How to Play C9, G9, and D9


Welcome to the latest installment of Chord by Chord, a series designed to build your understanding of harmony and the fretboard. In previous lessons I taught you how to make dominant seventh chords. This time I’ll build on that chord type and show you a few dominant ninth chords.

The Work

Remember that a dominant seventh chord is made of a major triad with a flatted seventh. Example 1 shows the construction of a C7 chord. To get a C9 chord, just add the ninth, D, as shown Example 2. The dominant ninth chord really adds a new color, as commonly heard in styles like jazz and funk.

Example 3 shows how to get from an open C7 chord to C9. Note that on this C9 shape, you can eliminate the highest note and use your third and fourth fingers on strings 3 and 2, instead of the third-finger barre. Also, you might have noticed that these chords are missing the fifth, G, which is considered an inessential tone.

Example 4 shows how to make a C9 chord at the eighth fret—all you have to do is add your fourth finger to the C7 shape. For some more compact voicings in the same vicinity, see Example 5

Example 6 depicts how to form a G9 chord from a G7. Note that these voicings are like those in Ex. 3, only seven frets higher and eliminating the first string. Again, these are known as moveable shapes. You can also use the shapes from Examples 4 and 5 to play G7 and G9 chords—just make sure the lowest note is the third-fret G on string 6.

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In Example 7, you’ll see how to transform a D7 chord to D9—the same as Ex. 6, but down five frets. Likewise, you can get alternative D7 and D9 shapes by moving Examples 4 and 5 up two frets.

The Result

You have learned how to build various dominant ninth voicings from dominant seventh chords. A good example of ninth chords at work can be found in Frank Sinatra’s version of “Fly Me to the Moon.” Now you should be familiar with a wide variety of chord types that you’ve learned over the course of 30 lessons. Starting next time, we’ll repeat that cycle, using chords in different keys. 

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