Major 7 arpeggios
There are two arpeggios that are essential jazz vocabulary. These two arpeggios can be used in multiple contexts. We’ll get to know them here as the two arpeggios most frequently used when improvising on maj7 chords. Once you recognize and learn them, you’ll wonder how you did without them until now.
You’ll notice that neither arpeggio starts on the root. As with most jazz vocabulary, it’s important to learn these by their ‘intervals’. Think about 7th, root, third, fifth for the first one, and third, 5th, 7th, 9th for the second one.
These arpeggios are often played one immediately after the other. I think of these as ‘cascading’ arpeggios. Players use them frequently in either order. Once you start playing these arpeggios, you’ll begin to recognize them in the improvisations of all the great players.
Arpeggios + scales
Each arpeggio can also be followed by a descending bebop major scale, which includes an extra chromatic note, the b7 (asterisk). This additional chromaticism is necessary to realign two chord tones, the 6th and the 5th, so they both fall on downbeats. Note that from the major 7th (B) down to the 5th (G) is 4 half steps in a row. This makes the line easy to play and memorize. You’ll find that this chromatic run creates a strong sense of momentum.
In this second example, the extra chromatic is not necessary because the 6th naturally falls on a downbeat. The b6 found in the bebop major scale is added so that the 5th falls on the downbeat.
When you’re ready to get into major arpeggios in more depth, check out the interactive lessons, Level 3 – Major Arpeggios (coming soon!). These lessons will provide you with an organized, progressive framework for practicing and internalizing these essential lines.