Trombone lesson: major7 patterns in jazz improvisation

Trombone lesson: major7 patterns in jazz improvisation

Trombone lesson: How to use major 7 and major 7#5 patterns when improvising

Are you a jazz improviser? Do you know all the maj7 (major seven) and maj7#5 (major seven sharp five) arpeggios in all keys by heart? If not, I strongly recommend that you get started!

Major 7 patterns are extremely useful in jazz improvising since they clearly define and set the mood of the chord. And most of them are easily playable on the trombone! I have chosen to sample the pattern in the trombone-friendly key of F throughout this article, but you should learn them by heart in all 12 keys.

The major 7 and major 7#5 patterns in the context of jazz improvisation are built from specific chord structures in music theory. Here’s a bit more detail about each:

Major 7 (maj7) Arpeggios

  • A major 7 chord consists of the root, major third, perfect fifth, and major seventh of a scale.
  • For example, in the key of F, an Fmaj7 chord would be built from the notes F, A, C, and E.
  • When played as an arpeggio, these notes are played one at a time, either ascending or descending, which is common in jazz solos to outline the harmony. This is how to play chords on a trombone since we can only play one note at a time.

Major 7 Sharp 5 (maj7#5) Arpeggios

  • This chord is a variation of the major 7 chord where the fifth is raised by a half step (sharp five).
  • In the key of F, a Fmaj7#5 chord would include F, A, C# (instead of C), and E.
  • The raised fifth adds a distinctive sound that adds tension to a musical phrase – a cherished effect in jazz improvisation.

The reason that I bring up the major7 (or just maj7 shortened) and the major7#5 patterns, is that they are useful for much more than just major 7 chords. Between the two of them, they can be used in a wide array of chords commonly used in jazz tunes. Add new fundamentals below the maj7 and maj7#5 patterns, and you can wide selection of chords. Using the major 7 or major 7#5 patterns on top of these new chords will cover many of the juicy colors. The most common would be adding a D as the root to an F maj7, thus creating a D-9 chord. Using a D as root below a Fmaj7#5 creates a D-9 chord with a major 7th – that’s a keeper! Here are the most useful chords with a Fmaj7 and a Fmaj7#5 pattern on top. Note that not all the chord notes are covered when using these patterns, but the most important ones are.

Major 7 pattern chords

  • Fmaj7
  • D-9
  • Bbmaj7#11
  • G13sus4

Chords you can create using the major7 pattern

Major 7#5 pattern chords

  • Fmaj7#5
  • G13#11
  • D-maj
  • D-6
  • Db7alt
  • Bø9

Chords you can create using the major7#5 pattern

Please note, that when we add a new fundamental, the chord is no longer a plain major 7 chord, so here I am talking about the major 7 as a pattern – not as a chord. When you start thinking this way, you can cover most chords in most jazz standards with these two patterns. Show me a jazz standard, and I’ll show you a great-sounding major 7 or major 7#5 pattern for each chord in the song!

With only these two patterns, you can cover major7, minor9, 13sus4, 13, major7#5, 13#11, 7alt and m7b5 chords. On a regular 13 chord, the match, in theory, isn’t perfect (you get sus4 instead of a major third), but in real life, it works quite fine, or you could use a maj#5 pattern resulting in a 13#11 chord instead of a regular 13 chord. In the case of the m7b5 chord and maj7#5 pattern, you get a natural 9 on top, a nice way to get the most out of that chord. This one might be considered an acquired taste – try out this voicing on the piano to get acquainted with it.

Practice the patterns in all 1.346 keys

Now it’s time to play all the patterns in all twelve keys on your trombone. You practice this until you can play them even with your brain on standby. The tricky part is to keep track of which arpeggio to use on which chord, but that will come naturally after only another few thousand hours of practicing. Try playing the patterns in different ways using different rhythms.

You will find these patterns in all keys in the member’s section (free trial applies) in the exercise Major 7 and major 7#5 arpeggios on the trombone. This is really useful stuff, trust me!

Now, let’s put this concept to good use in a jazz standard. Here is the first part of All The Things You Are with useable maj7 patterns for each chord. Can you fill in the fitting patterns for the rest of the tune? You can download this piece of sheet music in the member’s section.

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Download this piece of sheetmusic in the member's section.

Anything unclear? Write a comment with your questions, and I’ll clarify.

Slide on!

Anders Larson - Trombone player and founder of


  1. maria 12 years ago

    guauh thanks cor everything

  2. Paolo 10 years ago

    What’s the third chord of the maj7 pattern? BbMaj7-9-13b?

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