• Yet another way to spice up your chords without knowing anything new

    in Chords & Progressions

    Lately, we’ve been talking about sevenths and ninth chords.

    Today, I want to show you a simple way to spice up your ninth chords using seventh chords.

    Specifically, I want to deal with the minor ninth chord.

    For the longest, I’ve taught students to simply think of the minor ninth chord as the major seventh of the flatted 3rd degree over the keynote bass.

    I know that sounds tricky. That’s why I always break stuff like this down.

    So your keynote is the title of the chord. If you want to play a C minor 9 chord, then your keynote is “C.” If you want to play an F minor 9 chord, then your keynote is “F.” If you want to play a Bb minor 9, then your keynote is ___what___?

    Bb… exactly!

    So you have that part out of the way.

    Now for the second part, you have two options. You can think in terms of the major scale of that keynote or you can think in terms of the minor scale.

    If major scales come easier to you, go that route! If you don’t have a problem with minor scales, it may be easier to stick with minor.

    But if you’re thinking in terms of major, you’ll need to go to the flat 3 degree. So you’ll need to go to the third tone of the regular major scale and lower that tone a half step.

    So if your keynote is “C,” you’ll need to go up to the third degree, which is “E,” and lower that note a half step to Eb. This gives you the flat 3rd (a.k.a. – ‘b3’) of C major.

    If you’re thinking in terms of minor, simply go to the third tone of the minor scale because it’s already flatted. In other words, you can’t play a minor scale without a flatted third.

    But anyway, however you get to this “magic” tone is up to you. The importance is that you play a major seventh chord off THIS tone.

    So you’ll need to know all your major 7 chords with your eyes closed.

    But this is the easiest part. You just play a major seventh chord over the original keynote of your chord. Let’s try a few…

    If my keynote is C, I’ll determine the b3 first (“Eb”) and then I’ll play an “Eb major 7” chord over the C bass.

    C + (Eb major 7)
    C + (Eb + G + Bb + D)

    If my keynote is G, I’ll determine the b3 first (“Bb”) and then I’ll play a “Bb major 7” chord over the G bass.

    G + (Bb major 7)
    G + (Bb + D + F + A)

    If my keynote is G#, I’ll determine the b3 first (“B”) and then I’ll play a “B major 7” chord over the G# bass.

    G# + (B major 7)
    G# + (B + D# + F# + A#)

    All of these give me nice-sounding minor 9 chords.

    But there’s a way to get a nicer sound. What I like to do is invert my major 7 chord in the right hand.

    Remember that an inversion is just a different way to play the chord. It is literally shifting or changing the order of notes in the chord. They should have simply called it “reordering” or something… but that words seems just as intimidating (LOL).

    Let’s take the C minor 9 chord we learned above…

    C + (Eb + G + Bb + D)

    Instead of playing the “Eb major 7” chord with “Eb” as the lowest note, I want to play this chord with “Bb” as the lowest note.

    This is what we call second inversion.” It’s when you play a chord with its fifth degree as the lowest note. And if you notice, “Bb” is the fifth degree of “Eb major” (is it not?).

    So by playing your major 7 chords with their 5th on the bottom, you’ll get this nice, “clustered,” sound. What it does is make two notes extremely close together in the chord: Bb + D + Eb + G

    See the “D” and “Eb?”

    When the chord was open, those notes were maximally separated. They were the farthest apart, and that gave you a unique sound. Now that they are the closest apart, you get a totally different sound.

    This is a key point. Just because you have the same notes in your chord as the next musician doesn’t mean you’ll make that chord sound the same way. Voicing, inversions, and dynamics play a huge part. At least you’re seeing the “inversion” part of the story here.

    So compare the voicings…

    C + (Eb + G + Bb + D) = Right hand: Eb major in root position

    C + (Bb + D + Eb + G) = Right hand: Eb major in second inversion

    *With all outside circumstances being equal, I like the second option better. Some may like the first.

    Now, depending on your melody, you may pick the first voicing if you want to put a “D” on top. If you want to put a “G” on top and the chord calls for a minor sound, there you go! Bingo!

    So I took so long with this because I wanted you to see the power of:

    #1 Shortcuts: As I’ve taught in the past, you can play a bigger chord by thinking of smaller, familiar chords.

    #2 Numbers: If you know how to immediately go to any scale degree (natural or flatted), then you’re golden! These shortcuts will work even better for you.

    #3 Inversions: You can always move around notes to find the sound that best fits your situation. If you want the open sound, go with the open inversion. If you want the clustered, “close together” sound, go with the second option I taught you.

    Using the shortcut and inversion I taught above, let’s figure out all twelve 9 chords chords. I’ll start it off below…

    Until next time —

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    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

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    { 28 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Jermaine

    C minor 9

    C + (Eb + G + Bb + D) = Opened

    C + (Bb + D + Eb + G) = Closed

    Who’s next?


    2 Missie

    D minor 9

    D + (F + A + C + E) = opened

    D + (C + E + F + A) = closed


    3 rayjohnson83

    Db minor 9

    Db + (E + Ab + B + Eb) = opened

    Db + (B + Eb + E + Ab) = closed


    4 ajjazz

    E minor 9

    E + (Gb + Bb + Db + F) = opened

    E + (Db + F + Gb + Bb) = closed

    Wow, that takes some thinking and rearranging!


