Minor ninth chord

Some Review

Recall from lesson on building a context 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 (9) = 1,3,5,b7,9
minor seventh chord (m7) = 1,b3,5,b7

Now we shall define the minor ninth chord as:
m9 = 1,b3,5,b7,9
Sometimes we write minor ninth chords as m9 or min9. (Ex. Cm9, Dmin9, etc.)

Here are some open m9 chords to get you started:
Am9=X02413, Bm9=X20222,
Dm9=XX0251, Em9=022032, Gm9=310233.

We should note from our definition (m9=1,b3,5,b7,9) that a minor ninth chord contains a minor seventh chord (m7=1,b3,5,b7) within it.
We can think of a minor ninth chord as a minor seventh chord with an added an added major ninth.

If we don't know how to play a m9 chord, we could substitute a minor chord with the same root note in its place, or a minor seventh chord with the same root note. We will no longer have the full flavor of the m9 chord, but the substitution should work.

We also note that a chord synonym for for i9 is bIIImaj7/6.
In the key of Eb:
Cm9 = C,bE,G,Bb,D = Ebmaj7/C

So you could use as a substitute for a m9 chord, a major seventh chord a minor third higher than the m9 chord. (you could substitute Ebmaj7 for Cm9)

Recalling how the chromatic scale maps out on a fretboard in standard tuning ( see July19's lesson). We can map out the m9 chord on the fretboard (shown here in F) ( we note that the M2 and the M9 intervals are octaves of each other and have written in the 9, 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 Fm9. To change to to another 9 chord, we use the same process as for other moveable chords (barre chords, etc.).

Fm9 "E-shape"(root note on the 6th string)

  1   2   3   4


Fm9 "D-shape" (root note on the 4th string)

  3   4   5   6 


Fm9 "C-shape" (root note on the 5th string)

  4   5   6   7   8


Fm9 "A-shape" (root note on the 5th string)

  8   9  10  11  12


Fm9 "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.We notice from above that we see more possibilities for note choices on a single string in a given position.

Here is an example of an arpeggio based on Fm9 (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:


Fm9 "A-shape" (root note on the 5th string)

  8   9  10  11  12




Ok so we can play m9 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 m9 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:

We can see here that the chords in the major scale with a minor 9th chord are the 2 and the 6.

Where else does the m9 chord turn up?
Without getting into the modes of these scale systems as well, we find m9 chords in the natural minor, harmonic minor, and (also in their modes).

In the natural minor (minor scale, or aeolian mode), the m9 is the i9, and the iv9 (in the key of Am: Am9= (A,C,E,G,B), Dm9= (D,F,A,C,E)).

In the harmonic minor scale, the m9 occurs on the iv9.

In the melodic minor scale, the m9 chord does not naturally occur.

In the gypsy minor scale, the m9 chord does not naturally occur.

In the pentatonic minor scale, the m9 chord does not naturally occur.

In the hungarian scale, the m9 chord does not naturally occur.

In the enigmatic scale, the m9 chord does not naturally occur.

So let's consider some progressions.

See m7 lesson for notes on progressions with m chords, substitute the m9 for m7.

i9-bIIImaj7 - common progession (maj7 chord is actually inside of the m9 chord) Em9 = 022032, Cmaj7 = X32000
another variation on the bIIImaj7, would be bIIImaj7#11
Cmaj7#11 = X32002
where the first progression (i9-bIIImaj7) could be considered either an Aeolian or Dorian progression, the latter (i9-bIIImaj7#11) with the #11 would come out of the Dorian mode.

We could take a i-iv-v progression completely in m9 chords. You could sub a m9 chord for the m7 chord.
i7-iv7-v7 could become i7-iv7-v9,i9-iv9-v7b9 etc.
(In Cm: i9-iv9-v9 = Cm9-Fm9-Gm7b9).


we can invert 5 note chords, just like 3 or 4 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 m9 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 m9 chord?) We will use Am9 as our example to be inverted and renamed.

Am9= A,C,E,G,B (root position, 1 is in the bass)

1rst inversion, 3rd is in the bass
Am9/C = C,E,G,B,A what C chord is this?
C,E,G,B,A = 1,3,5,7,6
we could call this C6/7.

2nd inversion, 5th is in the bass
Am9/E = E,G,B,A,C, what E chord is this?
E,G,B,A,C = 1,b3,4,5,b6
We could call this Emb6/11, or Emb6add4.

3rd inversion, 7th in the bass.
Am9/G = G,B,A,C,E, which F chord is this?
G,B,A,C,E = 1,2,3,4,6
We might call it : G6/9(4)

4th inversion, 9th in the bass.
Am9/B = B,A,C,E,G , which B chord is this?
B,A,C,E,G, = 1,b7,b9,11,b13
you have options, such as
Bm11b13(no3,5), B7#5b9sus4, B11#5b9(no3)

So for a I6/7, we could substitute vi9

for ib6/11, ib6add4 we could substitute iv9.

for I6/9(4) we could substitute ii9.

and for i11b13(no3,5), I7#5b9sus4 we could substitute bvii9

Speaking of substitutions. Some extensions and alterations often found on the m9 chord are listed below for the intermediate/advanced student to work through and explore:

m9 = 1,b3,5,b7,9
m11 = 1,b3,5,b7,9,11
m13 = 1,b3,5,b7,9,11,13
m9sus4 = 1,b3,4,b7,9
m9#5 = 1,b3,#5,b7,9
m9b5 = 1,b3,b5,b7,9
m9#11= 1,b3,5,b7,9,#11
m9#11#5= 1,b3,#5,b7,9,#11
m9#11b5= 1,b3,b5,b7,9,#11
m11#5 = 1,b3,#5,b7,9,11
m11b5 = 1,b3,b5,b7,9,11
m13#5 = 1,b3,#5,b7,9,11,13
m13b5 = 1,b3,b5,b7,9,11,13
m13#11#5 = 1,b3,#5,b7,9,#11,13
m13#11b5 = 1,b3,b5,b7,9,#11,13

And the list goes on...
The third could be suspended, 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 m9 or m7 for it (of course, you'll lose part of the flavor, but in a jam...). it might be helpful to learn some m9 shapes without 5's in them (so it doesn't clash when substituted for a minor chord with an altered 5).

Here are some in F (Fm9(no5))
Fm9 = 1X11X3 (E-shape, root on 6th string)
Fm9 = XX3143 (D-shape, root on 4th string)
Fm9 = X8688X (C-shape, root on 5th string)
Fm9 = X8X88X (A-shape, root on 5th string)
Fm9 = 11 10 11 (G-shape, root omited)
Fm9 = 13 11 13 12 XX (G-shape, root on 6th string)

Next lesson on Major ninth chord.

Christopher Roberts

How do I change all those numbers to letters (for notes, chords, etc.)? Here's a transposition chart simianmoon.com/snglstringtheory/guitar/8theory3.html

Next lesson - Major ninth chords
Previous lesson - Arpeggios, pt.3

Last updated November 28, 2002
Copyright 2002, 2005, 2008. All rights reserved.