How Can I Learn To Play Extended Chords Like 7ths And 9ths?

If you’ve ever listened to a jazz or blues song and wondered how those beautiful, complex chords are played, you’re not alone. Discovering the magic behind extended chords like 7ths and 9ths may seem daunting at first, but fear not! Learning to play these chords is not as difficult as it may seem. In this article, we will explore some tips and techniques that will help you master the art of playing extended chords, allowing you to add depth and sophistication to your musical repertoire. So grab your instrument, get comfortable, and let’s dive into the world of extended chords together!

Learn the Basics of Chords

Understand the Structure of Chords

Before diving into extended chords, it’s important to have a solid understanding of the basics. A chord is a combination of three or more notes played simultaneously. It forms the building blocks of harmony in music. Each chord is constructed using a specific formula that determines the intervals between the notes.

Master Triads

Triads are the most basic chords and serve as the foundation for extended chords. They consist of three notes: the root, third, and fifth. Learning to play and recognize different types of triads, such as major, minor, augmented, and diminished, will provide a strong foundation for understanding extended chords.

Learn about Intervals

Intervals play a crucial role in building chords and understanding their sound. An interval refers to the distance between two notes. By studying intervals, you can learn how different combinations of notes create specific chords. For example, a major chord is formed by stacking a major third and a minor third on top of the root note.

Understanding Extended Chords

What Are Extended Chords?

Extended chords go beyond the basic triads by adding additional notes from the scale beyond the root, third, and fifth. These additional notes are typically the seventh, ninth, eleventh, or thirteenth. Extended chords provide more color and complexity to your playing and are commonly used in jazz, blues, and contemporary music.

Why Learn Extended Chords?

Learning extended chords allows you to expand your musical vocabulary and create richer and more interesting sounds. By incorporating these chords into your playing, you can add depth and sophistication to your compositions and improvisations. Extended chords also provide opportunities for more complex harmonies and voicings in your music.

Different Types of Extended Chords

There are several types of extended chords, each with its own unique sound and character. Some common examples include:

  • 7th chords: These chords add the seventh note of the scale to the triad, creating a more complex sound. They can be major 7th, dominant 7th, or minor 7th chords.

  • 9th chords: These chords add the ninth note of the scale, creating a rich and jazzy sound. They can be major 9th, dominant 9th, or minor 9th chords.

  • 13th chords: These chords add the thirteenth note of the scale, adding even more complexity and color to the sound. They are often used in jazz and funk music.

It’s important to familiarize yourself with the structure and sound of each type of extended chord to effectively incorporate them into your playing.

How Can I Learn To Play Extended Chords Like 7ths And 9ths?

Building 7th Chords

Start with Major 7th Chords

Major 7th chords are a great starting point for exploring extended chords. They are formed by adding the major seventh interval to a major triad. For example, a C major 7th chord is constructed by playing C, E, G, and B together. Major 7th chords have a bright and sophisticated sound and are commonly used in jazz and pop music.

Constructing Dominant 7th Chords

Dominant 7th chords are a staple in blues and jazz. They have a slightly dissonant and bluesy sound compared to major 7th chords. To build a dominant 7th chord, you add a minor seventh interval to a major triad. For instance, a G dominant 7th chord is made up of G, B, D, and F notes. Mastery of dominant 7th chords opens the door to creating tension and resolving it in your chord progressions.

Creating Minor 7th Chords

Minor 7th chords have a melancholic and soulful sound. To form a minor 7th chord, you add a minor seventh interval to a minor triad. For example, an A minor 7th chord consists of A, C, E, and G notes. Minor 7th chords are widely used in jazz, R&B, and pop music to create a mellow and introspective atmosphere.

Exploring Half-Diminished 7th Chords

Half-diminished 7th chords are often used to create tension and provide a darker and more mysterious sound. To build a half-diminished 7th chord, you add a minor seventh interval and a diminished fifth interval to a minor triad. For instance, a B half-diminished 7th chord is formed by playing B, D, F, and A notes. These chords are commonly found in jazz and classical compositions.

