Complete understanding of chords : The Chord Code

9th, 11th, 13th notes

9th = seven + 2 = 2nd note

11th = seven +4 = 4th note

13th = seven + 6 = 6th note

These notes are usually played one octave higher than the root. This way the root note comes in the bass section while the added 9ths 11ths or 13ths (or their flat and sharp versions) come an octave higher.

Note : Remember that '2nd' indicates the major second note; minor second note will be notated as b2. A 4th is the perfect 4th note; sharp 4th will be notated as #4th. 6th is the major 6th note; the minor sixth will be written as #5 or b6.

The 9th chord

Remember that when it is written 7th chord, we are referring to the Dominant seventh chord. When it is written 'seventh' '11th' '9th' '13th' etc without specifically mentioning minor or major, the chord is dominant 7th and derivatives from dominant 7th chord.

When a minor or major is mentioned, start with the seventh chord with the same name and add the other notes above 7th.

The 9th chord is :

Seventh chord + 9th note (mentioned '9th' without any minor or major prefixes, so we know it is the dominant 7th chord derivative)

= major 3rd chord + minor 7th note + 9th note

= root , major 3rd, 5th, minor 7th, 9th note (9th note is same as major 2nd note : 9 – 7 = 2; 2nd indicates the major 2nd note; minor 2nd will be notated as b2.)

C9th chord = C E G Bb D

The major 9th chord is:

Major seventh chord + 9th note

= Major 3rd chord + Major 7th note + 9th note

= Root, Major 3rd, 5th, Major 7th, 9th (notes)   :   9th is same as the 2nd note, usually played one octave higher than the root.

C Major 9th = C E G B D

On the guitar, if we can't play all the five notes, then it is enough to play the Root (C) Major 3rd (E) Major 7th (B) and 9th (D)

The minor 9th chord is

Minor 7th + 9th note

= minor 7th + 2nd note

C minor 9th = C Eb G Bb + D

The minor major 9th chord

Again, the prefix indicates the kind of 7th chord to be used (no prefix indicates dominant seventh chord).

Minor major 9th chord will be formed from the minor major 7th chord, by adding the 9th note to it.

C minor major 9th chord = C minor major 7th chord + 9th note

= C Eb G B + D

The 11th chord

The major 11th chord will be :

major 7th chord + 11th note

= major 7th chord + 4th note (11th is same as perfect 4th note : 11-7 =4; 4th indicates the perfect 4th note with respect to the root; flat five or sharp fourth note will be notated as #4)

= root, major 3rd, 5th, major 7th, 4th (notes)

C major 11th = C E G B F

The 11th chord = 7th chord + 4th note

The minor 11th chord = minor 7th chord + 4th note

The minor major 11th chord = minor major 7th chord + 4th note

The 11th chord can include the 9th note when it is possible to play it.

The Thirteenth chord

e.g. C13th chord will be made of C7th chord + 13th note

= C7th chord + 6th note (13th note is same as major 6th note : 13-7=6; 6th indicates the major 6th note; minor 6th note will be notated as #5 or b6)

= C E G Bb A

The thirteenth chord can also have the 9th and 11th notes.

For example when playing the C13th chord on the guitar, we include the 9th note – D – also.

Then the C13th chord will have the following notes : C E G Bb D (9th or 2nd note) A (13th or 6th note)

The minor 13th chord = minor 7th chord + 6th note + 9th note (include if possible) + 11th note (include if possible)

Added 9th chord

The added 9th chord is the minor or major chord + the 9th note. The added 9th chord does not include the 7th note. The added chord is the basic minor or major triad (3 note chord) + the note to be added (9th or 11th or 13th).

C added 9th = C major chord + 9th note = C E G D

Note that C 9th has the 7th note Bb while the added 9th chord has only the major triad (C E G) and the 9th note (D)

C minor added 9th = C minor chord + 9th note = C Eb G D

Flat & Sharp of 9th 11th or 13th – Before and After

Flat means you need to play the note before. Sharp means you need to play the note after.

Flat 9th note = one note before the ninth note = one note before the 2nd note (9th = seven + 2 = 2nd note, flat9th = seven + flat 2nd note)

Sharp 9th note = one note after the 9th note = one note after the 2nd note (9th note = 2nd note, sharp 9th = seven + sharp 2nd note)

Flat 11th note = one note before the 4th note

e.g. C major 9th #11 b13

C major 9th #11 b13 = C major 9th chord + #11 note + b13 note

11th is same as the 4th note

#11th is same as the #4th note.

4th note for C root is F. #4th is the note next to F — F#

So #11th is same as #4th which is the note F#.

You can also see it as #4 = #11-7

13th note is same as the 6th note

b13th is same as b6th note – the note before the 6th note.

6th note for C root is A. b6th is the note before 6th note. Note before A is Ab

So b13th is same as b6th is the note Ab.

So, C major 9th #11 b13th chord = C major 9th chord + #11 note + b13 note

= C major 9th chord + F# + Ab

= C major 7th chord + 2nd note (9th is same as 2nd note) + F# +Ab

= C major chord + 7th note + 2nd note + F# +Ab

= C E G B D F# Ab

Playing detailed chord on the guitar

Here i used the term detailed since chords like the one we discussed above has 7 notes – a scale of a chord, in fact.

On a 6 string guitar you can't play all the notes of the chord – there are seven notes in the chord and the guitar has only 6 strings. One quick look at the above chord shows that there are three consecutive notes – F# G G# (Ab).

First note you can leave from playing is the 5th. Then depending on the sound you want and practical playing constraints, play the remaining notes or leave some.

If you are playing along with a bass instrument – a bass guitarist or a upright bass or piano etc – you can leave the root note to the bass player and play the remaining notes. 

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