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How to Play and Apply Add9 Chords

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To make chords, chord progressions and songs more colorful guitar players use chord embellishments.

Chords like sus2, sus4, maj6, maj7 and add9 can all be used to spice up your playing and create more interesting sounds.

The add9 chord is a big favorite in pop and acoustic rock music.

Analysis
The add9 chord is simply a major triad with an added ninth (9).
The major triad consists of the root (1), the major third (3) and the perfect fifth (5).
So the add9 chord formula = 1 3 5 9

Let’s take Cadd9 chord as an example.
We look at the C major scale: C D E F G A B C and we take the root (1st), 3rd, 5th and 9th note of that scale and you get the notes: C-E-G-D. So Cadd9 = C E G D

Application
The add9 chord is traditionally used for the I and IV chord but can be applied everywhere depending on the song and chord progression. The best way to apply a chord embellishment is to use your ears.

Here are some of the most common used Add9 chords: (Practice and memorize each chord!)

Aadd9 Cadd9 Dadd9

add9chords-2

Moveable chord
The Fadd9 chord (see above) is a closed chord shape (it has no open strings) which makes it a moveable chord. A moveable chord can be moved up and down the neck and can therefor be played in all keys. The red note indicates the root note. The name of the root note also determines the name of the chord. In this case the root note is an F note so the chord is Fadd9. Wherever you play this chord shape on the neck just find the root note and you have the name of the chord.

Add9 Songs
Here are some popular songs using add9 chords:

Good Riddance by Greenday
Intro + start of the verse:
G – G – Cadd9 – D
Another turning point a fork stuck in the road…

Wonderwall by Oasis
Prechorus:
Cadd9 – Dsus4 – Em7
And all the roads we have to walk are winding…

Add9 – Maj9- Dom9
While the add9 chord and it’s analysis seems clear, there’s often some confusion between the Add9 chord and some other types of ninth chords. There are three ninth chords that a lot of guitar players tend to mix up: Add9, Maj9 and Dom9. Let’s clear this up:

The similarities are that all three 9th-chords contain a major triad (1 3 5) and the 9th. The difference is the 7th or absence of the 7th. Look at the chord formulas below.

Cadd9 = 1 3 5 9 (C E G D)
CMaj9 = 1 3 5 7 9 (C E G B D)
Cdom9 or C9 = 1 3 5 b7 9 (C E G Bb D)

The Cadd9 chord has no 7th. The CMaj9 chord has a major 7th (7) and the Cdom9 (usually called C9) has a flatted 7th (b7).

Add9 – Add2 – Sus2
There is also some confusion over the chords: Add9, Add2 and Sus2. The 2 and 9 in a chord (or scale) are basically the same notes, only the 9 is an octave higher.

Add9 is a triad with an added ninth above it (1 3 5 9). Add2 means you add a major second to the triad (1 2 3 5). Sus2 means you replace the third with the major second (1 2 5).

Cadd9 = 1 3 5 9 (C E G D)
Cadd2 = 1 2 3 5 (C D E G)
Csus2 = 1 2 5 (C D G)

Assignments:
– Practice and memorize all add9 chords above.
– Learn songs that include add9 chords.
– Practice the moveable chord shape in different keys.
– Incorporate add9 chords as embellishments into your own favorite songs.

Enjoy practicing!

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