Dominant eleventh chord

Some Review

Recall from May 3rd's lesson that we've defined a chord as being 3 or more distinct notes, usually played at the same time. (C and D are considered distinct, but C# and Db are not, nor are octaves of the same note).

Recall that chords come in two basic parts, a letter name (C, C#, etc.) also known as a root note (tonic, 1), and a descriptive part that abbreviates the name of the chord (is a short-hand for all the intervals of each distinct note from the root note).

Recall that an interval is the distance between two notes, and that we are using numbers (with accidentals) to describe these intervals.(ex. 5 = perfect fifth, etc.) For more info on intervals see July19's lesson. to convert letters to numbers and numbers to letters, see the link below (bottom of page) on transposition.

Recall, we've previously defined the following chords:
major = 1,3,5
minor (m)= 1,b3,5
diminished (o)= 1,b3,b5
power chord (5) = 1,5,8(1)
dominant seventh chord as (7) = 1,3,5,b7
dominant ninth chord as (9) = 1,3,5,b7,9

Now we shall define the dominant eleventh chord as:
11 = 1,3,5,b7,9,11
Sometimes we write dominant eleventh chords as dom11 or 11. (Ex. C11, Ddom11, etc.)

Here are some open 11 chords to get you started:
A11=X00423, B11=X22222, C11=X32331,
D11=XX0012, E11=000132, G11=330201.

We should note from our definition (11=1,3,5,b7,9,11) that a dominant eleventh chord contains a dominant ninth chord (9=1,3,5,b7,9) within it.
We can think of a dominant eleventh chord as a dominant ninth chord with an added an added perfect eleventh.

If we don't know how to play a 11 chord, we could substitute a major chord with the same root note in its place, or a dominant seventh chord with the same root note, or a dominant ninth chord. We will no longer have the full flavor of the 11 chord, but the substitution should work.

We also note that a chord synonym for for I11 is iii7b9b5b6.
In the key of F:
C11 = C,E,G,Bb,D,F = Em7b9b5/C

So you could use as a substitute for a 11 chord, a half-diminished seventh chord a major third higher than the 11 chord. (you could substitute Em7b9b5 for C11)

Recalling how the chromatic scale maps out on a fretboard in standard tuning ( see July19's lesson). We can map out the 11 chord on the fretboard (shown here in F) ( we note that the P4 and the P11 intervals are octaves of each other and have written in the 11, the same way any and all 8s have been written as 1s).


We can cut this up into zones of one sort or another. In previous lessons, we've been looking at shapes based on octave patterns. (A-shape, E-shape, etc.). So below are the 5 shapes along with some voicings in TAB that go along with the shape. All of these are for F11. To change to to another 11 chord, we use the same process as for other moveable chords (barre chords, etc.).

F11 "E-shape"(root note on the 6th string)

  1   2   3   4


F11 "D-shape" (root note on the 4th string)

  3   4   5   6 


F11 "C-shape" (root note on the 5th string)

  5   6   7   8


F11 "A-shape" (root note on the 5th string)

  8   9  10  11  12


F11 "G-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

 10  11   12  13


Ok. So we can make many different voicings out of a given chord (many more than shown here). Choosing for ourselves just what voicing we're going to use to interpret a chord is one part of developing our own style.


Probably the most common way of hearing chords with notes not all played at once would be the playing of arpeggios.

Consider simple fingerpicking patterns such as P-I-M-A. (which would be using, in order, one at a time, the thumb,first,second, and third fingers of the picking hand) We could such a pattern with notes from a chord (here D7=XX0212) like this:


That would be one example of an arpeggio. We notice from above that we see more possibilities for note choices on a single string in a given position.

Here is another example of an arpeggio based on F11 (in E-shape, 1rst position) Compare shape with notes in TAB.

  1   2   3   4


You need not play all the notes, nor play them in order or only once. Consider the following from the same chord, shape, etc.


Or how about we create a fingerpicking pattern such as:


Ok so we can play 11 chords several ways, but what do we do with them? Are there any general rules? (yes. Can we break them? you bet.)


We often see 11 chords written in songs, but there is a way to understand why they pop up where they do? Usually.

Recall, that we harmonized the major scale to get the chords (triads):
I-ii-iii-IV-V-vi-viio (in the key of C: C-Dm-Em-F-G-Am-Bo)
and the seventh chords:
Imaj7-ii7-iii7-IVmaj7-V7-vi7-vii7b5 (in C:

In ninth chords the major scale harmonized becomes:

In eleventh chords the major scale harmonized becomes:

We can see here that the only chord in the major scale with a dominant 11th chord is the 5. Recall that the 5th note is referred to as the dominant note in the Roman Numeral System (see july 19th's lesson).

Where else does the dom 11 chord turn up?
Without getting into the modes of these scale systems as well, we find dom11 chords in the natural minor, harmonic minor, and melodic minor scales (also in their modes).

