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Extended chords really do move out of the realm of 'beginners' so if the info on these pages seems overwhelming, don't let it depress you. You won't be encountering many of these flavors until you become interested in more esoteric genres, like jazz and fusion, and if you do encounter one or two on the way, you can just look up the appropriate chord shape online. There is absolutely no need to understand the underlying theory in order to enjoy playing an instrument, but I do include it here for those who, like me, are fascinated by it all. The fact is, once you know the basic rules of chord construction, the rest is just logic.

The main thing to really get locked away in your gray matter are those CAGED shapes, the open C, A, G, E and D major shapes. Everything on a fretboard, whether chords, harmony or melody, can be related back to those all-important shapes, especially the E and A shapes.

For those who are interested in all of the nitty-gritty, I should add that the 11th chords I show here, which I suggest you look at as slash chords, have no third (3) therefore can be seen as either 11ths or minor11ths.

Extended chords defined

9th chords
5:00 min video.

11th chords
2:10 min video

13th chords
1:30 min video

These are the most common extended chords. You probably won't be needing to use them for a while as they're mostly used in jazz tunes, but it's interesting to find out what they are anyway. I've indicated the root in each diagram with the letter 'R', that's the note the chord is named after. All these shapes move up and down the fretboard, of course, just as any shape does, while retaining their flavor. The movies above show that clearly and also name the various positions. I think the main thing to remember about these complicated looking chord names is that it's all very logical. The numbers you see next to the letter always refer back to the root of the chord, which is 1.

As long as you remember to subtract 7 from any of the big numbers, you'll be able to zero in on the note(s) that are adding the spice to the sound. Another important fact is this: if in doubt, you can always just play the 7th of whatever chord you're getting confused about. Extensions are just that ... additions; the underlying chord is a 7th, and its function within the tune remains if you decide to forget about the extensions and just play a dominant 7th chord instead. I encourage you to always look at the various chord shapes and take the time to identify the numbers. It's very straight forward and logica and will take any mystery out of it all.

 Ninth Chords - 9th - 7#9 - 7b9

E 9th chord

This is the most commonly used shape for a 9th chord. It's based on the open C shape and the root is on the fifth string. Whatever note the root is names the chord, so if it's (for example) a C# note, then the chord is C#9th. The orange note is optional. You need to barre the top three strings with your ring finger to play it that way. I never do it myself as my hand won't let me. I leave it off.

E form barre

Here is an 'E form' 9th chord, based on the open E shape. The red bar shows that you must barre with the index finger. You should be able to see that it's a 7th shape with that note (the 9) added on the treble string. This is a good shape for strumming, as all 6 strings come into play and no muting is needed.

E form barre

Here is a "seventh sharp nine" shape, or 7th#9. The "7" is used in naming the chord to avoid confusion with chords like C♯9, which is a 9th chord with a C# root.

This is the famous 'Hendrix' chord, so called because Jimi used it often in his compositions. It has a very dissonant sound about it but is very effective in the right kind of tune, especially when used as a "V chord".

E form barre

This is a "seventh flat nine" shape, or 7thb9. Again, the "7th" part is used in the naming of the chord to avoid confusion with 9th chords built on a root like Gb. If you look at the diagrams, you can see the 9 note (second string) moving up a semitone for the #9, down a semitone for the b9. The movie shows this clearly and lets you hear the difference.

Eleventh chords - 11th

E form barre

As I describe in the movie, 11th chords are much easier to play, to think about and to see on the fretboard as "slash-chords". What in fact happens when you add the b7, 9 and 11 to a major chord (1-3-5) is that you wind up with two major chords, one sitting on top of the other. The new chord is also a major, and it's a whole tone lower in pitch than the first. So the 1-3-5 are one chord, and the b7-9-11 are the other. All that you really need from the first is the root, so 11ths are often called names like F/G, which is to say "an F chord over a G bass" ...

E form barre

... if none of this makes sense to you, don't worry about it. It will eventually, but the two shapes I show to the left are the most common way of playing 11th chords. But, I always have found it much easier to think of a G11th chord as "F/G". So all you need to do is think of the chord one whole tone lower in pitch than the name of the chord. If you've been playing for a while, just looking at the diagrams should be enough for you to literally see that. The movie on the previous page makes it very clear.

Thirteenth chords - 13th

E form barre

7 from 13 is 6, so what we want to add to our 7th chord is a 6. This shape is based on the open E shape. This a barre shape that moves up and down the fretboard, root on the thick string. It really should have a 9 and 11 in there too, but guitars don't have enough strings nor do we have enough fingers to accommodate the full chord. The essence of the chord is retained, though, when we add a 6 to the 7th chord.

E form barre

Here is the same flavor based on the open A shape. Here it's best to mute that bass string. The 6 is on the thin string, the rest of the shape you should be able to identify as the 7th shape of an open A form chord (I wish there was an easier way of explaining all this in words ... it's a lot easier that it sounds!)