    5 chawk

    G minor 9

    G + (Bb + D + F + A ) = opened

    G + ( F + A + Bb + D) = closed

    I want to thank you for your labor of love, I concur like Missie on another post. You are working entirely too much. Take some time to rejuvenate. I received my course that you gave out for the prize I won. This will keep me busy for awhile. I ordered the Gospsel Keys 202. Now I become that piano player:) I receive it rather quickly. I appreciate you. and once again thank you.


    6 Roland

    F minor 9

    F + (Ab + C + Eb + G) = Open

    F + (Eb + G + Ab + C) = Closed



    Bb minor
    Bb + (D + F# + A + C#) OPEN
    Bb + ( A+ C# + D + F#) CLOSED


    8 Jermaine

    Thanks everyone!

    @Brian… That right hand for the Bb minor 9 should start on “Db” rather than “D” (remember that flat third).

    At first glance, I was wondering why I saw sharps because the relative major is Db major, which only contains flats.


    9 Jermaine

    @Ray: Redo that one and call it C# (using E major on right hand) as Db minor is too hard cuz it’s relative major is Fb and you don’t want to have to deal with all those weird enharmonic notes. :)


    10 Jermaine

    @Aajazz… I think you had the same issue as brian. Make sure you’re starting your right hand on the b3 of the major scale. The flat 3 of E is “G”.


    11 Jermaine

    @Errrrrrrone else… they look great!



    Bb minor
    Bb + (Db + F + Ab + C) OPEN
    Bb + (Ab + C + Db + F) CLOSED



    13 michel

    lol brian

    G# minor
    G# + (B + D# + F# + A#)
    G# + (F# + A# + B + D#)

    Awesome job J-maine!


    14 ajjazz

    E minor 9

    E + (G + B + D + F#) = opened

    E + (D + F# + G + B) = closed

    Thanks for that correction, Jermaine, sure makes things simplier to leave the flats out.


    15 Jermaine

    Hey Ajjazz,

    No problem! Glad you got it right!

    I noticed your website… you teach spanish? Have we met at a business web conference before?


    16 Eresmas

    Gb Minor9

    Gb + (A + Db + E + Ab) Open

    Gb + (E + Ab + A + Db) Closed


    17 ajjazz

    No Jermaine, We haven’t met before, but I’ve been following your story from the time Corey Rudl covered you. Congratulations on your marriage and child. I’m back in the States now, trying to get my own website and business going. You’re a great inspiration in so many ways. I hope to maybe affiliate with you with that Salsa Piano course in the future. Right now, I’m just building my site up slow, but steady. Continued success and blessings to you! AJ


    18 Jermaine

    @AJ: Thanks a lot! If you ever want to run something by me just email me at my first name (at) hearandplay.com. Glad to help!


    19 Jermaine

    @Eresmas: Try F# minor instead and use all sharps. While the notes you’ve posted work and will sound just the same, you’d have an easier time writing the correct notes if you were in F sharp.


    20 chawk

    A min9

    A + (C + E + G + B) = OPENED
    A + (G + B + C + E) = CLOSED


    I have a question. The keys that I believe are named enharmonic, how can you determine which ones to use? (example F#/Gb)


    21 chawk

    I think you just cleared it up on the todays blog post. Now I’ll go back and read it.


    22 samuel patrick

    Hello Sir,
    good morning all for this opportunity you’ve took to map out all the problems that we’ve be facing during our play. may God continue to bless you all in Jesus Name
    Sir please one more thing is this when playing my augmented or any chord at all, how will i know how to applied my bass or how can the bass area be hold. because if i tried to play my minor seventh chord or any chord at all that comprises of four finger coming to the bass it looks so complicated to understand on how to play the bass area so please explain from samuel thanks.


    23 Eresmas


    F# + (A + C# + E + G#) Opened

    F# + (E + G# + A + C#) Closed

    Hope i get it.


    24 Chevonne Reynolds

    I hope this is right

    Eb min9

    Eb + (Gb + Bb + Db + F) Opened

    Eb + (Db + F + Gb + Bb) Closed


    25 Lucion

    I have a question. How would I use the C minor 9 chord in the key of C major?….I know we can use it in the key of Eb major as a 6 chord, but when do I use it in the key of C major?

    I hope my question is not confusing.


    26 Jermaine

    Since you’re referring to C major and not the key of C minor, that chord will certainly be limited. In the key of C minor, however, it operates as the home base. In C major, you’re most likely to have any type of major or any type of dominant on the 1 chord before a minor chord.

    But when it comes to a D minor9, Eminor9, or A minor 9, those are prevalent in C major because they fall on the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th tones, which are inherently minor.

    How come Lucion? Did you encounter a situation where there was Cmin9 in C major?

    Also, during modulations, I can see a C min9 being used.


    27 Lucion

    Thanks alot Jermaine, that helped alot. I have not encountered a situation where there was a C minor 9 in C major, but I was wondering if it could happen, but you cleared it all up.

    Thanx, God Bless!!!


    28 Christopher

    hi sir

    I’ve playing these chords without knowing them, more especially on the circle of fifths which somebody introduced to me. I’m very much blessed, now I understand more chords than before, since I started following you. I had no clue on chords identification and chords numbers, progressions etc. But now thank God for knowing you.


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