The last “box” to look at is the one for the 5th
In this “box”, we can have one of three notes, the b5 (or diminished 5th), the 5 (or perfect 5th) and the #5 (or Augmented 5th). When the chord has a perfect 5th, it is usually omitted from the chord name as it is the standard form. The Augmented 5th is mainly written as a “+” after the Root note, and occasionally we may see “aug”. The Diminished 5th requires slightly more explanation.
Any chord with a b5 is often referred to as diminished. I do not subscribe to that and often refer to it as a b5 instead. It is perfectly OK to belong to both camps as music theory is not law and is flexible to allow us to approach it from different viewpoints. Using A as the root note, we can have.
Diminished 7th chord written as A° (1 b3 b5 bb7)
Diminished Chord written as Adim (1 b3 b5)
The Half-Diminished Chord or m7b5 written as AØ or Am7b5 (1 b3 b5 b7)
Any extended chord with a b5 in it, written as A9b5, for example.
A special note on the Diminished 7th and the Augmented Chord – These chords have equal spacings between all the degrees of the chord and, as such, have a non-descript tonal centre. The augmented chord has a Major 3rd between each degree of the chord. The Diminished 7th has a Minor 3rd between each degree.
Let us look at our five open chord shapes again.
As before original chord tones are in red.
For the D, we use the 3rd string as the box for the 5th of the chord, and the 5th can be moved down to create the b5 or #5. Giving us the Chords Ddim or D+
For the A, we use the 4th string as the box for the 5th of the chord, and the 5th can be moved down to create the b5 or #5. Giving us the Chords Adim or A+
For the E, we use the 5th string as the box for the 5th of the chord, and the 5th can be moved down to create the b5 or #5. We must mute the 5th on the 2nd string for this chord to sound correct. This gives us the Chords Edim or E+.
For the C, we use the 1st or 6th string as the box for the 5th of the chord, and the 5th can be moved down to create the b5 or #5. We must mute the 5th on the 3rd string for this chord to sound correct. This gives us the Chords Cdim or C+.
For the G, we use the 2nd string as the box for the 5th of the chord, and the 5th can be moved down to create the b5 or #5. We must mute the 5th on the 4th string for this chord to sound correct. This gives us the Chords Gdim or G+.
Next time we will fit all these together to allow us to create chords from there chord name
We have covered the “box” for the 3rd and the “add” chords where we have a space in the box where the 6th or 7th resides. This time, we will look at what happens when we fill the box for the 6th or 7th with a note.
Before we go further this time, we must discuss how the 6th and 7th are written within a chord name. Music theory is based around the Major scale, and the Major version of scales and chords are used as the base. From there, the deviations from the Major are highlighted to give us the chords.
For the 6th chord, this means it is the Major 6th that is used as default. If we have a minor 6th chord, it is only the 3rd that is flattened, and the 6th is a Major 6th unless otherwise stated. If we extend the chord and include the 9th or 11th, we have a 6/9 or a 6/11 chord. The 6 is included to identify the 6th is used and not the 7th.
The 7th is the default for use in this box, and there is a significant change to the way the 7th is expressed that must be addressed. The default for the 7th when in a chord name is the b7, not the Major 7, with excellent reason. If we look at a C7 or Cmaj7 chord, the degrees of each chord is
Cmaj7 1 3 5 7
C7 1 3 5 b7
Surely these chords should be written as C7 and Cb7?
However, would the Cb7 be a C with a b7 or a Cb 7 chord?
To ensure the correct chord is used, we use the 7 to indicate the b7th and the Maj7 to indicate the 7th.
By default, when we see a 9, 11, or 13 chord, it has the b7 included. If there is no 7th, it has the “add” as discussed before. When we see Maj9, Maj11, or Maj13, it is the 7th and not the b7.
Let us look at our five open chord shapes again.
As before original chord tones are in red.
We use the 2nd string as the box for the 7th of the chord, and the root can be moved down to create the 7, b7 or 6. Giving us the Chords Dmaj7, D7, and D6
For the A, we can use the 3rd string as the box for the 7th and move the root down to get the 7 and b7. Giving us Amaj7 and A7
Alternatively, we can use the 1st string as the box and move up from the 5th to give us the b6, 6, b7 and 7. Now we have two voicings of Amaj7 and A7 plus new chords of A6 and Ab6.
For the E chord. We can use the 4th string as the box for the 7th, giving us the b7 and 7. Giving us the Emaj7 or E7 chords
We can use the 2nd string and go up from the 5th to give the b6, 6, b7, and 7. Like the A chord, now we have two voicings of Emaj7 and E7 plus new chords of E6 and Eb6.
For the C, there is an overspill when moving up from the 5th due to the guitar’s tuning. With the box on the 3rd string, we get the b6, 6, b7, and 7th and the Cmaj7, C7, C6 and Cb6 chords.
We can also go down from the root note on the 5th string and get the 7, b7, and 6 giving us a 2nd voicing for Cmaj7, C7 and C6.
