I'm trying to expand my harmony (past the 7ths/9ths/sus4 which have served me fine for pop), and I constructed something funky. I never really got into chord vocab, so I don't know how to describe it so I can explore it more.

From the bottom up, it's: A E F# Bb C# (E)

I think it's A-something. Or is that F# actually a Gb, like a diminished 7th? In the model I was testing, the Bb would actually be an A# but that definitely seems unlikely.

I'm using it like this (link with audio):

  • G6 (G D E G B)
  • A??? (A E F# Bb C#)
  • Bm9 (B F# A C# D)


  • 1
    To get a definitive answer, we'd need the chord in a context. The notes by themselves could be interpreted several ways, as you've demonstrated.
    – Aaron
    Commented Sep 9, 2020 at 21:46
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    @Aaron: I only got as far as the three chord sequence I posted in the question, but it feels pretty strongly like B minor to me.
    – cloudfeet
    Commented Sep 9, 2020 at 22:33
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    I've added a link to a video with audio, for a clearer idea.
    – cloudfeet
    Commented Sep 9, 2020 at 22:53
  • How about describing it in terms of actual music, not verbally. Your example goes to a B minor chord after this chord X, but where else could it plausibly go? Could it go to a D major? D minor? The chord opens up some possibilities and maybe closes some possibilities. How do you feel about it? If you play an A half-whole diminished scale over it, does that feel like preserving the original chord's nature? In what other songs and what roles in them can you place this chord X, while serving essentially the same purpose? How does chord X change the situation compared to the original chords? Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 8:32

2 Answers 2


The underlying harmony is A7 (♮13 ♭9), which could also be notated more simply as A13♭9 (the notation A13 implies that the 7th is flatted). In context, the progression is: | GMaj | A13♭9 | Bmin | and the A13♭9 to Bmin creates a false cadence. The chords | GMaj | A13♭9 | want to resolve to DMaj, which would create the highly common IV-V-I progression. But instead, the progression resolves to Bmin, the iv chord--and Bmin is the relative minor to DMaj.

Regarding the way you've voiced A13♭9: the F♯ Maj triad that occurs in the right hand is called an "upper structure triad." For a dominant seventh chord, there are tons of upper structure triads that fit squarely within traditional jazz theory. You can play 1-3-7 in the left hand (A-C♯-G) and simultaneously play any of the following upper structure triads in your right hand:

  • F♯ Maj - creates A13♭9
  • B Maj - creates A13♯11
  • F Maj - creates A7(♯9♭13)
  • E♭ Maj - creates A7(♭5♭9)
  • B♭ min - creates A7(♭9♭13)

The voicing you've used for A13♭9 doesn't contain the flatted 7th (a G). The G would often be included in the chord voicing for A13♭9, but certainly not always. But if you intended for this chord to never be voiced with any 7th, then you would notate it Aadd13♭9.

  • There is no G in the chord, it is not a dominant chord.
    – user50691
    Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 1:22
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    @jdjazz I'd change "This chord is A7 (♮13 ♭9)" to something like: the chord can be felt as performing the same role as what an A7 would do ... as well as some other roles, for example an F#. Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 8:24
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    @ggcg You don't need a G note. I guess you knew that already, but en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominant_(music) "In music, the dominant is the fifth scale degree of the diatonic scale." and "The triad built on the dominant note is called the dominant chord." In the context (the video) the chord sounds like a mixture between A major and F# major, leaving both options plausible, either going to B something or D something next. Harmonic expectations are imagined by a listener, which is why descriptions (such as yours) contain things you subjectively expected, not only actually sounding notes. Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 8:34
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    @ggcg Thinking of it as a 13 with the 7th left out is not far off, because in the given context, the point of the chord is to do a V of some kind possibly heading towards D ... but with a twist, eventually ending up in Bm. If the song had "A7" written at that point, you might play this chord instead and it would sound nice and do the job of an A7 at that point, even without a G note. A nice guitar fingering/voicing for this is x0x322. You can add a G: x05322 and then it sounds even fuller, but maybe more stereotypical? IMO the G is not required there. Would F#7/A be more understandable? Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 13:05
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    This question and the answers and the discussion in the comments... deep, but unfortunately the StackExchange site format doesn't acknowledge such ambiguity. The OP has basically layered pieces of two "dominant" chords of relative keys, as in "V chords", on top of each other ... this reminds me of Barry Harris and the diminished scale and that the V chords of relative keys are kind of the same. There are many perspectives, and all of them are kind of like true at the same time. That's how MUSIC works. But that's not how StackExchange wants things to be like. Commented Sep 12, 2020 at 21:17

Think of it this way:

In the key of A, you have C# = Maj 3rd, E = 5th, so you have an A maj triad.

The F# is the 6th, and the Bb a flat 9th. It's an odd one. If the dom 7th were there I'd lean towards a 13 (b9). But the A does NOT have to be the tonic.

Starting from F# I would tread the Bb as enharmonic with A#. And I'd treat the A as enharmonic with the Gx (double sharp).

Now you have (F#, A#(Bb), C#) as an F# maj triad. E is the dom 7th and A the #9. So this could be thought of as a strange voicing of an F#(#9),

(1, 3, 5, b7, #9) = (F#, A#, C#, E, Gx). That is not consistent with how you have spelled it, I'd get points off on a theory test for doing this probably, but the fact is in a 12TET tuning system like piano or guitar you will hear a #9 chord.

  • So you reckon it's an F#(#9)... 4th inversion?
    – cloudfeet
    Commented Sep 9, 2020 at 22:31
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    In the video, he's doubling the A with the left hand. To me, that rules out F#(#9). Putting the #9 in the bass causes that note to sound like a b3 and not a #9, which is why this practice is almost never used. That makes F#(#9)/A a highly unlikely choice for the chord. To me, this is a clear case of A13b9, voiced with an upper structure triad (F# Maj). The b7 is missing, but changing the left hand from A2-A3 to A2-G2 completes the sound and completes the voicing, which to me is further evidence that this is indeed A13b9.
    – jdjazz
    Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 1:02
  • I didn't see any video but (1) A13(b9) was my first choice, (2) I disagree with your analysis on doubling notes and placement of the 9th in the bass. Guitar voicings use this all the time, a 4th inversion is not illegal. Perhaps, as you point out not typical but not at all wrong. I would also say that the 7th can NOT be ignored in a 13th chord.
    – user50691
    Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 1:20
  • @ggcg, if you haven't seen the video, then what I'm saying may not make sense. This is a piano voicing, not a guitar voicing, and the left hand is representing what a bassist would play, not what a chordal instrument would play. No straight-ahead jazz bassist would sustain the #9 for the entirety of a dominant 7th #9 chord--this doesn't happen ever in straight-ahead jazz. From lowest to highest, the notes are A2-A3-F#3-A#4-C#4.
    – jdjazz
    Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 1:46
  • @ggcg, just to clarify: when I say "putting the #9 in the bass," I'm literally talking about the bass player, not a chordal guitar voicing which is played on top of some other bass note.
    – jdjazz
    Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 1:49

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