Appreciate the Major 6 Chord!

How many major 6 chords have you played recently?

Ultimate Guitar
6 isn't only the hottest character on "Battlestar Galactica," it also happens to be an excellent and underused class of major chord.

People generally love playing 7th chords, yet the major 6 chord, time and time again, is cast aside in popular music. But there's a revolution going on, and it's coming at you with the power of a 6.0 magnitude earthquake!

Let's take a quick look at what goes in a major 6 chord. Here are the notes in the key of G:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
G A B C D E F#

Now, to make a regular major chord you just combine the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes. Thus, G major is a G, B, and D. Now let's just toss the 6th note in there (E), and BOOM! Major 6 chord.

So why aren't major 6 chords that prevalent in any non-jazz genre? Total lack of awareness. Until now, when you think of the number 6 your brain most likely equates it to the number of members in the Village People or the atomic number of carbon. But not anymore, check out the video to learn some cool major 6 chord voicings and how you can incorporate them into your playing.

By Sean Daniel

15 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    I've never really found a major 6th chord that I like on guitar, but I'm a bit spoiled as I am a steel guitar player, so on one neck of the pedal steel I have ACEGACEG, as well as CEGACEG on my lap steel, and G#BxD#F#G#BD#G#D#F# with a single lever and C#XEF#AC#EAXF# with the standard A+B pedal change on the other, so I've got more kinds of 6th chord options than you can shake a stick at. Although I'm a bit confused my the line "So why aren't major 6 chords that prevalent in any non-jazz genre?" since they are extremely prevalent in two particular country subgenres, honky-tonk and Western swing, as well as Hawaiian music. In fact, in the latter two, the 6th chord is often more common than the standard major chord, both on guitar as well as ukulele and steel guitar. Also the 6th is used like a powerchord in blues a lot, which the stereotypical root and 5, 6, b7, 6 blues/blues-rock rhythm that you hear fairly often. Still, the 6th chord is super underrated so it's good to see somebody trying to bring recognition to it.
    LilyOwens · Feb 08, 2016 07:33 AM
    StacyJCrary · Jan 31, 2016 01:14 PM
    HollyRGibbs · Jan 19, 2016 03:26 PM
    Elainejgeorge · Feb 03, 2016 07:29 AM
    Joshuamspring · Feb 06, 2016 11:00 AM
    SharonBTaylor · Jan 17, 2016 03:35 PM
    eliseanderson01 · Jan 09, 2016 03:05 PM
    great concise article to bring my -2 zimbabwean cents to this, personally i'd say 7 chords tend to be used more outside of jazz (pbuh, we mongrels are not worthy o mighty savant priests of the jass religio) is because 7 chords usually can be substituted for 135 chords without changing the harmonic message too much. if a song at some point has em-f#m or f#dim-g, em7-f#m7-gmaj7 produces pretty much the same effect. pulling that off with 6 kordz would be a little bit trickier. i personally hear them as minor7 chords with the major 3rd in the bass for instance a maj6, my favorite 6 chord, x02222. whenver i try to use it as in place of an a, that high f# kinda changes the harmonic message, somewhat. if anything, it'll sound like a cool f#m7 voiced w/o f# as the bass. g maj6 or 320000,as another example is quite the same too. so maybe a possible reason they aren't used as much is because they tend to feel more like their relative minor voiced as a 7th with their relative minor's relative major note in the bass. hopefully this makes some sense.
    Tha Funkinator
    I was going to say elsewhere, isn't a 6 chord essentially (enharmonic to) an inversion of minor-7ths? I see a fair number of those in pop songs, so it's not like they're streng verboten, just less common or going under another name.
    True! For example an Am7 is A C E G and a Cmaj6 is C E G A. Essentially the first inversion of a minor seventh is the relative major chord but with the 6th. Similarly, the Cmaj7 which is C E G B could be inverted to E G B C which would be an Em6. I think its all about context and how you use them. Generally if the melody has a C in it it would be more powerful to go to a Cmaj6 rather than an Am7 but maybe thats what you want to do. I don't know but theory and chords are fun!
    mailtoroseparker · Jan 09, 2016 12:26 PM
    Major 6 chord is popular if you listen for it, especially on the V chord. It's a good option consider you can't diatonically use the 7th on V without getting that obvious dominant sound which can be chessy. It's a secret weapon used by many of the great producers because it really pulls at your heart strings when the other chords are left as triads. Don't give away the secrets! lol.
    debrareed · Jan 10, 2016 12:48 PM
    eddiejordan7894 · Jan 28, 2016 03:35 PM
    great jazz chord for noobs like me who can't figure out the first thing about jazz. That should have been the title
    You just opened my eyes to a new world
    paulasmithsmailbox · Jan 11, 2016 09:44 AM
    as839178 · Jan 11, 2016 07:23 PM
    ng274013 · Jan 10, 2016 05:32 PM
    la929024 · Jan 10, 2016 09:00 PM
    ireneanderson0014 · Feb 05, 2016 02:39 PM
    brandihayes458 · Jan 24, 2016 07:34 PM
    I recently started to learn "Lenny" by Stevie Ray Vaughan and it uses this 6th chord, although I didn't realise it was the 6th until watching this. Listen to the song and tell me its not awesome!
    gingerkelly · Jan 29, 2016 07:21 AM
    shrndms · Feb 07, 2016 06:53 PM
    bannykill45 · Feb 08, 2016 07:05 AM
    annesanchezsmailbox · Feb 08, 2016 05:03 PM
    grimmettmaroney · Feb 02, 2016 02:42 PM
    krystalross · Feb 03, 2016 09:19 AM
    tandy7657 · Jan 25, 2016 07:36 AM
    sheriperez326 · Feb 05, 2016 12:04 PM
    ka7870720 · Feb 05, 2016 12:13 PM
    ammythomas001 · Feb 07, 2016 08:09 AM
    wardaazeem35 · Jan 09, 2016 07:58 AM
    andythomas569 · Jan 24, 2016 11:32 PM
    lopezbetty33 · Jan 09, 2016 10:55 AM
    aineepunjabi · Jan 25, 2016 11:26 AM
    lisaroy360 · Jan 09, 2016 12:33 PM
    mahwishnaz8 · Feb 06, 2016 02:14 AM
    I use A shape major 6 chords all the time because I can't play an A shape bar chord.
    eliajorgensen8 · Jan 27, 2016 09:52 AM
    lilliesing1123 · Jan 09, 2016 08:22 PM
    wdebra821 · Feb 04, 2016 04:36 AM
    priscillabrady456 · Jan 27, 2016 04:12 PM
    ammytelar1458 · Jan 27, 2016 05:15 PM
    dannettedunne458 · Jan 28, 2016 08:54 AM
    What the fuck does that have to do with maj6 chords hmm? I guess she makes that good money flatbacking...
    tinnyror · Jan 14, 2016 07:23 AM