chord theory part
3 we looked at constructing 7th
chords. These are one family of four-note chords. There are
other four note chords and this lesson will cover some of them.
There are also chords that contain more than four notes.
Further notes can be added to triads and 7th chords to create
fuller, extended chords. If you're interested in studying jazz harmony, extended chords are a must.
Hopefully this lesson will
provide you with a good knowledge base to
help you see how more complex chords are constructed on guitar.
Adding tones to a chord root is
known as "stacking". So you can have three note chords (triads) all the
up to six and even seven note chords (although obviously on a six
string guitar, omissions, such as the 5th, have to be made). Extended
chords are generally
chords that stack up more than 4 tones, beyond the 7th.
Below is the natural
order of tones when stacking. Remember, chords may include sharp (♯) or flat (♭)
tones. For example, a minor 7th chord includes a ♭3 and ♭7, whereas a major
7th chord includes a major 3
A few things to note here, when writing or reading chords...
is the same as the 2nd
is the same as the 4th
The 13th is the same as
The former numbers are
to represent that tone's position in the hierarchy when it comes to
abbreviating chord names. So,
in actuality, the 2nd of the scale comes after
the 3rd, 5th and 7th because in
theory it's the 9th.
However, there are exceptions which I admit makes it a little awkward
when you're trying to learn this stuff. I'll point out these
inconsistencies as they arise.
A quick recap for writing the most important chords we've learned so far...
A major triad - symbolized by just the root's letter (e.g. G) or "maj" (e.g. Gmaj) suggests there
is a major 3rd and 5th added to the root.
A minor triad - the root's letter followed by an "m" (e.g. Gm) suggests there is a minor 3rd and 5th added.
A dominant 7th chord - the root's letter followed by a "7" (e.g. G7) suggests there
is a major 3rd, 5th and minor 7th (see part
3 if you're confused) added.
A major 7th chord - the root's letter followed by "maj7" (e.g. Gmaj7) suggests
there is a major 3rd, 5th and major 7th added.
A minor 7th chord - the root's letter followed by "m7" (e.g. Gm7) suggests there is a minor 3rd, 5th and minor 7th added.
So we're just stacking the intervals up from the root. Once we stack beyond the 7th,
we're into extended chord territory!
Let's look at some practical
Below are the tones that make up a major
9th (e.g. Gmaj9)
maj9 in the chord name tells us the chord is stacked up to the major
9th tone as follows...
5 7 9
So because the major 9th chord includes all
the tones up to the 9th,
the 9 is
the number used in when writing the chord. Without
the 9, it would be maj7 because all the chord tones
up to the major 7th
would be included.
Below is an example of a major
9th chord (but I've left out the 5th so I can get the other tones in -
this is fine)...
Remember, the 2nd becomes the 9th in most chords. You'll rarely see
maj9 written as maj2, but even if you do, you'll know 2 and 9 are
referencing the same interval.
If you find that you can't include all the tones in the chord for the
fingering you've chosen, you can usually leave out the 5th
from the chord and it won't lose its character.
We can also extend dominant 7th
chords to include the 9th, giving us a dominant 9th
chord (e.g. G9)...
5 ♭7 9
if there's no "maj" in between the chord letter and the number, we know
the 7th is a dominant (flat) 7th as opposed to a major 7th.
process to minor chords. If we add a 9th to a minor 7th chord we get a
5 ♭7 9
This would be abbreviated as "m9" (e.g. Gm9).
Here's the order of natural
tones again for non-scrolling reference...
In theory, an 11th chord
include the elements of a dominant
9th chord plus an 11th...
5 ♭7 9 11
common to use the 11th in the context of a suspended
(no 3rd) chord, to avoid dissonance. We can still write it as an 11th
chord, however (e.g. C11, D11, F11) and doing so helps us distinguish a
11th suspended chord from a standard sus4 chord, which only tends to
include up to the b7 (1 4 5 ♭7).
it's fine to leave out the 5th if, for example, the fingering doesn't
allow it. Also,
if the root is covered by the bass or other instrument, you can leave
out the root as a guitarist and
free up a finger/fret for other tones.
Unlike the 11th and major 3rd,
the 11th and minor 3rd
are commonly used together (especially in jazz music), giving us a minor 11th chord...
5 ♭7 9 11
common to leave out the 5th
with these trickier fingerings, because in most cases doing so doesn't
take away from the chord's overall sound. The 5th
is a neutral tone. It's also often difficult to fret all six notes in
beneficial to learn how these chord tones appear right across the
software will make your study time more productive and
chords we leave out the 11th because it
tends to sound unharmonious as
part of the chord (and on a 6 string guitar, it's physically impossible
to play all 7 tones!). These are the
inconsistencies you have to work around.
Dominant 13th chords
5 ♭7 9 (11)
So with G13, for example, the "13" (also the 6th)
suggests that the highest tone in the chord is the 13th, and because
there is no "add", we can assume there is a flat 7th. It's the fullest
dominant chord we can create...
Note that even without the
9th/2nd, it's still often called a 13th chord, as it's a 7th chord with
the 13th as the highest tone.
Major 13th chords
And of course, we can build major 13th chords
(e.g. Gmaj13, Amaj13 etc.). The "maj" tells us the 7th is a major 7th as opposed
to a minor/flat 7th, with the same overall stack of tones...
5 7 9 (11)
Another jazzy one there.
Again, even if it didn't include the 2nd/9th, we'd still call it a
chords, such as Am13
it's just the same, except we flatten the 3rd, because a flat 3rd
makes it a minor chord.
5 ♭7 9
Added tone chords (e.g. Gadd6,
Gadd9) occur when there is no
7th, yet the chord includes tones beyond the 7th (9th,
11th, 13th). Think of them as extended
chords without a 7th. This gives them a different overall
Let's look at the tones in an added 9th (e.g.
Note the absence of a 7th.
Therefore, if the 7th is not
present in the chord's stack, any tone beyond the 7th becomes the added
tone. In this case, the added tone is the 9th.
That would be abbreviated as "add9" (e.g. Gadd9).
The same thing applies when
the 6th/13th to chords with no
7th. Remember, the 6th
13th in the order of chord
tones. So if the 7th is missing, we can note the
chord as add6 or add13...
What if both the 9th
13th tones are added to a chord with no 7th?
Good question! We could write
this as add6/9,
or add9/6 (e.g. Gadd9/6). The slash is like saying
"and also add..."
5 9 13
that you'll see the 13th and 6th used interchangeably, as they're both
same tone. I generally see add6 being used more than add13.
To summarise, "add" is like
saying "an extended chord (beyond the triad) without a 7th". This
applies the same to minor chords (b3) as it does
major. E.g. Cmadd9, Cmadd13.
When learning guitar chord theory,
don't get hung up on inconsistencies. People
will write chords differently, but I hope the above has given you an
insight into the
more complex extended chords you can create by stacking up those tones.
In the next lesson we'll bring
all this stuff together and use our chord construction knowledge to
create alternate chord voicings, not just the same
old E/A form barre/movable chords.
In the meantime, make sure you
keep on studying chord
forms across the fretboard, based on your knowledge of how each chord
type is constructed. The best way to do this is to see how chord extensions exist within scales.