Ninth chord

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In music theory, a ninth chord is a chord that encompasses the interval of a ninth when arranged in close position with the root in the bass.[1]

Dominant ninth[edit]

Voice leading for dominant ninth chords in the common practice period.[2] About this sound Play 
Ninth (C9) vs added-ninth chord (Cadd9), distinguished, in academic textbooks and jazz & rock sheet music, by the presence or absence of a seventh.[3] About this sound Play 
Dominant ninth chord in four-part writing[4] About this sound Play .

There is a difference between a major ninth chord and a dominant ninth chord. A dominant ninth is a dominant chord (and minor seventh) with a ninth. A major ninth chord (e.g., Cmaj9), as an extended chord, adds the major seventh along with the ninth to the major triad. Thus, a Cmaj9 consists of C E G B and D About this sound play . When the symbol "9" is not preceded by the word "major" or "maj" (e.g., C9), the chord is a dominant ninth. That is, the implied seventh chord is a dominant seventh, i.e. a major triad plus the minor seventh, to which the ninth is added: e.g., a C9 consists of C, E, G, B and D About this sound play . C dominant ninth (C9) would usually be expected to resolve to an F major chord (the implied key, C being the dominant of F). The ninth is commonly chromatically altered by half-step either up or down to create more tension and dissonance. Fétis tuned the chord 4:5:6:7:9.[5]

In the common practice period, "the root, 3rd, 7th, and 9th are the most common factors present in the V9 chord," with the 5th, "typically omitted".[2] The ninth and seventh usually resolve downward to the fifth and third of I.[2]

Example of tonic dominant ninth chords include Bobby Gentry's "Ode to Billie Joe" and Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music".[6] James Brown's "I Got You (I Feel Good)" features a striking dominant 9th arpeggio played staccato at the end of the opening 12-bar sequence. The opening phrase of Chopin’s well-known "Minute Waltz" climaxes on a dominant 9th chord:

Chopin Waltz in D, Op. 64, No. 1. Listen

César Franck’s Violin Sonata in A Major opens with a dominant ninth chord (E9) in the piano part. When the violin enters in the fifth bar, its melody articulates an arpeggio of this chord.

Cesar Franck Violin Sonata in A major, opening bars. Listen

Debussy’s "Hommage a Rameau", the second of his first Book of Images for piano solo climaxes powerfully on a dominant 9th, expressed both as a chord and as a wide-ranging arpeggio:

The starting point of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s piece for vocal sextet, Stimmung (1968) is a chord consisting of the notes B, F, B, D, A and C.[7] According to Cook (1987, p.370),[8] Stimmung could, in terms of conventional tonal harmony, be viewed as ‘simply a dominant ninth chord that is subject to timbral variation. The notes the performers sing are harmonics 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 9 of the implied but absent fundamental—the B flat below the bass clef.’

Dominant minor ninth[edit]

Dominant minor ninth
Component intervals from root
minor ninth
minor seventh
perfect fifth
major third
Forte no. / Complement
5-31 / 7-31
Dominant minor ninth chord on C About this sound Play 

A dominant minor ninth chord consists of a major third, perfect fifth, minor seventh, and minor ninth. In C: C E G B D. Fétis tuned the chord 8:10:12:14:17.[5] In notation for jazz and popular music, this chord is often denoted, e.g., C79. In Franz Schubert’s Song Der Erlkönig, a terrified child calls out to his father when he sees an apparition of the sinister Elf King. The dissonant voicing of the dominant minor ninth chord used here (C79) is particularly effective in heightening the drama and sense of threat.

Extract from Schubert's 'Der Erlkönig.' Link to passage

Writing about this passage, Taruskin (2010, p.149) remarks on the “unprecedented… level of dissonance at the boy’s outcries…The voice has the ninth, pitched above, and the left hand has the seventh, pitched below. The result is a virtual ‘tone cluster’…the harmonic logic of these progressions, within the rules of composition Schubert was taught, can certainly be demonstrated. That logic, however, is not what appeals so strongly to the listener’s imagination; rather it is the calculated impression (or illusion) of wild abandon.”[9]

Minor ninth[edit]

Minor ninth
Component intervals from root
major ninth
minor seventh
perfect fifth
minor third
Forte no. / Complement
5-27 / 7-27
C minor ninth chord About this sound Play 

The minor ninth chord is played with the third and seventh both flattened, or lowered a semitone. The formula is 1, 3, 5, 7, 9. This chord is written as Cm9. This chord has a more "bluesy" sound and fits very well with the dominant ninth.

