~ Nine ~

~ the 9th as a chord colortone ~

~ I maj 9 / ii -9 / V9 ~

"the Nine colortone is to funk and bossa nova what bread is to butter."

 

 

Bread and butter in a nutshell. While our major 9th interval, pitch and sound lives probably somewhere in all of the American sounds and styles we love, as far as the bread and butter thing goes, the funk and bossa styles deeply love Nine's own color magic in its harmonies.

Initially we need to master three essential chord shapes which feature the 9th colortone in their voicings. No real surprise in that these three chords are each one of the three chord types, the theory of which will help base the way we think about chords and how they go together.

In a nutshell. Well if there was going to be a thrilling apex to this page's theory discussion I probably just gave it away :) Oh well and so be it. So Nine is the same pitch as Two, just now located an octave up so everything that is Two is also Nine give or take. Add the aforementioned 'super butter theory game changer magical abilities' of this colortone to energize, enable and help ground two entire styles of Americana music, both of which have their own giant catalogues of coolness and surely all is golden in theoryville.

Oh ... and want to fill the dance floor in a basic blues rock setting? Get the gitfiddle player to crank up something with this chord and the big four to commence activities. Here thinking E swampy blues. Example 1.

Theory names: major 9th. Measuring and labeling the major Nine above our root pitch pretty straightforward. Those in the know will know we've just moving our diatonic second scale degree Two up an octave.

So why major Nine? Well, in measuring our major 9th interval from our root pitch, we ascend a full octave plus a whole step. Our numbers from our first octave 1 through 8 now become 9 through 15 in our second. We simply add 7 to each of our simple intervals to evolve them numerically into compound intervals. We then adjust the pitches as need be as the accidentals we hear in the music direct us. Are the locations of the half steps same in both octaves? Yep, exactly. Examine the pitches, their numbers and sounds. Example 2.

octaves
1st octave
2nd octave
scale degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
two octave C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C

Cool? Guitarists, did you pick up on the two octave scale shape in this last idea. Jazz cats dig the shape as it yields some wonderful arpeggios and the stacks of pitches of chords. Of the five basic diatonic scale shapes, here in Essentials this one is called the 'arpeggio shape.'

Finding major 9. So it just seems that whenever we can write out the pitches with corresponding numbers, it's amazing how quickly the pitch we need just pops right up. Example 2a.

numerical scale degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
two octave C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio degrees
1
.
3
.
5
.
7
.
9
.
.
.
.
.
15
C major arpeggio
C
.
E
.
G
.
B
.
D
.
.
.
.
.
.

So where is Nine the music. In melodies, just about everywhere stylistically. Chords? Not so much in the traditional folk or bluegrass, although in our modern times we surely could find the tonic or Two chords with an added ninth. In a funk jam we'd find a dominant 9th chord color creating the pocket. Nine can also be a very powerful melodic player, especially in the minor tonality of blues, rock, pop and jazz.

Nine in the melody. Melodies in the minor key that focus on the 9th take on their own unique emotional character. There's a sense of longing, a searching with a warmth of our hearts that lives in the Nine color. In this next idea, an original tune of mine, we start our chord progression on Four and work our way back to resolve to One in the key of D minor. Our melody uses the Nine to end the line. Example 3.

With just the melody ... It might be because I wrote this tune, but even without the changes, that longing quality of the Nine shines right out of the melody line like a beacon of light to universal hearts alike.

9 / 8 resolution. In this next idea we simply run past the octave a bit and work our way back. Easiest way to illustrate this might be to arpeggiate Two to get us quickly up past the octave, then 9 - 8 resolution. Example arpeggio resolving to One. Example 4.

Cool? The theory / numbers is very straightforward. The last part of the phrase is from longtime Ellington collaborator B. Strayhorn's "Take The 'A' Train." Do run this idea through the 12 major keys centers.

wiki ~ "Take The 'A' Train"

b7 / 9 / 8 blues. In this next idea we build a blues lick and transpose it through its common changes. simply run past the octave a bit and work our way back. Easiest way to illustrate this might be to arpeggiate Two to get us quickly up past the octave, then 9 - 8 resolution. Example arpeggio resolving to One. Example 4a.

Cool? Nice to get a bit more mileage out of one idea. Sure a solid way to move up the neck too. These kinds of ideas are at the core of the blues.

Nine in the harmony. Turns out that all three of our core chord types; Tonic or One, Two and Five, each in their own unique way is having a love affair with Nine. Diatonically generated on all three chord types in our major key system, Nine as a chordal color tone is surely an essential American hue. As mentioned in the title, funk and bossa musical styles love the Nine colortone. And as we'll soon see, so does the ballad in a minor key.

Major 9 as a common tone. As cool as it might ever get, fairly straightforward chord shapes yield endless dance powers of colors. In C major. holding the major 9th D between tonic and bIII maj 7. Example 5.

Chord type and Nine. Turns out that all three of our core chord types; Tonic or One, Two and Five, each in their own unique way is having an amorous affair with Nine. Diatonically generated on all three chord types in our major key system, Nine as a chordal color tone is surely an essential Americana hue. These next ideas folow along these lines of thinking by chord type.

Bossa nova Nine. Emerging into global popular music in the later 50's and onward, the Bossa nova sounds and styles have become a very large stripe on our American musical flag. In modern day American music, this has evolved and now can include much of the Latin flavored influences that permeate all of our American styles.

For us guitarists, at the core of this style of playing we can initially find a couple of moveable chord voicings that in the right hands and properly motored, can instantly create a bossa / Latin groove right out of thin air. Traditionally played on a nylon stringed, more classical styled guitar, these voicings each allow the common alternating root / Five bass motion, so essential to creating the original bossa vibe.

