Improve Your Jazz Improvisation On Major 7th Chords

jazz improvisation major chordsDo you wish you knew how to play over major 7th chords better than you do now?

Do you find yourself lost when major 7th chords come up in your favorite jazz and rock songs?

Well, in today’s lesson we’re going to explore some new licks and jazz improvisation ideas that will help you to sound better over this very common chord.

Let’s get started learning!

I suggest you watch the video first right below than scroll down for more tips, notation, and additional resources to help your jazz improvisation.

jazz lick over a major chord

(click to expand)

5 Tips To Help Your Jazz Playing Over Major 7th Chords

Lets take a look now at some ideas you should focus on from the video lesson above and some additional things you’ll definitely want to add into your playing.

1.Not Every Jazz Improv Concept Needs To Be Hard

Sometimes just playing simple arpeggio ideas over major seventh chords can sound great.

This is especially true if you’re playing with great groove and great rhythm. If you watch the video above I only play 1 note thats outside the key.

The rest of the notes are inside the key, the scale, and even the chord (1, 3, 5, 7 ,9). Simple but effective!

2. Mix Up Your Eighth Notes With Triplets

Can you hear how the triplet add the top of the lick I play above adds some extra excitement to the lick and makes it more interesting?

3. Break Bigger Licks Into Lots Of Cool Ideas

You can take any lick and break it up into smaller pieces of vocabulary.

By breaking them down into their most important melodic cells we can turn 1 lick into infinite amount of  licks.

I teach this very important concept all throughout my jazz improvisation DVD.

jazz improvisation over major chords

I like to think of jazz improvisation and jazz vocabulary as similar to a lego set. Each lick contains 4-10 individual “lego pieces”.

Just like a lego set you can reorder, change, shift, and reattach each little piece of a lick in so many different ways.

Like the concept behind the first bar of a lick but not the second? Cool. Grab just that piece and attach it to something else you already have in your playing.

Only like 2 beats of the lick in the middle? Awesome. Grab the melodic cell behind those 2 beats and attach that to other parts of major seventh licks (vocab) you’ve already learned.

Every time you learn a new lick you’re essentially adding to a “lego collection” that you already have acquired.

That’s why when you learn a great jazz lick it can really become a vehicle for really learning a lot about improvisation as a whole.

The only limit of what you can make is you’re own creativity! :)

4. More Jazz Vocabulary To Learn

Need some more cool jazz licks to study? There are tons of them on this site. You can get started by learning this Bill Evans lick, this Charlie Parker lick, or this Clifford Brown lick.

My jazz improvisation DVD also goes really in to depth on the licks and playing of 9 different jazz masters. You can check it out here: The Jazz Masters Method.

Final Thoughts

Have fun learning the major seventh lick above. Always remember that every new lick you learn has the capability of being an infinite amount of new ideas.

Did you enjoy the lesson above? Please leave a comment and share. :)

One last thing….I tested out a new microphone on the video above. I’d love your feedback on the audio. I’m not sure if it’s better, worse, or just different. What do you think? Please leave a comment and let me know.


If you’re new here don’t forget to subscribe to the free jazz lessons email list.

  • You’ll be joining the fastest growing jazz education community on the net.
  • You’ll also receive all the newest lessons right in your inbox!
  • You can subscribe on the top left of the site, on the left of this article, or right below. It’s that easy :)
Subscriber Counter
  • Larry

    new microphone is much better than the other

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons)

      Cool thanks for the feedback Larry!

  • Victoriacarbo


    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons)

      You’re welcome :)

  • BethT

    The difference is like night & day — much better sound quality!  Thanks for the M7 lick

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons)

      You’re welcome Beth! Thanks for the feedback on the mic :)

  • Mr_Fire_and_Ice

    This is awesome Steve.  :)  This also kinda shows the piano player how to build or personalize their own licks.  I love it!  Thanks

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons)

      My pleasure!

  • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons)

    Hi Brian! Thanks so much for your kind words and glad to hear you’re enjoying the DVD. It means a lot to me. I’ll send you a private email about the Bud Powell.  Here’s an article I wrote in the meantime about the Transcribe software

  • Paul

    GREAT LESSON…..! just came across your site….THANKS…Will be back!
    paul b.
    south jersey

  • Mlipkin

    Have played piano for years, but always wanted to play with a
    more distinctive jazz feel. You’re course (especially the transcriptions + comments) have taken me closer to where I want to be

  • mkamoski

    Awesome. Simple. Clear. Clean. Cool. Thanks, your vids are great!!!