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  • Writer's pictureJay EuDaly

Quick & Dirty 9th Chords

Updated: Apr 11

In this installment of “Quick & Dirty” we’re going to deal with 3 types of 9th chords. A 9th can be added to anything but most commonly it’s added to Major 7 (Cmaj9), Dominant 7 (C9) and Minor 7 (C-9) chords.

There will be 2 positions, 6th-string root and 5th-string root. I'll put both positions at the 8th fret, therefore the 6th-string root is C and the 5th-string root is F.

Knowing these two positions enables you to drill the chords around the Key Circle.

  • If you don’t know what I mean by, “drill the chords around the Key Circle,” stop right now and download my 5-Lesson Foundational Series. Then work through it. Everything I teach presupposes it. It will enable you to find any note, anywhere without memorizing note names on every string! It will also teach you how to use the Key Circle as a mechanism to ensure that you practice in every key. It’s a free PDF and no further commitment or obligation is required.


6th-String Root

Most of the time on the chords with a 6th-string root, the root is not played. It is a visual referent.

Occasionally I have seen Freddie King and Stevie Ray Vaughan play the 6th-string root on a Dominant 9 chord, but most of the time, the combination of the root and the 3rd in the lower register makes the chord sound too muddy. Including the root on the Major 9 is feasible. Including the root on the Minor 9 is physically impossible for most people.

If you've been through Unit 4: 7th Chords, you should recognize the root-omitted Cmaj9 as an E-7 shape, the C9 as an E Half-Diminished shape and the C-9 as an Ebmaj7 shape. The implication is that the 9th chords can be thought of thusly:

Cmaj9 = E-7/C

C9 = E-7(b5)/C

C-9 = Ebmaj7/C

In fact, I have found that way of thinking about 9th chords to be very useful.

5th-String Root

The 5th can be added on the 1st string:

There is an alternative fingering possible for the Major 9 if you wish; use the thumb to play the root:

If you add the 5th of the chord on the 1st string and omit the 5th-string root, you will get the same relationships as with the 6th-string root:

Fmaj9 = A-7/F

F9 = A-7(b5)/F

F-9 = Abmaj7/F



On the importance of drilling, see How to Practice.

There's a couple of ways I would recommend that you drill these chords.

  1. The 6th-string roots with the root omitted (3rd in bass) to 5th-string roots around the Key Circle while reciting names.

  2. Same as above for 6th-string root to 5th-string root with the 5th added and the root omitted. Around the Circle - recite names.

(Again: if you don't know what I mean by "Around the Key Circle" please take me up on the free download linked-to above.)


A complete lesson series on 9th chords has yet to be released (Unit 6: 7th Voicing is next). However, the E-Book version of Unit 7: 9th Chords is available. Please read the caveat at the top of the sales page before you decide to purchase.


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