Tonic bossa Nine chord. This next chord is probably the top 'go to' bossa tonic chord in songs written in a major key and features the major 9th interval on top. Here we'll find it in C major and will alternate the bass pitches (x = the 5th). Example 5.

scale degrees
root (1)
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
.
scale pitches
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
.
arpeggio degree
root (1)
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
.
arpeggio pitches
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
.

The Girl From Ipanema. This last shape and motion can set the tone and pace for Jobim's gem and signature tune about life on the beach in Ipanema, Brazil.

Bossa nova minor Nine chord, Two chord type. Have a favorite chord? This next one just might be mine. Simply a minor 7 chord with an added 9th. Examine the pitches as we build our minor 9th chord from the pitches of D natural minor. Example 5a.

scale degrees
root (1)
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
.
scale pitches
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
D
.
arpeggio degree
root (1)
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
.
arpeggio pitches
D
F
A
C
E
G
Bb
D
.

Voicings. In making these pitches create our next chord, we have to initially leave out the 5th while keeping the rest. Is leaving out the chord's 5th of a voicing problem? No, at this level, the 3rd and 7th tones are a must for they determine chord type which in theory, can become a glue of sorts that holds the theory together.

Luckily again, with this minor 9 chord we get the same sort of bass motion as with our tonic shape just above. We can alternate the bass pitch gaining the cool root / Five motion (x = the 5th). Those in the know will use this shape for the guitar and bass combo motions for Paul Desmond's essential classic "Take Five." Ex. 5b.

2nd inversion. An associate of mine here in Alaska plays nearly all of his chords in second inversion, meaning that the 5th of the chord is the bass note. He says it keeps him out of the bass players way and thicken's up the sonority of the group. These 9th chord voicings we're examining here are perfect for just such an approach to playing changes in the band. Examine these inversion voicings. Example 5c.

Clear how the shape evolves? Cool. That the second and third shapes are also other chords, as named from their included lowest note or root pitch, is just another part of our puzzles to solve and keep straight. Thus the good doctor's quip to 'think from the root of the chord ole' boy and you'll never get lost.'

Bossa nova dominant Nine chord, Five chord type. Often referred to as a 'desert island' chord, this next chord shape easily bossafies almost any groove. And speaking of groove, we've finally worked our way back to the funk part of this discussion started above. If the minor ninth chord just above is under your fingers, then just raise the third of the chord a half step and we're golden. Examine the pitches and sounds of our V9 (G9) chord in C major. Example 5d.

scale degrees
root (1)
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
.
scale pitches
G
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
.
arpeggio degree
root (1)
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
.
arpeggio pitches
G
B
D
F
A
C
E
G
.

The ultimate funk chord. The first real band I was in was called High Tide and we were a funk band. I was hired as the rhythm guitarist to play changes behind the soloists. The voicing they wanted is a solid, little chunk of harmony that I thrashed around with a light pick, locking in with drums and bass to get the dancers up. Here in the key of E blues, this root position chord easily runs up and down the neck. Example 6.

Quarter notes on the downbeat ... half step lead in to restart the phrase. Oftentimes it's just easier to play the groove than try to notate it yes? Click the jacmuse icon to hear a funkier version of E9 / E13 essential back and forth.

The half diminished chord within. A secondary coolness that lives in the V9 chord is the half diminished or minor 7b5 chord that lives in the upper structure of V9. We often hear it in funk and blues settings when the bass player is covering the roots of the chords in their lower harmonic structure. Examine the pitches and sound of this color in a funky, Latin vamp type setting. Example 7.

scale degrees
root (1)
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
.
scale pitches
E
F#
G#
A
B
C#
D
E
.
arpeggio degree
root (1)
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
.
E 9
E
G#
B
D
F#
.
.
.
.
half diminished
 
G#
B
D
F#
       

A Two / Five cell. In using the half diminished chord as in this last idea, it's really functioning as a first inversion dominant Nine chord. Remember that we also have a diatonic half diminished chord built on the 7th degree of our major scale? Or on Two of our natural minor? All of the same critter and DNA just different theory and usage in the musical theory puzzle we ponder.

Additional dominant / V9 voicings. Here are a couple of additional essential V9 chord voicings for the emerging modern guitarist. The first two are fairly common as Five chords in the Two / Five / One cadential motions. The second two voicings live a bit deeper into the harmonic vocabularies. Just nice to have options. Example 8.

Review and forward. The colortone we call Nine is at its theory core a major second up from our chosen root pitch now moved up as additional full octave. We can diatonically create the Nine colortone on each of our principle chord types; One / Two and Five. The dominant ninth ( V 9 ) chord is a core funk dance chord. It's also an essential color for the bossa nova and Latin styles. So mostly a blues, jazz and pop color. We can locate a half diminished chord in the upper structure of V9, that half diminished is one pitch away from fully diminished just helps to energize the round and round magic of the way our music theory goes :)

"It's amazing how much you can learn if your intentions are truly earnest."

wiki ~ Chuck Berry
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b2
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b3
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#4
b5
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#5
b6
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b7
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b9
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#9
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#11
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Footnotes:

(1) Isacoff, Stuart. Temperament ... The Idea That Solved Music's Greatest Riddle, p. 40-42. USA Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 2001

(1)Duffin, Ross W. How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony, p.32. USA W.W.Norton and Company, NY, New York. 2007.
(2)Aebersold, Jamey and Slone, Ken. The Charlie Parker Omnibook. New York: Atlantic Music Corp., 1978.

Russell, George. The Lydian Chromatic Concept Of Tonal Organization. USA Concept Publishing Company, Cambridge, Mass. 1982