Major 9th Guitar Chords

Learn How To Play Major 9th Guitar Chords!

Major 9th Guitar ChordsIn this lesson we are going to learn how to make a major 9 chord. Major 9 chords are used a lot in jazz, swing, and blues music. They are nice sounding chords that can give your playing some more variety and texture. If you have not gone through the lessons on Major Guitar Chords and Major 7th Guitar Chords, I suggest that you watch them and make sure that you understand these lessons before continuing. This lesson will be in the key of C major and we have provided you with the chord diagram for the major 9 chord shape that we will be learning.

As a quick review for you, the C major scale is spelled C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. If you have gone through the lessons mentioned above, you might already know that a C major 7th chord is spelled C, E, G, B. Think about this as just stacking a major third, C to E, a minor third, E to G, and another major third, G to B. In order to make a major 9 chord just stack another minor third on top of the B, or 7th, of the chord. A minor third away from B is D. D would be the major 9th of C. Just tag that note on to the C major 7th chord to get your C major 9 chord. The formula for a major 9 chord is root, 3, 5, 7, 9 and a C major 9 chord is spelled C, E, G, B, D. You can also think of it as stacking a major third, a minor third, another major third, and one more minor third.

You can also look at make a major 9 chord as just adding a note to a major 7th chord that is a 9th away from the root of the chord. Fore example we are in the key of C and we are building a C major 9. Start counting up the C major scale, with C being one, all the way up to the ninth note. That would look like this: 1C, 2D, 3E, 4F, 5G, 6A, 7B, 8C, 9D. Notice that when you get to C again you just count it as eight and then count the D as nine. D is the 9th of C so just add a D note to the C major 7th chord.

Try this voicing for a C major 9 chord. Place your 2nd finger on the 3rd fret of the 5th string. This is a C, your root note. Your 1st finger should go on the 2nd fret of the 4th string. This note is an E, the 3rd of the chord. Grab the 4th fret of the 3rd string with your 4th finger. This is a B, the 7th of the chord. Play the last note in this chord shape with your 3rd finger on the 3rd fret of the 2nd string. This last note is a D, the 9th of the chord.

You might notice that we left out the 5th of the chord, the G note. There is a good reason for this. Often in jazz, or other kinds of music where there are a lot of things going on harmonically, you can leave out the 5th or root of a chord and it will sound just as good or better than it did if you included it. Thick chords like this can easily get muddy, especially if you have a keyboard player and a bass player that are already playing the 5th or root of the chord.

This shape is movable so play it up and down the fretboard until you are comfortable with it. Come up with your own major 9 chord voicings and start using them in your playing. Try substituting some major 9 chords for some major 7 chords is music that you are already playing.

This Lesson Has 12 Comments

  • Gabriel says:

    Very nice cords !!!!

  • jfdkjhf says:

    can’t read that there is too much words

  • JC says:

    Is it save to say that in any major 9th chord, the 9th is a octive away from the root or will that not always be the case? Thanks for the lessons!

    • Jonathan says:

      No, this is never the case JC. First remember what an octave is. It is a higher or lower version of the SAME note. So the octave of C is a higher C or a lower C. This is because C is eight(oct) notes away from the next C. Next you need to remember what the root of the scale is. It’s the lowest note of the scale, in this case C (hence C major scale has the root C). The 9th in this case is a D. so therefore D is not an octave from the root C, and will never be an octave away from C. However I think it would be safe to say that the 9th will always be the 2nd of the scale, (7 notes of the scale + 2 notes starting from the beginning= 9th). I hope this made somewhat sense.

  • Justin says:

    Is there a major 5th cord?

    • Jonathan says:

      A major 5th chord would be your normal major chord. Think about it, what makes up a major chord? The 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of the scale. Therefore a major 5th chord is just a regular major chord (unnecessary to put major 5th chord). Hope this helps.

  • Paul says:

    I understand this lesson very well. What I don’t get is why must the major 7th be kept in order to make a major 9th chord. Please help

    • Jonathan says:

      A Chord is built on thirds (i.e 1,3,5,7,9,…). The reason that they are called 3rds is because you count three notes (including the note you start on) so 1, 2, 3 <– 3 would be the 3rd; then to get to the next third you would count three notes starting from 3 so 3, 4, 5<—5 would be the next 3rd, and so on (This may help you understand why he refers to this as Stacking Thirds). These numbers correspond to the notes within any specific scale. In this case the C major scale, which consists of C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. The numbers correspond with a position in the scale. 1C, 2D, 3E, 4F, 5G, 6A, 7B. To understand why the major 7th is kept in order to make a major 9th you must see that the major 9th chord consists of stacked thirds(1C,3E,5G,7B, and then your next stacked third would bring you back around to 2D<—which is your 9th note). This is a lot to take in. IF none of this made sense than you should check out the lessons called the Major Scale and the lesson called How Guitar Chords are made.

  • Mesay Matusala says:

    Thank you for your love and dedication to let us play guitar. Blessings!


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