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Constructing Chords - 9ths, 11ths, and 13ths

As we have seen in our analysis of scales over the last couple of months there are only 7 notes in most scales and a chord is generally made up of every other note, so, where on earth do 9th chords come from?!?

The answer is actually quite straight-forward! Just keep looping the scale and keep counting!

C Major Scale, for example:


Major Chords:


Minor Chords:


Dominant Chords:


For some instruments a few of these chords offer some challenges! The 13th chords have 7 notes, impossible to play on a guitar with only 6 strings! The good news is that not all the notes need to be played to be able to create the chords.

The Major chords must always contain:
-The 1st, this is the root note
-The 3rd, this makes it a major sounding chord
-The 7th, this makes it Major not Dominant
And then the highest other note left.

The 5th contains very little harmonic information, so can be left out, and the highest numbered note defines the chord extension. So, a Major 13th can be played with just the 1, 3, 7, 13.

The Minor chords must always contain:
-The 1st, this is the root note
-The b3rd, this makes it a minor sounding chord
-The b7th, the next note in the extended minor chord
And then the highest other note left.

As with the Major chord, the 5th contains very little harmonic information, so can be left out, and the highest numbered note defines the chord extension. So, a Minor 13th can be played with just the 1, b3, b7, 13.

The Dominant chords must always contain:
-The 1st, this is the root note
-The 3rd, this makes it a major sounding chord
-The b7th, this note is what makes it the Dominant chord
And then the highest other note left.

Again, the 5th contains very little harmonic information, so can be left out, and the highest numbered note defines the chord extension. So, a Dominant 13th can be played with just the 1, b3, b7, 13.

This may raise certain questions in your mind, and I’ll leave you ponder them for now, as we will cover most, if not all, of them in the next couple of articles.

Until then, work hard and most importantly, have fun!!




-Duncan Richardson - MU Columnist


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