Diving Into Fully-Diminished 7th Chords

Fully-diminished 7th chords have an intense and unsettling sound and are often used for dramatic effect. To construct a fully-diminished 7th chord, you add a minor seventh interval and a diminished fifth interval to a diminished triad. For example, a C fully-diminished 7th chord consists of C, Eb, Gb, and Bbb notes. Fully-diminished 7th chords are commonly used in classical and avant-garde music.

Adding 9ths to Chords

Understanding the 9th Interval

The 9th interval adds a distinct flavor to chords, creating a jazzy and sophisticated sound. It is an octave plus a second above the root note. For instance, the 9th interval of a C major scale is D. Incorporating the 9th into a chord requires adding this note on top of the existing triad. The 9th interval can be major or minor, depending on its position in relation to the root note.

Incorporating Major 9th Chords

Major 9th chords have a lush and romantic sound, often found in jazz and neo-soul music. To form a major 9th chord, you add the major ninth interval to a major 7th chord. For example, a G major 9th chord consists of G, B, D, F#, and A notes. Major 9th chords are commonly used as colorful substitutions for major 7th chords.

Exploring Dominant 9th Chords

Dominant 9th chords are a staple in jazz and blues music. They have a rich and intriguing sound that provides room for improvisation and melodic embellishments. To create a dominant 9th chord, you add the major ninth interval to a dominant 7th chord. For instance, an E dominant 9th chord is made up of E, G#, B, D, and F# notes. Dominant 9th chords are often used to create tension and resolve it in a satisfying way within chord progressions.

Using Minor 9th Chords

Incorporating minor 9th chords adds a touch of melancholy and sophistication to your playing. To form a minor 9th chord, you add the major ninth interval to a minor 7th chord. For example, an A minor 9th chord consists of A, C, E, G, and B notes. Minor 9th chords are commonly found in jazz, R&B, and soul music, adding a smooth and introspective element to chord progressions.

How Can I Learn To Play Extended Chords Like 7ths And 9ths?

Practicing Extended Chords

Learning Chord Voicings

To effectively play extended chords, it’s crucial to develop good finger positioning and learn various chord voicings. Chord voicings refer to the arrangement of the notes within a chord. Experiment with different fingerings and inversions to find the most comfortable and sonically pleasing voicings for each chord. Practice transitioning smoothly between different voicings to enhance your playing versatility.

Applying Extended Chords in Songs

Once you feel comfortable with extended chords, apply them in songs to reinforce your understanding and improve your musicality. Look for songs that incorporate these chords in their progressions. Experiment with different genres and styles to explore the versatility of extended chords. Remember to start with simpler songs and progress to more complex pieces as your skills develop.

Experimenting with Inversions

Inversions are essential when playing extended chords. They allow you to change the bass note and create different chord voicings. By inversions, you can add movement and smooth voice leading to your chord progressions. Experiment with different inversions to find interesting and unique sounds. Practice transitioning between inversions smoothly to ensure fluidity in your playing.

Transposing Chords to Different Keys

Transposing chords to different keys is an important skill when working with extended chords. It allows you to play the same chord progression in different tonalities, expanding your musical options. Practice transposing chords by moving the entire chord shape up or down the neck of the guitar or keyboard. Transposing chords will help you become more versatile and adaptable in your playing.

Improvising with Extended Chords

Understanding the Role of Extended Chords in Improvisation

Extended chords open up a wide range of possibilities for improvisation. They allow you to add color, tension, and release to your solos and melodies. By incorporating extended chords into your improvisations, you can create more complex and interesting harmonies. Experiment with different scales and modes that complement the extended chords you are using to create cohesive and melodic solos.

Using Extended Chords in Different Musical Genres

Extended chords are not limited to jazz and blues. They can be used in various musical genres, including pop, rock, funk, and fusion. Explore different genres and listen to how extended chords are used in songs within those genres. Experiment with incorporating extended chords into your own compositions and adapt them to fit the style and mood of the music you are playing.

