Intermediate Acoustic Guitar Course Week 12

Maj7 chords + Fast Car!

Today we look at two more maj7 chords in all shapes.

Just like last week, it’s what note that change that matters, make this your focus.

We also learn a new song in Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’.

We learn how to play this song as I do in the video as well as how Tracy play it on the original recording.

Week 12 – Step 1 – 15 min

Before we get cracking on the song, let’s work out how to play Cmaj7 and Dmaj7 in all shapes.

Here’s the TAB for Cmaj7, it’s the same concept as last week.
C to Cmaj7
The lowest we can go is a C shape as this is our open position chord.

Following this we move up the shapes, spelling CAGED (hence the CAGED system).

Take your time playing through the exercise, aim to make it as musical as possible.

Here’s the same exercise, now covering all the D chords:
D to Dmaj7
The lowest chord shape available is now the D shape since this is our open position chord.

Following this we move up the neck in the same order as always: D – C – A – G – E.

Spend about 15 minutes playing around with these shapes. If you want to and have time, revisit the A chord as well.

Week 12 – Step 2 – 30 min

Let’s look at how to play Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car.

Think of this song as if in the key of G. The progression goes: IV – I – VI – V.

Below I’ve listed four different ways of how I play it. I’m sure there are more variations in the video…

If you can take these four as a starting point, blend them and come up with new, subtle variations, then this is the best way.

Here’s what I do in the video for the Verse:
Fast Car - 4 Variations

The opening lick, over the Cmaj7 chord, hammer on from the open string and pulls off to open string again.

At the same time as I pull off, I strum the strings again. experiment with not strumming as well, letting the hammer on/pull off do all the work.

This on it’s own as very good hammer on/pull off exercise. Focus on being in time rhythmically with the flick of the finger.


As the Chorus arrive I for one wish I could switch to pick! But this is pretty tricky so I opted for strumming the Chorus section with my fingers and thumb.

I ended up using a very unorthodox technique which I’m not sure anyone need to study in detail.

When it comes to strumming with fingers I reckon everyone will have their own take on it, so instead of having the chorus exactly analysed, just play the rhythm.

You can use just your thumb, just you index finger or a combination of both. Maybe you could even switch to playing it with a pick!

Here are the Chorus chords and the basic rhythm I use:
Fast Car Chorus Strumming
Notice how the first three bars are almost identical. Only the first beat of bar three differ.

The 8th notes for the D chord build us up for the next section of the Chorus.

The looped pattern of C – Em – D use the same rhythm over the first two beats as the previous section, followed by straight 8th notes. The D chord get some intense 16th notes to build tension.

Finally we calm the rhythm down in the last bar before it’s time to finger pick the Verse again.

Play along with the video lesson, use whichever technique that feels comfortable when strumming using your fingers.

The Original Riff

Before I sign off I thought I’d let you in on how to play this riff as close to how Tracy did it herself.

This might sound strange, why didn’t I just play it like Tracy? Well, it’s only a one guitar arrangement and I felt that staying with open position chords made sense at the time.

In hindsight, I kind of prefer climbing up the neck…

You now have the luxury of being able to do either, here’s the TAB for playing it up the neck:
Fast Car riff
On the original recording there’s two guitars so what is the correct way?

I’d like to think the way you play it today is the best way, who knows how you will play it tomorrow?

Keep experimenting and you’ll find your favourite way of playing ‘Fast Car’.


Today you learned how to play Cmaj7 and Dmaj7 chords all over the neck.

In ‘Fast Car’ we found a C shape creating a riff by hammering on and off the root note to a maj7.

The finger picked pattern had a few variations in it and you were encouraged to come up with small and subtle variations on the theme.

The Chorus saw some frenetic strumming that when just read as a rhythm hopefully wasnt too difficult after all. Practice bar by bar using a pick if necessary.

In three days time we look at a new song that use the maj7 chord in a riff.

See you then!

Dan (your guitar guru)