Chords- Music theory II

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In the previous post, we have learned about the types of triads(major, minor, diminished, augmented), types of seventh chords, how to form them, and the symbols used in sheet music for each chord. So now let’s move on to the next part i.e the extended chords, arpeggios, and added tone chords. So let’s start.

Extended chords

Extended chords are basically those chords that use more than 4 notes. We just stack more notes to a triad or a seventh chord to get fuller or extended chords. Stacking here means adding a note to the chord root. In extended chords, we use notes of the next octave, so the 9th, 11th, or 13th note or degree with respect to the root note is added. Note that the 15th note is not added as it is the same as the root note. Here-

  • The 9th note is the same as the 2nd note but of higher octave
  • The 11th note is the same as 4th note but of a higher octave
  • The 13th note is the same as the 6th note but of a higher octave

So let’s take an example- take the root note as C, so the 9th note will be D, 11th note will be F, 13th note will be A. Note that these notes are of the higher octave. So let’s see the types of extended chords and how to form them.

9th Chords

As told above 9th chord is a type of extended chord that uses the 9th note stacking over the seventh chord. Again this chord can be of different types depending upon the type of 9th note used i.e major-minor.

Major 9th chord

9th Chords are easy to form if you know all the seventh chords, so go through them once again. Major 9th chords are formed just by adding the 9th note to a major 7th chord. For example, Cmaj9 will be formed by adding D to Cmaj7, so the chord formed is C E G B D.It is not possible to play every note in instruments like guitar, so you cannot leave the 5th note that will not affect the overall tonal quality of the chord.

Dominant 9th chord

Whenever there is no word between the note and the number like G9, it means that it is a dominant 9th chord, or more specifically the seventh note is dominant. To form dominant 9th chords, just add the 9th note to the dominant seventh chord. So the C9 chord will be C E G Bb D, where C E G Bb is the dominant seventh chord.

Minor 9th chord

So by now, you are familiar with the stacking process. So the minor 9th chords are formed by adding the 9th note to the minor seventh chord. The Cm9 chord will be C Eb G Bb D. Now make a chart of all the 9th chords for future references and make this concept rock solid.

Cheat table for Notes used in 9th Chords

9th ChordsNOTES

11th Chords

Again the 11th chords can be of three types-

Major 11th chord

Major 11th chords are formed just by adding the 11th note to the major 9th chord. So take the Cmaj9 chord and add the 11th note to form the Cmaj11 chord i.e C E G B D F.

Dominant 11th chords

Dominant 11th chords are formed by adding the 11th note to dominant 9th chord. So C dominant 11th chord will be C E G Bb D F.

Minor 11th chords

Minor 11th chords will be formed by adding the 11th note to the minor 9th chord. So Cm11 chord will be C Eb G Bb D F. Now practice some of these chords and listen to the feel of each chord.

Note that in case of instruments like guitar we often leave the 5th note, so that it becomes easier to play.

Cheat table for notes used in 11th chords

11th chords11th chordNOTES
Major chord1357911
Dominant chord135♭7911
Minor chord1♭35♭7911

13th chords

And similarly the 13th chords will be the stack of all possible notes a chord could have.

Major 13th chords

Major 13th chords are formed by adding the 13th note to the major 11th chord. So cmaj13 will be C E G B D F A.

Dominant 13th chords

Dominant 13th chords will be formed by adding the 13th note to dominant 11th chord. So C dominant 13th chord will be C E G Bb D F A.

Minor 13th chords

Minor 13th chords will be formed by adding the 13th note to minor 11th chords. So Cm13 chord will be C Eb G Bb D F A.

Note that these are the 7 note chords that are impossible to play on guitar or even piano for that matter, so we omit the 11th note, moreover the 5th and the 9th can also be omitted as they do not affect the overall sound quality of the chord.

Cheat table for notes of 13th chords

13th chords13thchordNOTES
Major chord135791113
Dominant chord135♭791113
Minor chord1♭35♭791113


Arpeggio is an amazing technique to add variation to your musical piece. It simply means that you have to play each note of a particular chord one after the other instead of playing all at once. These are very helpful for adding fillers, improvisation, or while composing when you cannot think of anything. Following are the benefits or features of using arpeggios-

  • They help certain instruments known as monophonic instruments to play a chord as such instruments cannot play all the notes simultaneously
  • Accompanies well and gives a great sound when played simultaneously with a chord
  • It helps students to explore and practice chord formations especially in instruments like guitar

If you play arpeggios on guitar, it will help you with your chord formations as well as brings clarity to each note in that particular chord. So next time when you play that chord, it will be crisp and clear. You can bring variations by changing the chord progression and thereby changing your arpeggio.

In the case of the piano, arpeggios can be fun, they are just like normal melodies that you play just that you have to play within that particular chord. This will help you understand the intervals between notes of different chords as well as boost your ear power.

Added tone chords

Added tone chords are the chords that use the notes beyond the 7th note but the 7th is not present. This simply means we can add a single note(9,11,13) to a particular triad. This gives us the added tone notes. For example The Cadd9 (this is how we write this chord as) will be C E G D, i.e 1 3 5 9 notes. Similarly, we can form more chords like Cadd13, Gadd11, and so on. Try some of these.

What if we ant to add two notes? So in this case we will simply add the notes we want to the triad. For example we want to add 9th and 13th note to form Cadd6/9 chord(this is what we write it as), so the chord so formed will be C E G D A. Note that the 13th note is same as the 6th thats why we have written it as 6/9 or 9/6.

Similarly we can form minor chords like this. For ex- Cmadd13, Gmadd9 etc.


So till now, you have learned a lot about chords, but still, you need to practice a lot because practically it will take a long time to adapt these concepts. So we have learned about the types of chords, triads seventh, extended, and added tone chords, how to form them, the theory behind the chord formation, and the genre of music each chord is used in. We have also talked about Arpeggios and the significance of these in music. There is a lot more to discuss chords and other music theory related stuff that we’ll see in other posts, till then stay tuned.

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