When learning to solo over major family chords, many jazz guitarists explore the Ionian sound (Maj7) and the Lydian sound (Maj7#11), but there is a third major chord color, and that is the Lydian Augmented sound (Maj7#5).
Though you don’t see many Maj7#5 chords in jazz standard situations, especially compared to Maj7 chords, you can use the Maj7#5 arpeggio, pentatonic scale, and mode, to add tension and color to your Maj7 soloing lines.
So, before we dig into these Maj7#5 melodic devices, keep in mind that you can use these devices to solo over Maj7#5 chords when you see them, but you can also use them to add a #5 color to any Maj7 chord you see in your playing.
To begin you study of how to solo over Maj7#5 chords, you will learn two positions for a Maj7#5 arpeggio, one from the 6th-string root note, and one from the 5th-string root note.
Maj7#5 arpeggios are built by playing the four chord tones that make up the Maj7#5 chord, R-3-#5-7. If you already know your Maj7 arpeggio shapes, you can also take any Maj7 arpeggio, raise the 5th by 1 fret, and you will have created a Maj7#5 arpeggio in the process.
Both arpeggios below are written from the root note G to keep things organized in your studies from the beginning. But, once you can play one or both of these shapes from the root G, make sure to practice it in other keys as you begin to work these shapes around the fretboard.
Here is a Gmaj7#5 arpeggio from the 6th string root note.
Listen & Play
Moving forward, here is a Gmaj7#5 arpeggio from the 5th-string root note.
Listen & Play
As well as working these shapes in various keys around the fretboard, make sure to put on a Gmaj7#5 backing track and practice soloing over that static chord vamp using one or both of these arpeggio shapes to build your improvised lines and phrases.
Maj7#5 Pentatonic Scale
Though many of us are familiar with modes and arpeggios over chords such as Maj7#5, you might be surprised to know that you can also play a pentatonic scale over these augmented chords in your soloing lines and phrases.
The Maj7#5 pentatonic scale is built with the interval structure R-2-3-#5-6, which is the same structure as a major pentatonic scale, R-2-3-5-6, with the 5th raised a fret to get that augmented sound in your lines.
|G Maj Pentatonic Scale|
|G Maj7#5 Pentatonic Scale|
To begin your study of this 5-note scale, here is a GMaj7#5 pentatonic scale that you can practice in the given key, as well as take into other keys as you expand upon this sound in your studies.
As well, you can learn to play this pentatonic scale from the 5th-string root, which you can see below from the root note G.
Once you have these shapes under your fingers, try applying them to your soloing practice by blowing over a Gmaj7#5 backing track and using these scale shapes to create your lines and phrases. From there, you can mix the Maj7#5 arpeggios and pentatonic scales together in your lines to hear how these two melodic devices compare and contrast in your solos.
Maj7#5 Mode – Lydian Augmented Scale
The last melodic device you will study in this lesson is the Maj7#5 mode, also known as the Lydian Augmented Scale. This scale is the 3rd mode of the Melodic Minor Scale, and so for Gmaj7#5 it is like playing an E Melodic Minor Scale starting from the note G.
When doing so, the interval structure for the Lydian Augmented Scale is R-2-3-#4-#5-6-7, which is like a Lydian Mode, R-2-3-#4-5-6-7, with the 5th raised by a fret, hence the name Lydian Augmented.
|G Lydian Scale||C#|
|G Lydian Augmented Scale|
Here is a 6th-string root fingering for G Lydian Augmented that you can use in your studies, in this key and around the fretboard in all 12 keys.
You can also play the Lydian Augmented Scale from the 5th-string root note, which you can see in this example written from the root note G.
Again, after you have these shapes under your fingers, put on a Gmaj7#5 backing track and solo over that chord using the Lydian Augmented Scale. From there, you can mix the Maj7#5 arpeggio, pentatonic scale, and mode together as you combine all three melodic devices in your solos over this chord change.
To help you take these devices to a musical situation, here are three sample licks, using the arpeggio, pentatonic scale, and mode from above, to create lines over common chord progressions.
This first sample lick uses the Maj7#5 arpeggio over the Cmaj7 chord in the progression below.
Moving on, the second lick uses the Maj7#5 pentatonic scale over the Cmaj7 chord in the given progression.