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Firstly, I would like to ask whether 13th chords by default have a minor, major or diatonic 13th or is it contextual to the 3rd used.

E.g. Am13 in the Aeolian mode:

Is the 13th F or F# (F being diatonic)

Is that different in the dorian mode? (F# being diatonic)

Secondly what is the notation for using the other 13th? Is it like (m13) or (b13)?

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It may be a good idea to specify what genre you are playing/analyzing these chords in. In the comment threads below it seems that some people are answering from a Classical perspective, where 13 chords are relatively rare. I assumed this question is from the Jazz perspective, where you are most likely to find such a chord symbol. –  Basstickler Apr 16 '14 at 16:35

4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Minor 6th chords use the major 6 interval off the root, just like major 6ths. The minor bit is the minor 3rd.A minor 6th chord with a minor 6th interval doesn't sound good. So 13ths will use the same 6th interval, but usually an octave higher.Strictly speaking, a 13th should have 1,3,5,7,9,11 and 13 in it, but that's often impractical - on guitar, for instance, there's only 6 strings, so all couldn't be played anyway. The other problem is that the order ought to be notes in numerical order. Fine on keyboards, but that's about all.Often, a 7th (usually flat) and a sixth with the basic triad will sound fine.

I don't think chords need to be made from modes, as they already exist in the 'mother' (Ionian) key.

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I don't agree. A 13th chord does not need to have all the notes. The notes also have no requirement to be stacked in order, in fact, that's probably the most boring way to voice such a chord. The bit about a Minor6 chord with b6 not sounding good is entirely subjective as well. I would express that concept by saying that adding a b6 is not functionally the same as a minor chord and would not be an appropriate substitution. –  Basstickler Apr 16 '14 at 15:44
@Basstickler Theoretically chords should have all the degrees below the highest voice which is demonstrated by 'no' chords e.g. G11(no9). –  Tim Hargreaves Apr 16 '14 at 15:50
It's way too soon to vote a 'favourite' answer. This debate may run... –  Tim Apr 16 '14 at 15:57
That is exactly my point. In practice you will rarely find someone playing all of those notes. Jazz is pretty much the place you find a 13 chord and almost no Jazz players play the 5th of a chord unless it is the result of voice leading. I also find the #11 would be used, not natural 11, as that would change the functionality of the chord. –  Basstickler Apr 16 '14 at 16:05
@TimHargreaves - first past the post doesn't make it the best answer you're going to get. –  Tim Apr 16 '14 at 16:11

Most chords have a "key" feature that determines the character and musical function. For a 13th chord that's probably the diminished octave interval between the 7 and the 13. You'd also need the 3 to distinguish between major and minor. On the guitar, I'd typically play 1 7 11 13, which happens to fret pretty nicely too. So in C13 would be C Bb E A

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The interval between 7 and 13 would be a Major 7, not a diminished octave. The numbers you used to describe building this chord do not align with your example (E is 3) and I would disagree with the 11 being present. –  Basstickler Apr 17 '14 at 12:26
@ Hilmar - 1,7,11,13.Would be C,B,F and A. Doesn't sound too good ! C,Bb,E and A will constitute C13, as we said before, G as 5 is not needed, and 9 and 11 can be missed out.Did you mean 1,b7,10 and 13 ? –  Tim Apr 19 '14 at 12:09
  1. The character of the 13th is essentially determined by its third and seventh voices. In the key of C, the Aeolian mode has a b13 (F). The chord would be a min11(b13). The Dorian mode has a natural 13, so the chord would be a min13.

  2. With html's superscripts, we can notate the chord and alterations appropriately. In fact, I have created summary harmonization tables that may answer your underlying questions.

@user10304 asserted that you can't play an actual 13th chord on guitar. While it is true that guitarists cannot simultaneously finger all of the voices as a pianist would, guitarists can still play an abbreviated version that retains the character of the 13th chord. In these tables, I have illustrated voices omitted for guitar in the color gray. The retained 13th chord voices generally include the root, third, seventh, thirteenth, together with any altered voices. Sometimes the chords get too complex for the guitar, such as in the Locrian mode.

In these tables, the highlighted chords contain "avoid" notes illustrated in red; they generally sound dissonant, so treat them accordingly.

You may readily discover these 13ths on guitar ranging from Texas blues to straight-ahead jazz. One of my favorite examples would be SRV's Riveria Paradise.

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You can't play an actual 13th chord on a guitar. Also a 13th chord is just the entire major scale played at the same time as one chord and sounds like shit. You might me more interested in piano.. But.. You can break down the chord into a guitar format by removing notes....

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That SHOULD be called a dom7th with 13 added.. but most in jazz call it a 13th cause they ignore classical theory. I was having a bit of fun with the naming convention somewhat but literal theory has 13th chords as the entire scale. At least for classical piano notation. Again, the jazz guys call what you mention a 13th chord usually but it is kinda sorta wrong to do that. –  user10304 Apr 16 '14 at 16:27
10304 - thanks, I knew !Think that just about winds it up. –  Tim Apr 16 '14 at 16:29
I'm interested to find out what happened to the rest of this discussion - a lot of it was relevant to the question, but somehow it has been made to disappear. –  Tim Apr 16 '14 at 18:16

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