fmaj7, Fmaj9, Fmaj13, and Fmaj9/13 guitar chords
The dreaded F major chord is the bane of new guitar players. It is a hard chord to hold when you haven’t developed the hand strength for it.
It may not always work, but you could try substituting an Fmaj7 chord for an F chord. As always, let your ears be the judge if it works or not. Here is a chord diagram of the symbols I use in my chord blocks:
Here are the chord tones for the open Fmaj7 chords followed by the open guitar chords:
Fmaj7 chord tones: F-A-C-E
Fmaj9 chord tones: F-A-C-E-G
Fmaj13 chord tones: F-A-C-E-D
Fmaj9/13 chord tones: F-A-C-E-G-D
Notes on the chord voicings
Fmaj7 chords: I think #1 sounds better with the optional C on the 5th string in the bass. #’s 2, 3 and 5 sound great. #4 has the dissonance of the F over the low E but it works (I like it). #6 is just okay.
Fmaj9 chords: #’s 1 and 2 are the best and #4 has the F over E thing again which makes it interesting.
Fmaj13 chords: #’s 1 and 3 sound amazing! #2 sounds great but it’s a little hard to hold. #4 is the “worst” but it also sounds great (hopefully, that makes sense).
Fmaj9/13 chords: #2 without the 5th is way easier to hold than #1. #4 has too many open strings so #3 is better for the F in the bass of the 6th string. #5 sounds good but #6 is hard to hold and not mute the open A string.
Songs that use a major 7 chord
Listen to some of the songs below to hear the way that an Fmaj7, or other maj7 chords, are used in songs.
Beatles: Fmaj7 in Carry That Weight, Let It Be and Day Tripper, Dmaj7 in Maybe I’m Amazed and Strawberry Fields Forever, and Cmaj7 in We Can Work It Out and Yellow Submarine
John Lennon: Cmaj7 in Imagine
Elton John: Fmaj7 and Gmaj7 in Benny and the Jets
James Taylor: Gmaj7 in You’ve Got a Friend
Bob Dylan: Gmaj7 in The Times They Are A-Changing
Casablanca (Movie): Fmaj7 and Fmaj13 in As Time Goes By
Five Stairsteps: A♭maj7 in Ooh Child
Grateful Dead: Fmaj7 in Shakedown Street & the Lady with a Fan section of Terrapin, Emaj7 in Eyes of the World & Stella Blue, Gmaj7 in Lost Sailor, G and Dmaj7 in Terrapin Station, Dmaj13 in France
Silverman’s Folk Song Encyclopedia Vol. II: Gmaj7 in C.C. Rider
Simon & Garfunkel: A♭, D♭, & E♭maj7 in America, A and Fmaj7 in Bridge Over Troubled Water, B♭maj9 in For Emily
The Band: Fmaj7 in The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
The Sundays: Cmaj7 in Here’s Where the Story Ends
Doobie Brothers (Real Standards Book): Amaj7 and Dmaj9 in Minute by Minute, B♭maj7 in What a Fool Believes
Jazz tunes \ standards: All of them! The major 7th chord is probably the most common chord played by jazz musicians, usually as the tonic chord. The common ii-V-I chord progression you often see in books, blog posts or videos is commonly shown as Dm7-G7-Cmaj7.
Take a look at these other articles of mine:
- F Lydian Chords: If you like the Fmaj7 chord, then you have to try the Fmaj7#11 chord.
- C major 7th chords: 29 open guitar chord shapes for the various Cmaj7 chords.
- Comprehensive List of Chords: This is my list of chords that can be built from the most popular scales displayed in a table format.
Are you in love? Does the person you love, love you back? If so, then write a love song for them and use the major 7th chord as the tonic chord.
It also works to use a maj7 chord in a love song about someone you are in love with who doesn’t know you exist. I’ve written both types from experience. And if the person doesn’t love you back, then write a blues tune or a sad country song.
If you know any of the songs above, then listen to when the major 7 chord comes in the progression to get a practical example of how to use the chord.
Also, take a look at the Wikipedia page on Seventh Chords for an explanation for the various types of sevenths.