Developing Fingerstyle Techniques

Extended chords often require intricate fingerpicking or fingerstyle techniques to execute them smoothly. Take time to develop your fingerstyle skills, focusing on precision and control. Practice exercises that target specific finger movements, such as alternate picking, fingerpicking patterns, and arpeggio exercises. Developing strong fingerstyle techniques will enhance your ability to play extended chords fluidly and expressively.

How Can I Learn To Play Extended Chords Like 7ths And 9ths?

Learning Resources

Online Tutorials and Lessons

There are numerous online tutorials and lessons available that cater specifically to learning extended chords. Websites, video platforms, and music forums offer a wealth of resources, including video lessons, chord charts, and exercises. Take advantage of these online resources to supplement your learning and gain new insights into playing extended chords.

Books and Instructional Materials

Books and instructional materials can be invaluable resources for learning about extended chords. Look for books that focus on chord theory, jazz harmony, or contemporary music techniques. These resources often provide in-depth explanations, exercises, and musical examples to help you grasp the concepts and apply them to your playing.

Taking Lessons from a Professional Musician

Taking lessons from a professional musician can greatly enhance your understanding and proficiency in playing extended chords. A knowledgeable instructor can guide you through exercises, provide personalized feedback, and help you overcome challenges. Look for experienced teachers who specialize in the genre or style you are interested in and seek their guidance to accelerate your learning process.

Practical Tips for Learning Extended Chords

Start with Simple Progressions

When starting to learn extended chords, it’s best to begin with simple progressions. Focus on playing two or three chords together in different keys and positions. This approach allows you to develop muscle memory, coordination, and familiarity with the chord shapes and fingerings. As you become more comfortable, gradually increase the complexity of the progressions.

Practice Regularly

Consistency is key when learning extended chords. Set aside dedicated practice time each day to work on your chord voicings, transitions, and chord progressions. Regular practice helps reinforce muscle memory and strengthens your understanding of the chords. Even short practice sessions can be highly effective when done consistently over time.

Experiment with Different Rhythms

Playing extended chords can become even more interesting by experimenting with different rhythmic patterns. Try varying the timing, syncopation, and accents of your strumming or fingerpicking. This adds depth and groove to your playing, making the extended chords come alive. Practice with a metronome or play along with backing tracks to improve your timing and rhythm.

Record and Analyze Your Playing

Recording yourself playing extended chords is a helpful tool for self-assessment and improvement. Listen back to your recordings and analyze your technique, timing, and overall sound quality. Take note of any areas that need improvement or refinement. This self-evaluation allows you to identify specific areas to focus on during practice and track your progress over time.

Overcoming Challenges

Mastering Finger Stretching

One of the challenges when playing extended chords is mastering finger stretching. Extended chords often require wide intervals between the fingers, which can be uncomfortable and challenging for beginners. To overcome this, practice stretching exercises that focus on gradually expanding your reach. Start with simple exercises and gradually increase the difficulty as your flexibility and comfort improves.

Developing Finger Strength and Endurance

Playing extended chords requires finger strength and endurance. Regular practice of finger exercises, such as finger push-ups, finger independence drills, and finger strengthening tools, can help build strength and dexterity. Additionally, incorporating finger exercises and warm-up routines into your practice sessions will help prevent muscle fatigue and injury.

Building Musical Vocabulary

Learning extended chords opens up new musical possibilities, but it’s important to also develop your musical vocabulary. Spend time listening to a wide range of music and studying the chord progressions and voicings used. Practice transcribing chord progressions or melodies from songs you enjoy. By expanding your musical vocabulary, you can better understand and incorporate extended chords into your playing.


Learning to play extended chords, such as 7ths and 9ths, adds depth and complexity to your musical palette. Understanding the structure and intervals of chords, as well as mastering triads, is essential before delving into extended chords. Building 7th chords and incorporating 9th intervals provides opportunities to create colorful and sophisticated harmonies. Practicing extended chords, applying them in songs, and exploring various techniques and genres are crucial steps in mastering these chords. Utilizing online resources, instructional materials, and seeking guidance from professional musicians can greatly assist in your learning journey. With regular practice, experimentation, and dedication, you can overcome challenges and become proficient in playing extended chords, expanding your musical expression and creativity.