The 9, 11 and 13 Chords

The 9, 11 and 13 Chords

Guitar Level: Intermediate

The 9, 11 and 13 chords are complex chords that are often times used in jazz.  However, they can become beautiful tools to color your worship music if you know a little about them, and how to form them on the guitar neck.

Let’s use the key of D as an example.

Here’s the D scale:

D         E          F#        G         A         B         C#       D
1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8
8         9          10        11        12        13        14        15

The numbers under the notes in the scale are important for this lesson.

The Seven Chord:

The common D7 chord is constructed as follows: 1-3-5-b7.

So the D7 chord is made up of these notes: D-F#-A-C and can be played as finger pattern: x-5-7-5-7-5 with your first finger barred at the fifth fret and the root is on the A or fifth string.

You might be able to substitute either a D9, a D11 or a D13 chord in place of any D7 used in a song because these complex chords contain all the notes in the D7 chord; they just have added extension notes above the D7 chord.  Ultimately, your ear has to be the guide on whether to substitute or not.

The Nine Chord:

The nine chord is constructed by adding a 9 to the 7 chord: 1-3-5-b7-9.  So the D9 is: D-F#-A-C-E and here’s a great way to play it: x54555.

The Eleven Chord:

The eleven chord is constructed by adding a 9 and an 11 to the 7 chord: 1-3-5-b7-9-11.  So the D11 is: D-F#-A-C-E-G and here’s a great way to play it: x55555.  In practice however, some musicians will drop the third, in this example the F#.  In the final analysis, your ear must be the judge.

The Thirteen Chord:

The thirteen chord is constructed by adding a 9 and a 13 to the 7 chord: 1-3-5-b7-9-13.  So the D13 is: D-F#-A-C-E-B and here’s a great way to play it: x54557.

There is no such thing as a “10” or “12” chord.  Once you know the D7, D9, D11 and D13 chords in the positions indicated, you can move the patterns up or down the neck to form all the other complex chord shapes.