• How To Play Ninth Chords In Every Degree Of The Scale In The Major Key

    in Chords & Progressions,Piano

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    In this lesson, we’ll be learning how to play ninth chords on every degree of the scale in the major key.

    Ninth chords are commonly used in jazz and gospel music, although they seem challenging to beginners out there, incorporating them into your playing can make you sound really advanced like any pianist/organist in your favorite gospel or jazz album.

    I’m dedicating this lesson to the study of ninth chords and how to voice them in every single degree of the scale.

    To get you started in this lesson is a quick review on ninth chords.

    “What Are Ninth Chords?”

    According to Jermaine Griggs, “…a chord is a collection of three or more related notes played or heard together or separately.”

    Submission: We are not going into scale and intervallic relationships that exists between the notes of a chord in this lesson because we have a whole lot to cover.

    A ninth chord is a chord that encompasses nine degrees of any given scale.

    Although any chord that encompasses nine degrees of a given scale can be called a ninth chord, it is important to add that a ninth chord has a compound interval – the ninth (an interval that encompasses nine degrees of the scale.)

    Compound intervals exceed the compass of an octave and the ninth is no exception. The ninth is bigger than the octave (which is an eight) by a scale step. Therefore, one scale step above the octave is the ninth.

    Using the C major scale:

    …the ninth interval can be determined by going a scale step above the octave of C:

    A scale-step above the octave of C:

    …is D:

    …which is a ninth above C:

    Although D is the second tone in the C major scale, the interval between C and D:

    …is considered a ninth because it exceeds the compass of an octave.

    Ninth chords are classified as extended chords and this is because they exceed the compass of an octave and may be challenging when played with one hand.

    The Formation Of A Ninth Chord

    Following the traditional guidelines of chord formation, we can stack the notes of a given scale in third intervals. Using the C major scale:

    …you can stack notes in third intervals.

    From C:

    …to E:

    …is a third interval. From C-E:

    …to G:

    …is also a third interval. From C-E-G:

    …to B:

    …is yet another third interval. From C-E-G-B:

    …to D:

    …is another third interval.

    At this point, we’ve encompassed the C major scale (in third intervals) from C:

    …to D:

    …a ninth interval. The chord formed by stacking C, E, G, B, and D together:

    …is a ninth chord (the C major ninth chord precisely.)

    Let’s go ahead and take a look at scale degree ninth chords.

    Scale Degree Ninth Chords

    Every key has eight degrees, and these degrees can be seen in its scale. In the key of C major:

    C is the 1st

    D is the 2nd

    E is the 3rd

    F is the 4th

    G is the 5th

    A is the 6th

    B is the 7th

    C is the 8th

    Scale degree chords are basically the chords that are formed on the degrees of the scale, and we’ll be forming and assessing ninth chords from the first to the eighth degree in this segment.

    The First Scale Degree Ninth Chord

    So let’s take a look at the first scale degree ninth chord in the key of C:

    A third from C:

    …is E:

    A third from C-E:

    …is G:

    A third from C-E-G:

    …is B:

    …A third from C-E-G-B:

    …is D:

    Altogether, C-E-G-B-D:

    …is the C major ninth chord – the ninth chord of the first degree of the scale.

    The Second Scale Degree Ninth Chord

    From D (the second degree of the C major scale):

    A third from D:

    …is F:

    A third from D-F:

    …is A:

    A third from D-F-A:

    …is C:

    A third from D-F-A-C:

    …is E:

    So altogether, D-F-A-C-E:

    …is the Dmin9 chord, which is the ninth chord of the second degree in the key of C major.

    The Third Scale Degree Ninth Chord

    A third from E (the third degree of the C major scale):

    …is G:

    A third from E-G:

    …is B:

    A third from E-G-B:

    …is D:

    A third from E-G-B-D:

    …is F:

    So altogether, E-G-B-D-F:

    …is the Emin7[b9] chord, which is the ninth chord of the third degree in the key of C major.

    The Emin7[b9] chord sounds highly dissonant because of the tritone between its fifth (B) and ninth (F) tones:

    …and the minor ninth interval between its root (E) and ninth (F):

    In almost all cases, it’s most preferable to raise the F (avoid note):

    …by a half step (to F#):

    …to form an Emin9 chord:

    Although forming a minor ninth chord on the third degree of the scale produces a chromatic chord, it sounds better than playing the min7[b9] chord.

    The Fourth Scale Degree Ninth Chord

    A third from F (the fourth scale degree in the key of C major):

    …is A:

    …a third from F-A:

    …is C:

    …a third from F-A-C:

    …is E:

    …a third from F-A-C-E:

    …is G:

    So altogether F-A-C-E-G:

    …is the Fmaj9 chord, which is the ninth chord of the fourth degree in the key of C major.

    The Fifth Scale Degree Ninth Chord

    A third from G (the fifth scale degree in the key of C):

    …is B:

    …a third from G-B:

    …is D:

    …a third from G-B-D:

    …is F:

    …a third from G-B-D-F:

    …is A:

    So altogether G-B-D-F-A:

    …is the Gdom9 chord, which is the ninth chord of the fifth degree in the key of C major.

    The Sixth Scale Degree Ninth Chord

    A third from A (the sixth scale degree in the key of C major):

    …is C:

    …a third from A-C:

    …is E:

    …a third from A-C-E:

    …is G:

    …a third from A-C-E-G:

    …is B:

    Altogether, A-C-E-G-B:

    …is the Amin9 chord, which is the ninth chord of the sixth degree in the key of C major.

    The Seventh Scale Degree Ninth Chord

    The ninth chord of the seventh degree is not usually considered, because of a variety of reasons. If you care to know some of the reasons why, let me know in the comment section.

    Putting It Together

    Before we round up, let me quickly show you how you can smoothly connect all these scale degree ninth chords in the key of C.

    Chord 1:

    …the Cmaj9 chord, should be voiced this way:

    Chord 2:

    …the Dmin9 chord, should be voiced this way:

    Chord 3:

    …the Emin9 chord, should be voiced this way:

    Chord 4:

    …the Fmaj9 chord, should be voiced this way:

    Chord 5:

    …the Gdom9 chord, should be voiced this way:

    Chord 6:

    …the Amin9 chord, should be voiced this way:

    In subsequent posts, we’ll be learning how to create colorful progressions with these ninth chords by incorporating tons of passing chords (aka – “secondary dominants”.)

    See you then!

    P.S.

    Here are the ninth chords we learned in this lesson…

    Chord 1:

    Chord 2:

    Chord 3:

    Chord 4:

    Chord 5:

    Chord 6:

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    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku (aka - "Dr. Pokey") is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.

    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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    { 2 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Peter LaFosse

    A. Very good blog this weejk. I have some news to tell. Germaine I lost my left hand thumb due an accident with a chop saw
    I would still like to receive the weekly blogs. Pete

    Reply

    2 Awe Oluwatobi

    It is well with you Peter. God be with you.

    Reply

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