Harmonic Recycling - Reusing 7th Chords as Ninths

It is very important to have a good grasp of fundamental seventh and ninth chord voicings in order to read through a chart with ease. Most of us are familiar with the basic forms with roots on the fifth and sixth strings. When playing with a bass player it is best to try to stay out of his range and play your chord voicings using the upper four strings for the most part. Please refer to my article on seventh chords: http://www.johnhallguitar.com/blog/the_fab_five_a_seventh_chord_primer if you need to learn or review these important voicings with roots on the third and fourth strings. The exercise at the end of this article uses these voicings exclusively.

Once again I will use the common chord sequence found in tunes like “Autumn Leaves” and many others for my examples. Since this progression is derived from the circle of fifths it lays beautifully on the guitar and utilizes text book voice-leading. Note as we move from chord to chord we retain two common tones and move the remaining two tones by step to form the next chord in the sequence. This will give us a very smooth, connected sound which is always desirable.

The first exercise uses diatonic seventh chords alternating roots on the fourth and third strings, then alternates roots on the third and fourth strings on line two.

The second exercise uses the exact same voicings, with the one exception of the diminished seventh voicing, but this time as rootless ninth chords. The missing roots are located on either the fifth or sixth strings as indicated by the open circle. To understand these relationships let’s look at the structure of the ninth chords with and without roots.

I use five types of ninth chords in the exercise; Major9, Dominant9, minor9, minor7b5(b9) and Dominant7(b9). The spelling of these chords is as follows using C as the root:

CMaj9 = C-E-G-B-D

C9 = C-E-G-Bb-D

C7(b9) = C-E-G-Bb-Db

Cm9 = C-Eb-G-Bb-D

Cm7b5(b9) = C-Eb-Gb-Bb-Db 

If we remove the root from these chords we end up with four fundamental seventh chords: 

CMaj9 = (C) {E-G-B-D} or Em7 (upper structure without root)

C9 = (C) {E-G-Bb-D} or Em7b5

C7(b9) = (C) {E-G-Bb-Db} or Edim7

Cm9 = (C) {Eb-G-Bb-D} or EbMaj7

Cm7b5(b9) = (C) {Eb-Gb-Bb-Db} or Ebm7 

So, it is possible to use the same voicings as two different chords; one as a seventh chord with a root and another as a ninth chord without a root. The examples below will make this clear. Again, I have indicated the location of the missing root in the ninth chord exercise with an open circle. 

Play through these exercises multiple times until the fingers are comfortable with these voicings. This will ingrain these patterns into your muscle memory and hopefully allow you to easily use these when reading through standard tunes.


1 comment

  • james seaberry
    james seaberry
    Great article and Merry Christmas!!

    Great article and Merry Christmas!!

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