For the G, we use the 1st string as the box and move down from the root not to give us the 7, b7, and 6. Giving us the chords Gmaj7, G7, and G6.
We can also use the 4th string as the box and move up from the 5th to give us the b6, 6, b7, and 7 and the Chords Gb6, G6, G7, Gmaj7.
In this case, I have included the 5th on the 2nd string for reference as adding the 5th back in can be worthwhile depending on the song’s context.
We have only the 5th to look at before joining all this together. Keep looking at the songs you play and the chord shapes being used. Visualising and hearing where these notes come from is essential to your creativity.
Last time we covered the box where the 3rd of the chord resided and looked at how moving the note changes the quality and sound of the chord and gives us Major, Minor, sus2 and sus4 chords.
For the time being, we will miss out on the box for the 5th of the chord and take the path with no 6th or 7th to look at the “add” chords. This is to build on the knowledge from last time before introducing new notes to think about within the chords.
Before going further, we need to address the numbering system and how we get 9,11, and 13 if there are only seven notes on a scale. Initially, we built the chord on stacked thirds. To get through all the notes and back to the beginning, we need to go through the scale twice
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1
To differentiate the boxes the notes will sit in, and we keep the number sequence going up for the second octave
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 1
Although the 2 and 9, 4 and 11, 6 and 13 are the same degree of the scale, they have very different functions within the chord. As discussed last time, the box for the 3rd can only hold one note. If there is no 3rd, the 2nd and 4th degrees are called sus2 and sus4 and fill this box. If there is a 3rd, they cannot be in the same box and move out into 9 and 11.
The 6th degree is slightly different as it fits into the box where the 7th can also reside. If the 7th is there, the 6th becomes a 13th as it must move out. If there is no 7th, then it becomes a 6th chord.
Leaving the box for the 6th or 7th empty, we can further explore add9 and add11 chords options.
Starting with the open D chord, the chord’s notes are in red. We have two options in which to approach creating the add chords. To apply the knowledge from the previous examples, we need to take the sus chords and add a 3rd back into the chord. Since the 1st and 6th strings on the guitar are essentially the same boxes, we can do this by adding the 3rd fret on the 6th string to the chord, and the sus chords become add9 or add11.
Or we can look further and consider the boxes for the 9th and the 11th to be on different strings. With this alternative, the Root note in the bass position can be moved up to become a b9, 9, or #9. The 5th can be moved down to become a #4 or 4. We can add the 5th on the open 5th string if we wish to have the 5th note in the chord when playing the 11ths.
From this, we have two different voicings for the Dadd9, Dadd#9, Dadd11 and introduced Daddb9 and Dadd#11
Next, we will do the same for the A chord. The chord’s notes are in red. Although the potential is there to add in another 3rd and worth exploring, it is not very practical for these examples. For the A chord, Both Root notes can be moved up to become a b9, 9, or #9 on the 5th string. The 5th can be moved down to become a #4 or 4.
We have two voicings for Aaddb9, Aadd9, and new chords of Aadd#9, Add11, Add#11.
For the E chord. Both Root notes can be moved up to become a b9, 9, or #9 on the 1st string. The 5th can be moved down to become a #4 or 4. We can if we choose to play the 9ths on the 6th string.
We have two voicings for Eaddb9, Eadd9, and new chords of Aadd#9, Add11, Add#11.
To apply the knowledge of the sus chords to the open G chord, we need to go to the 3-finger version of the G chord and leave the 3rd string open.
Since we have added the 3rd back into the chord, the sus chords now can become Gadd9, Gadd#9, Gadd11, and Gadd#11.
If we wish different voices for the G chords, we can replace the root on the 3rd string with the b9, 9, or #9. Or the 3rd on the 2nd string with the 11 or #11. We are giving us the addition of the Gaddb9 chord plus different voices of the Gadd9, Gadd#9, Gadd11, and Gadd#11.
Like the G, the Open C chord is easy to change from sus to add chords by adding the 3rd. In this case, you are playing the open 1st string.
With the 1st string unmuted, we get Cadd9, Cadd#9, Cadd11 and Cadd#11.
Keeping the 3rd in place on the 5th string, we have alternative voices by replacing the root on the 2nd string with the b9, 9, or #9. Or the 3rd on the 1st string with the 11 or #11. This gives us the addition of the Caddb9 chord plus different voices of the Cadd9, Cadd#9, Cadd11, and Cadd#11.
It is a lot to take to absorb in one go, and it can seem more daunting than when we replaced the 3rd with either the 2nd or the 4th. We need to apply this to the songs we know and the music we are learning to understand in practice and to hear what these changes make.
Where you see a sus chord, replace it with an add9 or add11. Where you see and add9 or add11, replace it with an equivalent sus chord. Try the different voices where you can. Listen to how these changes affect the context of the song. The real-life application of this is our goal, not just gaining the knowledge of the extra chords.