~ #9 ~ V 7#9 ~

~ minor 10th ~

"From Jimi to jazz, a true blue chord unlike any other."

 

 

 

In a nutshell. If there are certain chords that when confidentially sounded can change the mood of the thing with just one strum, then this V7#9 is surely one.

So why sharp Nine? We're simply raising ( sharping ) our diatonic 9th by half step. Indeed our current pitch could also be viewed as a minor tenth, up a minor third plus one octave up from our root pitch. Locate the #9 / -10th from within the pitches of C major scale and the reconfiguration of pitches into its arpeggio. Example 1.

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

Theory names. Sharp 9th, minor tenth. Ye old enharmonic equivalents my friends, one pitch with two names, which one we use determined by how they are triangulated into the theory. Does it matter? To some players yes, keeping things straight eases the transfer of the coolness which can be a giant help on the bandstand. Sing along with the pitches. Example 1a.

Sharp Nine in the harmony. Our sharp Nine colortone associates with dominant / Five chord harmony. In all of the American sounds with a blues influence, there's really only a couple of chord voicings that sum up this #9 color. And of these few, one lives at the center of the sharp Nine universe.

Examine the pitches and a potentially essential voicing of V 7#9 and its sound. In the following chart we organically locate, extract and evolve the pitches of our diatonic G 9 into G 7#9, from the pitches of C major. Example 2.

scale degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
.
C major pitches
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
.
arpeggio degrees
1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
.
C major arpeggio
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
.
arpeggio degrees
.
.
1
3
5
7
9
11
13
V7 arpeggio pitches
.
.
G
B
D
F
A
C
E
arpeggio degrees
.
.
1
3
5
7
# 9
.
.
G 7 #9 pitches
.
.
G
B
D
F
A# (Bb)
.
.

The chord that we generally know as V7#9 is as distinct a color as we might ever find. It has created some very memorable moments in our blues and rock libraries. This chord could contain the greatest degree of the essential 'blues rub.' And while the #9 is an essential American musical spice, its theory is unique in that the prominent melody notes it often supports are not found in harmony. Thus the rub? Thus the rub.

Cadential motions. The V 7#9 color makes for some pretty serious and rather definite cadential motions in both the major and minor tonalities. Using the core voicing from the last example, Five to One in major, then minor and then the blues. Example 2a.

Additional V7#9 voicings. While the above voicing is probably the strongest and easiest of the voicings to get under our fingers, of course there are others available to the modern guitarist. In working with a bass player the voicings do evolve. With bass and keys, yet even a further evolution of choices as we create inversions of our chords to stay out of one another's way.

Author's note. So oftentimes as the rhythm section fills up with additional players, the number of pitches in our chords are reduced. This is simply a matter of deciding what the sound of the group is to be. In the styles were chords use more colortones, as say in pop, jazz and beyond, guitarists often reduce their pitches to include Three and Seven to determine chord quality and then add a colortone, leaving the heavy lifting of roots and 5th's to the bass and piano players.

Root position chords. These next few V7#9 chords are common enough. Many of the new chords we learn simply start out as chunks of harmony while we get them solidly under our fingers. Gradually we find a spot for them with our music. In one sense it is all about what our ears tell us is correct. Examine the following shapes organized by our bass strings ( 6 5 4 etc. ). Example 3.

Examine the rub. The V7#9 chord has a major third in its supporting triad and a minor third (the #9) above as the colortone. The tension in the chord is further advanced with the dominant chord's own character tritone interval. So quite a bristlely little chunk of harmony. Do examine the rubbing pitches G7#9. Example 3.

arpeggio degree
root
3
5
7
9
interval tension
.
B to F / tritone
.
arpeggio pitches
G
B
D
F
A#
interval tension
.
B to A# / major 7th
arpeggio pitches
G
B
D
F
A#

A perfect storm of dissonance. Kinda of an amazing thing of so much dissonance packed into four pitches. And if that's not enough, generally speaking our core shape is quite conquerable with patience.

V7#9 inversions. When this color starts to soften up by being passed through our various melodic / harmonic filters, some pretty amazing things can happen. First, here are a few additional V7#9 voicings. These are tricky for guitarists in that we need both a major third and the minor 3rd / #9 pitch in the voicing. Plus the blue 7th of course, to give it the 'tritone within' dominant chord essence. Example 4.