Major ninth[edit]

Major ninth
Component intervals from root
major ninth
major seventh
perfect fifth
major third
Forte no. / Complement
5-27 / 7-27
Cmaj9 chord. About this sound Play 
The parallel root-position bop voicings that open the choruses of Thelonious Monk's 1959 Monk's Mood feature a (C) major ninth chord.[10] About this sound Play 

The major ninth chord is played with the third and seventh both major. The formula is 1, 3, 5, 7, 9. This chord is written as Cmaj9.

6/9 chord[edit]

Tonic minor 6/9 chord on C, featuring the raised sixth degree of the ascending melodic minor.[11] About this sound Play 

The 6/9 chord is a pentad with a major triad extended by a sixth and ninth above the root, but no seventh, thus: C6/9 is C,E,G,A,D. It is not a tense chord requiring resolution, and is considered a substitute for the tonic in jazz. Its constituent notes are those of the pentatonic scale.[12]

Heinrich Schenker, though he allowed the substitution of the dominant seventh, leading-tone, and leading tone half-diminished seventh chords, rejected the concept of a ninth chord on the basis that only that on the fifth scale degree (V9) was admitted and that inversion was not allowed of the ninth chord.[13]


Suspended chord (sus2) and added tone chord (add9) both with D (ninth=second), distinguished by the absence or presence of the third (E).[14]
Ninth (D), in red, of a C added ninth chord (About this sound Play ).

In music, the second factor of a chord is the note or pitch two scale degrees above the root or tonal center. When the second is the bass note, or lowest note, of the expressed chord, the chord is in third inversion About this sound Play . However, this is equivalent to a gapped eleventh chord.

Conventionally, the second is third in importance to the root, fifth, and third, being an added tone. It is generally not allowed as the root since that inversion resembles an eleventh chord on the second rather than an added tone chord on the original note. In jazz chords and theory, the second is required due to its being an added tone.

The quality of the second may be determined by the scale, or may be indicated. For example, in both a major and minor scale a diatonic second added to the tonic chord is major (C–D–E–G or C–D–E–G) while one added to the dominant chord is major or minor (G–A–B–D or G–A–B–D), respectively.

The second is octave equivalent to the ninth. If one could cut out the note in between the fifth and the ninth and then drop the ninth down an octave to a second, one would have a second chord (C–E–G–BD′ minus B = C–D–E–G). The difference between sus2 and add9 is conventionally the absence or presence, respectively, of the third.

Added ninth[edit]

An added ninth chord is a major triad with an added ninth. Thus, Cadd9 consists of C, E, G and D. (The D, which might be called an added second, is two fifths up from the root.) Added ninth chords differ from other ninth chords because the seventh is never included.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sadie, Stanley, ed. (1980). "Ninth chord", p.252, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, vol. 13. ISBN 1-56159-174-2.
  2. ^ a b c Benward & Saker (2009). Music in Theory and Practice: Volume II, p.183-84. Eighth Edition. ISBN 978-0-07-310188-0.
  3. ^ Stephenson, Ken (2002). What to Listen for in Rock: A Stylistic Analysis, p.85. ISBN 978-0-300-09239-4.
  4. ^ Benward & Saker (2009), p.179.
  5. ^ a b Fétis, François-Joseph and Arlin, Mary I. (1994). Esquisse de l'histoire de l'harmonie, p.139n9. ISBN 978-0-945193-51-7.
  6. ^ Stephenson, Ken (2002). What to Listen for in Rock: A Stylistic Analysis, p.83. ISBN 978-0-300-09239-4.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Cook, N., A Guide to Musical Analysis, London, J.M.Dent,
  9. ^ Taruskin, R. (2010) The Oxford History of Western Music, Volume 4, Music in the Nineteenth Century, Oxford University Press.
  10. ^ Walter Everett (Autumn, 2004). "A Royal Scam: The Abstruse and Ironic Bop-Rock Harmony of Steely Dan", p.208-209, Music Theory Spectrum, Vol. 26, No. 2, pp. 201-235.
  11. ^ Berg, Shelly (2005). Alfred's Essentials of Jazz Theory, Book 3, p.90. ISBN 978-0-7390-3089-9.
  12. ^ Jazz Lessons
  13. ^ Schenker, Heinrich (1980). Harmony, p.190. ISBN 978-0-226-73734-8.
  14. ^ Hawkins, Stan. "Prince- Harmonic Analysis of 'Anna Stesia'", p.329 and 334n7, Popular Music, Vol. 11, No. 3 (Oct., 1992), pp. 325-335.