• Here’s What The Top Players Won’t Tell You About Extended Chords

    in Beginners,Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,Piano,Theory

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    A vast majority of beginners and intermediate players love extended chords because they’re sophisticated.

    The beginner out there who is acquainted with triads and seventh chords usually feels the need to learn extended chords, sound sophisticated, and turn heads.

    But beyond turning heads and sounding sophisticated, there’s more to extended chords that advanced players won’t tell you and I’m willing to share it with you in this lesson.

    If you give me your rapt attention, I’ll be telling you what the top players won’t tell you about extended chords.

    A Short Note On Extended Chords

    In line with the traditional principles of chord formation, chords are formed in third intervals. So, starting from the first tone in the key of C major:

    …which is C:

    …other tones can be added in third intervals and that includes E:

    …and G:

    …to produce the C major triad:

    Adding another note that is a third above the C major triad (which is B):

    …produces the C major seventh chord:

    Beyond triads and seventh chords are extended chords: which are basically ninth chords, eleventh chords, and thirteenth chords.

    Extended chords are seventh chords with extra tones known as “extensions”. There are basically three chord extensions: the ninth, the eleventh, and the thirteenth.

    The name of the extended chord is derived from the number of extensions used:

    The ninth extension produces ninth chords

    The eleventh (and ninth) extension produces eleventh chords.

    The thirteenth (eleventh and ninth) extension produces thirteenth chords.

    “Here Are Extended Chords Starting From C…”

    The C major ninth chord:

    The C minor eleventh chord:

    The C dominant thirteenth chord:

    The C major ninth chord:

    …can be broken down into the C major seventh chord:

    …with the ninth extension (D):

    The C minor eleventh chord:

    …can be broken down into the C minor seventh chord:

    …with the ninth and eleventh extension (D and F respectively):

    The C dominant thirteenth chord:

    …can be broken down into the C dominant seventh chord:

    …with the ninth, eleventh, and thirteenth extension (D, F, and A respectively):

    What The Top Players Won’t Tell You About Extended Chords

    Although extended chords are sophisticated and sound real advanced when applied, there’s something about the application of extended chords that top players won’t tell you.

    Either the C major triad:

    …or the C major ninth chord:

    …can both be played as 1-chord in the key of C major:

    …and this is because the C major ninth chord (which is an extended chord):

    …is actually a sophisticated version of the C major triad:

    Beyond sophistication, let’s look at stable and active tones before we proceed.

    Stable And Active Chord Tones

    Chord tones are also classified into stable and active chord tones. The first, third, and fifth tones of a chord are classified as stable chord tones while the rest of its tones are classified as active tones.

    For example, in the C major ninth chord:

    …its first, third, and fifth tones (which are C, E, and G):

    …are stable chord tones, while its seventh and ninth tones (B and D):

    …are classified as active chord tones.

    Here’s how chord tones are classified:

    (s) = stable

    (a) = active

    Root (s)   –   Third (s)   –   Fifth (s)   –   Seventh (a)   –   Ninth (a)   –    Eleventh (a)   –   Thirteenth (a)

    The Shortcomings Of An Extended Chord

    Due to the fact that triads are basically formed using three chords tones (first, third, and fifth), they’re the only class of chords that are exclusively stable chord tones (first, third, and fifths).

    Extended chords start out with stable chord tones and end on active chord tones and what this does is that it weakens the basic harmonic traits of the chord.

    Adding more stable chord tones to a triad (first, third, and fifth), weakens the basic harmonic traits of the chord. For example, the C major triad:

    …consists of the stable tones (C, E, and G) which have the basic harmonic traits of the major chord.

    The addition of other tones like the seventh, and extensions (like the ninth, eleventh, and thirteenth) sophisticates the chord (no doubt about that). However, the addition of B (which is the seventh):

    …to produce the C major seventh chord:

    …and D:

    …to produce the C major ninth chord:

    …and F:

    …to produce the C major eleventh chord:

    …and A:

    …to produce the C major thirteenth chord:

    At this point, we have a sophisticated chord — the C major thirteenth chord:

    …however, we’ve added 4 active chord tones to the chord (B, D, F, and A):

    …which actually sound opposed to the basic C major triad:

    The active chord tones (B, D, F, and A):

    …can be considered as a unique chord — the B half-diminished seventh chord — and can be used as a passing chord to the C major triad:

    So, adding the active chord tones to the C major triad will most definitely weaken its basic harmonic trait.

    Final Words

    Although extended chords have weaker harmonic traits compared to basic triads, this doesn’t make them useless — No! Extended chords have their place and purpose in harmony.

    This lesson will help you understand why there are songs, styles, and situations where triads are enough and extended chords will sound either extravagant or inappropriate.

    If you’ve ever listened to CCM, Rock music, etc., you’ll agree with me that triads are enough and most appropriate versus extended chords that may sound sophisticated but inappropriate.

    Keep up the great work and see you in another lesson.

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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.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.




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    { 1 comment… read it below or add one }

    1 Cynthia Wilson

    great lesson

    Reply

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