Extended Chords in a Major Key


The concept of extended chords was introduced in another tutorial - make sure that you've read that and are comfortable with these ideas first. Also, you should also be familiar with the theory behind chord construction and major scale harmony for triads and 7th chords.

7th chords may be built on each degree of the major scale. Using C major as an example, this gives:

C, E, G, B
1, 3, 5, 7
D, F, A, C
1, b3, 5, b7
E, G, B, D
1, b3, 5, b7
F, A, C, E
1, 3, 5, 7
G, B, D, F
1, 3, 5, b7
A, C, E, G
1, b3, 5, b7
B, D, F, A
1, b3, b5, b7

We've already seen how a basic major chord can be extended. Let's take each degree of our parent major scale in turn and see how that theory applies to each of the chords here...

1st Degree

  1 3 5 7 9 11 13
C7 C E G B      
C9 C E G B D    
C11 C E G B D F  
C13 C E G B D F A


2nd Degree

  1 b3 5 b7 9 11 13
Dm7 D F A C      
Dm9 D F A C E    
Dm11 D F A C E G  
Dm13 D F A C E G B


3rd Degree

  1 b3 5 b7 b9 11 b13
Em7 E G B D      
Em7b9 E G B D F    
Em11,b9 E G B D F A  
Em11,b9,b13 E G B D F A C


4th Degree

  1 3 5 7 9 #11 13
F7 F A C E      
F9 F A C E G    
F9#11 F A C E G B  
F13#11 F A C E G B D


5th Degree

  1 3 5 b7 9 11 13
G7 G B D F      
G9 G B D F A    
G11 G B D F A C  
G13 G B D F A C E


6th Degree

  1 b3 5 b7 9 11 b13
Am7 A C E G      
Am9 A C E G B    
Am11 A C E G B D  
Am11,b13 A C E G B D F


7th Degree

  1 b3 b5 b7 b9 11 b13
B7 B D F A      
B7,b9 B D F A C    
B11,b9 B D F A C E  
B11,b9,b13 B D F A C E G


Reviewing the above, you should see that the further that chords are extended, the more unique types of chord appear. Think back to triads, where there are three distinct types within a major key (major, minor and diminished) and to 7th chords, where there are four distinct types (major, minor, dominant and half-diminished). When extended to include a 13th degree, there are seven distinct chord types.

You will also have noticed that some of the chord names used here are a little verbose. For example, "Em11,b9,b13" does describe the formula of that chord quite well, but it is a bit long-winded. However, take a careful look at the notes in the chords above, in particular the 13th chords - you should see that they relate back to the mode that corresponds to that each degree of the major scale (there's a tutorial on modes which you should consult if you aren't familiar with these). For that reason, it is preferable to write "Em7(phrygian)", and so on.

In summary, for major keys...

Major 7th and Major 9th chords can be treated as either I or IV chords. With additions of 11th and 13th notes be careful to distunguish between their usage.
Minor 7th chords can exist as ii, iii and vi chords.
Minor 9th and minor 11th chords can exist as ii, and vi chords, but not as iii chords.
Minor 13th chords can only exist as ii chords.
Dominant 7th, 9th, 11th and 13th chords can only exist as V chords.

There's quite a lot to take in here. Take time to make sure that you understand everything, as the priniciples used here can be applied to other scale types.

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