Melodic / harmonic filter. In working with these colors in which their tonal gravity and predictability are reduced, we can easily slide them about to create new and interesting resolutions. In this next idea we filter the first chord by the interval of a minor third and resolve. Example 6.

Hear the ascending motion of minor 3rd's? We borrow the idea from the perfect symmetry of the fully diminished 7th chord. This is a fairly common occurrence in modern leaning jazz. Easily redundant, one trick is to split up the minor third into its two parts and find some nuance with the pitches as the chords move to disrupt the parallel motion / continuity of the lick if so desired. Here's the above idea worked as a whole tone / halftone straight up resolving to C major then minor. Example 6a.

Any music in this for you? These are academic ideas pure and simple. Music? Ah ... the theory generates and the artist polishes into art ?

~ stgc / halfway to chroma-zone ~

A V7 altered chord before each written chord. In this next idea we simply place some sort of an altered dominant chord before each of the chord changes in a song. Again, this is a jazz thing. And even then it's somewhat rare except in performances where the audience is expecting this style of modernistic art, i.e., concert level performances leaning towards the atonal side of 'round midnight.' Cadentially, Two / Five / One in C major. Example 7.

That's Two / Five / One in C major? In theory yes it sure is. And even in a rather roundabout way of getting there, it got there. With modern players even the resolution chord is potentially negotiable. Eventually, some of the advancing jazz art becomes about disguising the direction most easily done with chromatic motion.

Artists just gradually evolve the colors and knit them together in interesting ways. Eventually it devolves further towards and into chromaticism. Almost like the evolution of recognizable landscape painting into the abstract expressionism of the 1950's.

All chords take on a V7 altered hue. In today's modern settings, advancing jazz players have further blurred the sense of tonality by increasing the tempos and recreating the harmonic motion through chord substitution and colortones. One core of this modernity is created by simply making each chord in a progression an altered dominant chord type.

This approach of course is a throwback to the 1920's era where some popular songs where created with cycles of dominant chords. Songs such as "Sweet Georgia Brown" from 1925 illustrates this dominant chord, back pedaling approach. So in modern times, while we follow some of the same patterns, we also have condensed and altered the harmony to nearly beyond recognition. The music takes on what I refer to as the 'chromatic buzz.'

A jazz influence. So as artists we each choose the extent of how much of this and other forms of chromaticism we bring into our sounds. And to what degree we do this might be the determining factor in regards to the extent of the 'jazz influence' in our artwork. Here in Essentials, we're simply tasked with exploring the resource, coming along after to see how and leaving the art to the artists.

Seventy five years of evolution in three measures. This next idea is in two parts. In the first we simply backpedal dominant chords by perfect fourths, creating the cool yet fairly common Three / Six / Two / Five / One chord progression in C major, reminiscent of harmonic motion of the 1920's or so. Example 8.

Here is the same chord progression modernized to include the evolution of the harmony of what we might hear in today's modern jazz / 12 / chromaticized tone performance format. Example 8a.

Even sans (without) the root pitch motion of example 8, are you catching the sense of tonal gravity and the impending resolution in the line? Using two chords for one of allows us to continuously shift the color tones. The minor third leap on the G7 chord of bar two, 3rd and 4th beats helps the impending sense of resolution. The final polytonal chord just doesn't quite stabilize and settle things.

So while the forward motion towards a resolution is still there, it's just WAY different, or evolved, from its organic source as in example 8. As artists, we examine a spectrum of resources, understand their evolution from what is in a sense our universal core, be the artist and make the art happen :) Then try to gig the art ?

Review. The sharp Nine / minor Ten is at its theory core a minor 3rd up from our root pitch then transposed up an additional octave. While the minor Ten is almost always theoretically viewed as the blue or minor third, piano players oftentimes rely on this interval in their left hand to stabilize their chord voicings.

In American music, the #9 coloring is most associated with blues and jazz. Hijacked by the Rockers, the V7#9 chord has found a memorable home in some essential classic rock songs. And while it is a bit on the gritty side of things, it does make for a smashing chord to end memorable testimony by players of any persuasion.

"A problem is a chance for you to do your best." ~ Duke Ellington ~
1
#1
b2
2
b3
3
4
#4
b5
5
#5
b6
6
b7
7
8
b9
9
#9
-10
10
11
#11
12
b13
13
b14
14
15
#15
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