Chord Extensions & Extended Chords
This lesson provides an introduction to chord extensions, explaining what they are and where they come from. To find these chord extensions we must be comfortable with the 12 major scales and have memorised the scales numerically.
We explore some of the most common extensions for major, minor and dominant chords and later in this course we discuss the most effective way to practise these extensions in all 12 keys.
Downloadable Lesson Supplement
Download this lesson supplement which contains all of the notation examples from the lesson:
What Are Chord Extensions?
Chord extensions occur when you extend a chord beyond the 7th note of the scale which takes you past the octave mark. There are three extensions, the 9th, the 11th and the 13th. If we continue to extend the chord past the 13th we get back to the root of the chord so the 13th is the highest chord extension that you need to learn.
Be aware that on lead sheets and jazz standards, chord extensions may or may not be indicated in the chord symbol. This is part of the freedom you have as a jazz musician – you can interpret and play the music however you like.
Major Chord Extensions in Jazz Piano
With major keys, the common extensions include the 9th, sharp 11th and the 13th. We use the sharp 11th (an 11th that has been raised by half a step) due to the half step interval between the major 3rd and the natural 11th. This half step interval sounds very dissonant so instead the 11th is sharpened to create a full step interval which sounds much more palatable.
The major 13 chord is another common voicing for major chords as seen in the graphic above. In the upcoming lessons and courses we will learn these extended 13th voicings in all 12 keys.
Minor Chord Extensions in Jazz Piano
With minor chords, the common extension include the 9th, the natural 11th. In minor keys there is a whole step interval between the minor 3rd and the natural 11th which makes 11th chords sound much more consonant than in major keys.
Another useful voicing is the minor 13th voicing. An example of this is the first chord in the tune “Blue In Green”. We look at some useful voicings for minor 13 chords in this lesson.
Dominant Chord Extensions in Jazz Piano
Dominant chords are by far the most complex of the three chord types in terms of extensions – pretty much anything goes here and it’s perfectly fine to have the 9th, sharp 11th and the 13 all in the same chord. Here are some dominant extended chord voicings to get you started:
The final voicing is an Upper Structure Triad Voicing which is a dominant shell in the left hand and a triad in the right hand. Check out the related lessons below for more information.
Chord Extensions Supplement File Type: pdf
Jazz Voicings Cheat Sheet File Type: pdf