Chord Construction Part 7: The Extended Minor Chord

The Theory:

For this explanation we are going to start with a m7 chord as our foundation or starting point.

As you know a m7 chord contains these Intervals:

R b3 5 b7

With C as the root a Cm7 would have these notes:

C Eb G Bb

This is a concept you must grasp to continue on, as it will make it very easy to see things transform as we continue.

Let's look at every other note in a two octave Major Scale but with a b3 and a b7 replacing the M3 and M7:

R b3 5 b7 9 11 13

This will be the group of notes we will use to build the a chord past a m7 chord. Just a side note, these are also the Intervals of a Dorian scale.

To continue building Extended Chord formulas, use the m7 formula and "stack" the remaining notes on top of it.

When you stack the remaining notes on each other you keep extending the chord to a bigger chord.

These are the chord names and chord formulas you create:

m7 = R b3 5 b7
m9 = R b3 5 b7 9
m11 = R b3 5 b7 9 11
m13 = R b3 5 b7 9 11 13

See how we keep stacking the notes on top of each other including all notes before the highest Interval? This is the key idea behind Extended Chords...you keep extending it higher and higher.

So,

in order to call a chord a m9 chord, it has to have a R b3 5 b7 and 9.

in order to call a chord a m11 chord, it has to have a R b3 5 b7 9 and 11.

in order to call a chord a m13 chord, it has to have a R b3 5 b7 9 11 and 13.

With these "rules" we can think of the Extended chords as being "inclusive chords". Meaning, to go any higher in number we need to include the Intervals/3rd's below it.

They are also inclusive when you notice the highest Extended Minor chord you can build, a m13, includes every note name in the scale listed above (the Dorian scale).

Here's an example with the notes, in order, for a Cm13:

Cm13 = C Eb G Bb D F A C

Re-order those notes and you get:

C D Eb F G A Bb C... These are all the notes in a C Dorian Scale.

Ok...that's the "theory" behind it...the "reality" behind it is where things can get tricky and blurry. But, if you use all the Chord building formulas/ideas that I've shown in this series, things become "logical" when trying to figure out what notes make up what chord.

The Reality:

With the lay out of the guitar you are probably already aware that sometimes you "double" notes or "omit" notes when playing chords. This is commonly apparent when looking at the guitar like: five fingers and six strings. You can see where you might have to omit a note or double a note sometimes.

Also, if you look at the m13 chord, it has seven notes in it...and we only have six strings. So, you can see where some notes going to have to be omitted.

What if you where asked to play a Cm13 chord...one of the few (not the only) ways you can play ALMOST EVERY note in the chord is like this:

--10- = 9
--10- = 13
--8-- = b3
--8-- = b7
--8-- = 11
--8-- = R

Remember, the m13 chord is a seven note chord, so with six strings we are going have to omit some note. In this chord we've omitted the 5. If you remember the 5 wasn't detrimental to a chord/Triad being Major or Minor...it was the M3 or the b3 the MADE a chord Major or Minor.

So, it is very common to start omitting notes by looking at the 5 as a possible note to drop.

But, now that we've removed the 5, can we still call this chord a Cm13 chord? With a note omitted, it is not completely inclusive anymore, or completely stacked.

Yes, you can still call this chord a Cm13, you can still use this chord as a Cm13 chord. Actually, in comparision to a maj13, the 11 in this chord doesn't sound too bad.

The 11 seems to be much happier in a Minor chord than it did in a Major chord. So, don't be afraid to try using 11 when playing Minor chord.

The reason the 11 doesn't clash as bad in a Minor chord as it did in a Major chord is that the b3 and the 11 are a little further apart that the M3 and 11 in the Major chords. Also, the 11 sits right in the middle of the 5 also.

A Whole-step lower the the 11 is the b3, and a Whole-step higher than the 11 is the 5. This little bit of separation form the b3 gives the 11 a little smoother sound against a Minor chord.

So, don't fear the 11 when playing Extended Minor chords. Sometimes it won't work, but a lot of times it will.

So now what???

Let's look at some other realities with naming Minor Extended chords, and keeping in mind all the other chord formulas we worked with in the past lessons.

In a m9 chord (R b3 5 b7 9) what if I needed to omit the b7 note due to the voicing that worked best for a chord progression? This leaves me with:

R b3 5 + 9

Isn't that also the formula for a "madd9 chord"? But, it could also be thought of as a m9 chord with b7 omitted.

These are the kind of "gray areas" you can run into with chords. The more you know about formulas the easier it is to adjust and "have a chord to play" for what might be charted out on a sheet of music.

If the sheet music was to decide for you that you must omit the b7 interval, they would've named it an madd9 chord. But, in functioning on the guitar and finding voices, the m9 chord could be played as an madd9 chord and no one will yell at you.

More reality...

If it calls for a m9 chord and you play the one with the b7 omitted, are you wrong? Not really in reality. The determining factor is, how does it sound? If it sounds like it covers the "needed" notes to make things flow, then go ahead and play it. If it sounds like it's missing something, try omitting a different Interval and adding back in the b7.

Now you can see the more you become familiar with chord formulas the more flexible you can be and still cover the basis, or "have a chord to play".

Without getting too hog-wild or contorted, here's a number of movable Extended Minor chord forms (Remember whatever note name the Root is, is also the Root of the chord or the note name of the chord). Every chord may not contain every stacked note, or some may sound better than others, but it should give a good foundation for finding where Intervals are located on the fretboard from the Root note, and playing some of these common chords.

Cm7:

--3-- = 5
--4-- = b3
--3-- = b7
--x-- =
--3-- = R
--x--

--3-- = 5
--4-- = b3
--3-- = b7
--5-- = 5
--3-- = R
--x--

--x--
--4-- = b3
--3-- = b7
--1-- = b3
--3-- = R
--x--

--8-- = R
--8-- = 5
--8-- = b3
--8-- = b7
--10- = 5
--8-- = R

--8-- = R
--11- = b7
--8-- = b3
--8-- = b7
--10- = 5
--8-- = R

--x--
--8-- = 5
--8-- = b3
--8-- = b7
--x--
--8-- = R

--8-- = R
--11- = b7
--8-- = b3
--10- = R
--x--
--x--

--11-- = b3
--11-- = b7
--12-- = 5
--10-- = R
--x---
--x---

Cm9:

--3-- = 5
--3-- = 9
--3-- = b7
--1-- = b3
--3-- = R
--x--

--x--
--3-- = 9
--3-- = b7
--1-- = b3
--3-- = R
--x--

--x--
--8-- = 5
--7-- = 9
--8-- = b7
--x--
--8-- = R

--10-- = 9
--8--- = 5
--8--- = b3
--10-- = R
--x----
--x---

--10-- = 9
--11-- = b7
--12-- = 5
--10-- = R
--x----
--x---

Cm11:

--3-- = 5
--3-- = 9
--3-- = b7
--3-- = 11
--3-- = R
--x--

--x--
--6-- = 11
--8-- = b3
--8-- = b7
--x--
--8-- = R

--10- = 9
--8-- = 5
--8-- = b3
--8-- = b7
--8-- = 11
--8-- = R

Cm13:

--10- = 9
--10- = 13
--8-- = b3
--8-- = b7
--8-- = 11
--8-- = R

--10- = 9
--10- = 13
--8-- = b3
--8-- = b7
--x--
--8-- = R

--x--
--3-- = 9
--2-- = 13
--1-- = b3
--3-- = R
--x--