Extended Chords - An Introduction


There are already a number of tutorials here looking at triads and seventh chords. You should remember that these chords are built by stepping through a parent scale in intervals of a third (in effect, taking alternate notes). For example...

But what happens if we try to go further and build a chord with not 4, but 5 degrees? At first glance it might look like we'd 'fall off' the end of the scale, but this isn't necessarily the case. We can use a parent scale spread over 2 octaves instead of just 1, and that gives us some more notes to play with. Sticking with the example from earlier, let's try getting the next-note-but-one from the parent scale. This takes us to a D note...

The name of this chord is C major 9 (written as C9) - it is a C major triad extended to include the 9th degree (i.e. the 2nd degree, an octave above).

You might be starting to wonder if it's possible to keep going, adding more notes to the chord to get further extentions. It is - there are a couple more extended chords in there, namely the major 11th and major 13th chords...

It isn't possible to extend a chord beyond a 13th. The 15th degree of the chord would be the same note name as the 1st degree, which is already present as a chord tone.

There are one or two things that it's specifically worth pointing out about these chord types:

An extended chord includes all notes up to and including it's highest degree. That is to say, a major 9th chord includes 1-3-5-7-9. A chord with the formula 1-3-5-9 is known as a major add 9 chord.
Likewise, a chord with a formula 1-3-5-7-9-13 would be known as a major 13 (no 11) chord.
Do not confuse a 9th chord with a sus2 chord (9th degree is 2nd degree an octave higher). Similarly, an 11th chord chould not be confused with a sus4 chord. A suspended chord does not include and 3rd degree, whereas a 9th chord is an extension of a more basic chord type.

Take a little time to get familiar with these new chord types. So far we've only seen the types of extended chord based on a major triad. Once your familiar with the basic concepts, move on to the next tutorial, which looks at the extended chords available on the other basic chord types.

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