In the natural minor (minor scale, or aeolian mode), the dom11 is the bVII11 (in the key of Am: bVII11= (G11= G,B,D,F,A,C), Am= (A,C,E)). All note movements are within a whole-step. The progression bVII-i (or V-vi) is called a "deceptive cadence."

In the harmonic minor scale, the dom11 chord does not naturally occur.

In the melodic minor scale, the dom11 chord occurs twice, as V11.

So let's consider some progressions.

See dom7 lesson for notes on progressions with dom chords, substitute the dom11 for dom7.


We can invert 6 note chords, just like 3 or 4 or 5 note chords. For our purposes, we wish to know when a particular bass note is or is not in our chord, and when we can substitute 11 chords for other chords without having added or subtracted any distinct notes from our previous chord (what chords can be seen as different spellings of the dom11 chord?) We will use G11 as our example to be inverted and renamed.

G11= G,B,D,F,A,C (root position, 1 is in the bass)

1rst inversion, 3rd is in the bass
G11/B = B,D,F,G,A,C, what B chord is this?
B,C,D,F,G,A = 1,b2,b3,b5,b6,b7
we could call this Bm7b9b5b6.

2nd inversion, 5th is in the bass
G11/D= D,F,G,A,C,B, what D chord is this?
D,F,G,A,B,C = 1,b3,4,5,6,b7
We could call this Dm13(no9).

3rd inversion, 7th in the bass.
G11/F = F,G,A,B,C,D, which F chord is this?
F,G,A,B,C,D = 1,2,3,#4,5,6
We might call it : F6/9#11

4th inversion, 9th in the bass.
G11/A = A,B,C,D,F,G, which A chord is this?
A,B,C,D,F,G, = 1,2,b3,4,b6,b7
we might call it

5th inversion, 11th in the bass.
G11/C = A,B,C,D,F,G, which C chord is this?
C,D,F,G,A,B = 1,2,4,5,6,7
we might call it

So for a im7b9b5b6, we could substitute bVI11

for i13(no9) we could substitute IV11.

for I6/9#11 we could substitute II11.

and for im11#5 we could substitute bVII11

and for Imaj13(no3) we could substitute V11

Speaking of substitutions, the dominant note (5) of the major scale as a functional position probably sees more substitutions of extended and altered chords on that spot than any other note (functionally). Some extensions and alterations often found on the dom11 chord are listed below for the intermediate/advanced student to work through and explore:

11 = 1,3,5,b7,9,11
13 = 1,3,5,b7,9,11,13
11#5 = 1,3,#5,b7,9,11
11b5 = 1,3,b5,b7,9,11
13#5 = 1,3,#5,b7,9,11,13
13b5 = 1,3,b5,b7,9,11,13
13#11#5 = 1,3,#5,b7,9,#11,13
13#11b5 = 1,3,b5,b7,9,#11,13

And the list goes on...
we could omit notes, etc. we often see these things in jazz heads. If you don't know how to play one of these chords, there's a good chance you could get away with substituting a 9 or 7 for it (of course, you'll lose part of the flavor, but in a jam...). it might be helpful to learn some 11 shapes without 5's in them (so it doesn't clash when substituted for a dominant chord with an altered 5).

Here are some in F (F11(no5))
F11 = 1112X3 (E-shape, root on 6th string)
F11 = XX3345 (D-shape, root on 4th string)
F11 = X87886 (C-shape, root on 5th string)
F11 = X888 10 X (A-shape, root on 5th string)
F11 = x 12 10 11 x x(G-shape, root omited)

Larger Extended Chords and Omited Notes
As we create larger and larger chords, we note that some of the new tones create dissonances with the other tones. In the maj11 chord the 11th creates dissonances with the 3rd. So, often in larger chords a tone or two will be omited. This can happen to clarify the sound although there are other reasons. the guitar typically has 6 strings. an 11th chord has 6 tones, and a 13th chord has 7 tones. Since 6 string chords can sound overly full or awkward, especially if switched between smaller chords, it can be desirable to have smaller 4-string or 5-string chords.

So which tones to omit?
The most common tone to omit 1st is the 5th. If you're playing with a group, it is common for the bassist to emphasize the root and the 5th. Next most common tone to omit is the 4th, but this should not be omited if the chord you're playing names the tone in the chord (11th chords, 7/11, add4, sus4, etc.).
Likewise in 11th or 13th chords, the 9th can be omited.

If you're playing in a group, you might try omitting the root, if another player is playing/emphasizing the root.

So, for the 11 chord I would suggest learning voicings that contain the root,3rd,7th,11th.
1,3,b7,11 = 7/11 (no5)
and also the root,7th,9th,11th.
1,b7,9,11 = I11 (no3,no5) = viio/9

Next lesson on Minor Eleventh Chord.

Christopher Roberts

How do I change all those numbers to letters (for notes, chords, etc.)? Here's a transposition chart

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Last updated December 11, 2003.
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