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Watch the Extensions online guitar lesson by Robbie Calvo from Guitar Interactives

PRINCIPLE 5 - EXTENSIONS

We can extend our 7th chords further by adding 9th’s, 11th’s and 13ths.

Let me just qualify that a 9th is just a second scale degree an octave above the tonic, an 11th is just a fourth scale degree an octave above the tonic and a 13th is just a sixth scale degree an octave above the tonic.

Let’s add the 9th to our diatonic seventh chords.

The resulting chords are:

I - G MAJOR 9TH = G - B - D - F# - A

II - A MINOR 9TH = A - C - E - G - B

III - B MINOR 7 (b9) = B - D - F# - A - C

IV - C MAJOR 9TH = C - E - G - B - D

V - D9 (DOMINANT) = D - F# - A - C - E

VI - E MINOR 9TH = E - G - B - D - F#

VII - F# MINOR 7 (b5, b9) = F# - A - C - E - G

As we progress through adding chord extensions you’ll find that we may have to modify our chords and omit certain notes in order for the chords to be fingered on the fretboard. Please note that chords built in theory are not always possible to build easily on the guitar. The first note that is usually omitted is the 5th. The 5th of the chord doesn’t define it’s quality and can therefore be omited. The exception to this would be the Diminished or Minor 7 (b5) chord.

9th chords should contain the 7th in order to be called a 9th chord. Add 9 chords or more correctly, Add 2 chords do not contain the 7th.

Note that some of the 9th chords are b9th’s. This is because the scale formula gives us a b9 not a major 9th. This is very important to remember on the 3rd chord of our scale. The B minor 7th chord will have a b9 interval and is quite dissonant in tonality.

Let’s add the 11th now to our 9th chords.

The resulting chords are:

I - G MAJOR 7 (#11) = G - B - D - F# - A - C

II - A MINOR 11TH = A - C - E - G - B - D

III - B MINOR 11 (b9) = B - D - F# - A - C - E

IV - C MAJOR 9 (#11) = C - E - G - B - D - F#

V - D 11 (DOMINANT) = D - F# - A - C - E - G

VI - E MINOR 11 = E - G - B - D - F# - A

VII - F# MINOR 11 (b5, b9) = F# - A - C - E - G - B

It should be noted that chords with a major 3rd will sound dissonant with the 11th added. This is due to the fact that the 4th (11th) and the 3rd in the same chord will add a lot of tension due to the minor 2nd interval between the 2 notes. In real world musical applications it is typical to raise the 11th to be a #11 to reduce this tension. The IV chord has a naturally occuring #11. Check out how this chord sounds in comparison to a natural 11th.

Let’s add the 13th to our 11th chords.

The resulting chords are:

I - G MAJOR 13 = G - B - D - F# - A - C - E

II - A MINOR 13 = A - C - E - G - B - D - F#

III - B MINOR b13 (b9) = B - D - F# - A - C - E - G

IV - C MAJOR 13 (#11) = C - E - G - B - D - F# - A

V - D13 (DOMINANT) = D - F# - A - C - E - G - B

VI - E MINOR b13 = E - G - B - D - F# - A - C

VII - F# MINOR b13 (b5, b9) = F# - A - C - E - G - B - D

You’ll notice that we now have 7 note chords, impossible to play on a six string guitar and would also sound harmonically complex within a musical progression.

In theory we add the extension to the previous extension and this is how we would write them for an examination or theory test. In reality and practice however, these extended chords may contain the root, 3rd, 7th and the extension. Obviously this varies greatly given different voicings exist in our vocabulary.