• Another Secret To The Formation Of Ninth Chords Using Third Intervals

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,Piano,Theory

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    In this lesson, I’ll be showing you another way ninth chords can be formed using third intervals.

    Ninth chords are generally considered as bigger chords because they are harmonically ahead of triads and seventh chords (which are basic chords every musician should be familiar with.)

    However, a vast majority of intermediate players find it difficult to form basic ninth chord types like:

    The major ninth chord

    The minor ninth chord

    The dominant ninth chord

    …and that’s why this lesson is written; to show you or anyone who’s interested in learning a smart way to form ninth chords using third intervals.

    Before we get into our focus for today, let’s quickly refresh our minds on third intervals.

    A Short Note On Third Intervals

    A third interval is a product of the relationship between two notes that are three letter names apart from each other.

    A third from D can be determined by spelling out three letters, starting from D. So, if D is the first, E is the second, and F is the third, that means that a third from D:

    …is F:

    Therefore, D-F:

    …is a third interval.

    Third Interval Types

    Although there are four types of third intervals:

    Major third intervals

    Minor third intervals

    Augmented third intervals

    Diminished third intervals

    We’ll be focusing on the major and minor third intervals because they are relevant to our study.

    The major third interval is a product of the relationship between the first and third tones of the major scale, while the minor third interval is a product of the relationship between the first and third tones of the minor scale.

    So, if you are familiar with the major and minor scales in any key, all you need to do to form the corresponding major or minor third interval is to outline the first and third tones.

    When the first and third tones of the C major scale:

    …which are (C and E respectively):

    …are played or heard together, the C major third interval is formed.

    “Conversely…”

    The first and third tones of the C minor scale:

    …which are (C and Eb respectively):

    …produce the C major third interval when played or heard together.

    “Check Out All The Major Third Intervals…”

    C major third interval:

    Db major third interval:

    D major third interval:

    Eb major third interval:

    E major third interval:

    F major third interval:

    Gb major third interval:

    G major third interval:

    Ab major third interval:

    A major third interval:

    Bb major third interval:

    B major third interval:

    “Check Out All The Minor Third Intervals…”

    C minor third interval:

    C# minor third interval:

    D minor third interval:

    Eb minor third interval:

    E minor third interval:

    F minor third interval:

    F# minor third interval:

    G minor third interval:

    G# minor third interval:

    A minor third interval:

    Bb minor third interval:

    B minor third interval:

    How To Form Ninth Chords Using Third Intervals

    Let’s see how these third intervals can be applied in the formation of three important ninth chord types:

    The major ninth chord

    The minor ninth chord

    The dominant ninth chord

    Formation Of The Major Ninth Chord

    The major ninth chord consists of the first, third, fifth, seventh, and ninth tones of the natural major scale. Using the C major scale (as a reference):

    When the first, third, seventh, and ninth tones of the C major scale (C, E, G, B, and D):

    …are played or heard together, the C major ninth chord is produced.

    The major ninth chord can be formed using the major triad. Therefore, if you know all the major triads on the keyboard, then you can form major ninth chords with them as well.

    To form a major ninth chord, follow these two steps:

    1. Play a corresponding major triad
    2. Substitute the root with a minor third interval that’s a half-step below it.

    The C major ninth chord can be formed thus:

    Playing the C major triad:

    Then, substituting the root (which is C):

    …by a minor third interval that’s a half step below the root.

    A half-step below C:

    …is B:

    Consequently, we’ll be substituting the root (which is C):

    …with the B minor third interval (B-D):

    This produces the C major ninth chord:

    Following the same procedure, any other major ninth chord can be formed.

    “Let’s Take One More Example…”

    The Ab major ninth chord can be formed thus:

    Playing the Ab major triad:

    Then, substituting the root (which is Ab):

    …by a minor third interval that’s a half step below the root.

    A half-step below Ab:

    …is G:

    Consequently, we’ll be substituting the root (which is Ab):

    …with the G minor third interval (G-Bb):

    This produces the Ab major ninth chord:

    “Here Are All The Major Ninth Chords On The Keyboard…”

    C major ninth chord:

    Db major ninth chord:

    D major ninth chord:

    Eb major ninth chord:

    E major ninth chord:

    F major ninth chord:

    F# major ninth chord:

    G major ninth chord:

    Ab major ninth chord:

    A major ninth chord:

    Bb major ninth chord:

    B major ninth chord:

    Formation Of The Minor Ninth Chord

    The minor ninth chord consists of the first, third, fifth, seventh, and ninth tones of the natural minor scale. Using the C minor scale (as a reference):

    When the first, third, seventh, and ninth tones of the C minor scale (C, Eb, G, Bb, and D):

    …are played or heard together, the C minor ninth chord is produced.

    The minor ninth chord can be formed using the minor triad. Therefore, if you know all the minor triads on the keyboard, then you can form minor ninth chords with them as well.

    To form a minor ninth chord, follow these two steps:

    1. Play a corresponding minor triad
    2. Substitute the root with a major third interval that’s a whole-step below it.

    The C minor ninth chord can be formed thus:

    Playing the C minor triad:

    Then, substituting the root (which is C):

    …by a major third interval that’s a whole-step below the root.

    A whole-step below C:

    …is Bb:

    Consequently, we’ll be substituting the root (which is C):

    …with the Bb major third interval (Bb-D):

    This produces the C minor ninth chord:

    Following the same procedure, any other major ninth chord can be formed.

    “Here Are All The Minor Ninth Chords On The Keyboard…”
    C minor ninth chord:

    Db minor ninth chord:

    D minor ninth chord:

    Eb minor ninth chord:

    E minor ninth chord:

    F minor ninth chord:

    F# minor ninth chord:

    G minor ninth chord:

    Ab minor ninth chord:

    A minor ninth chord:

    Bb minor ninth chord:

    B minor ninth chord:

    Formation Of The Dominant Ninth Chord

    The dominant ninth chord consists of the first, third, fifth, seventh, and ninth tones of the mixolydian scale. Using the C mixolydian scale (as a reference):


    When the first, third, seventh, and ninth tones of the C dominant scale (C, E, G, Bb, and D):

    …are played or heard together, the C dominant ninth chord is produced.

    The dominant ninth chord can be formed using the major triad. Therefore, if you know all the major triads on the keyboard, then you can form dominant ninth chords with them as well.

    To form a dominant ninth chord, follow these two steps:

    1. Play a corresponding major triad
    2. Substitute the root with a major third interval that’s a whole-step below it.

    The C dominant ninth chord can be formed thus:

    Playing the C major triad:

    Then, substituting the root (which is C):

    …by a major third interval that’s a whole-step below the root.

    A whole-step below C:

    …is Bb:

    Consequently, we’ll be substituting the root (which is C):

    …with the Bb major third interval (Bb-D):

    This produces the C dominant ninth chord:

    Following the same procedure, any other dominant ninth chord can be formed.

    “Here Are All The Dominant Ninth Chords On The Keyboard…”

    C dominant ninth chord:

    Db dominant ninth chord:

    D dominant ninth chord:

    Eb dominant ninth chord:

    E dominant ninth chord:

    F dominant ninth chord:

    F# dominant ninth chord:

    G dominant ninth chord:

    Ab dominant ninth chord:

    A dominant ninth chord:

    Bb dominant ninth chord:

    B dominant ninth chord:

    FinalĀ  Words

    Congratulations! I am certain you’ve mastered the formation of ninth chords using third intervals.

    In a subsequent lesson, we’ll explore other formation processes and most importantly, the application of these ninth chords in chord progressions.

    See you then!

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as a music consultant and content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with thousands of musicians across the world.

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