What are Major 9th Guitar Chords?

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Understanding Major 9th Chords

Major 9th guitar chords, Maj9 when abbreviated, are a popular chord type in genres such as as jazz and fusion, where advanced harmonies are more common.

To help you understand these chords, you’ll use this C Major scale as a reference.


Where can you find a 9th interval (relative to a root note)

Construction and formula for Major 9th Chords

What is a major 9th chord?

A Major 9th chord (maj9) is is an extended chord built using the intervals 1-3-5-7-9.

Every interval in a major 9th chord is a major interval.

Using the notes from our earlier C Major scale, the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th notes for the scale are C-E-G-B-D. Putting these together gives you a C Major 9th chord.

Also, keep in mind that your 9th note is the same note as the 2nd note, which is a D note in this case.

How do you play major 9th guitar chords?

When playing chords on guitar we are usually limited to 6 strings, so notes usually have to be substituted (meaning “replaced”) in order to play chords with more notes.

The most commonly substituted interval is the 5th. This is due to the fact that it provides very little harmonic value to a chord.

How to Play C Maj 9 (root on A)

This is the most common major 9th shape on guitar. It’s root note is on the A string.

This shape omits the 5th, which gives you the notes C-E-B-D. This means you are playing the root, third, seventh, and ninth intervals.

Here’s the chord chart.

C Major 9th Chord Chart, root note on the A string

How to Play C Maj 9 (root on E)

In this shape you’ll skip the A string, and your note is located on the Low E string.

This one has a little bit of a stretch, but it’s a great sounding chord.

C Major 9th Guitar Chord with the root on the E string

Practicing Major 9th Chords

You’ve learned two of the most popular major 9th chords.

Practicing them starts with moving the shapes to different root notes, and listening to how the chord shape sounds.

From there you’ll want to find songs that use major 9th chords on guitar. Some of the best songs I’ve found are jazz standards.

Major 9th Guitar Chords Summary

To summarize, major 9th guitar chords are played by identifying the root, third, fifth, seventh, and ninth notes. You’ll usually leave out the fifth on guitar.

They are a common alternative to major triads and major 7th chords, and complement the music by providing a different sound.

Practice them in jazz standards, and look for them in other songs you’re learning.

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