enter image description hereI'm wondering if the following two variations of 12 bar blues I'm using work for an arrangement for Mr. PC:

| Cm9 | Cm9 | Cm9 | Cm9 |

| Fm11 | Fm11 | Fm11 | Fm11 |

|Ab13(#11)| G9(#5) | Cm9 | Cm9 |

| Cm9 | Cm7 | Cm9 | Cm9 |

| Fm11 | Fm9 | Cm9 | Cm9 |

| Ab#13(#11) | G9(#5)| Cm9 |

For the Fm11 chord, I omitted the 9th; the Cm9 chord has the 3rd emitted; the Ab13(#11) has the 5th omitted and the 9th omitted.

This is what we're left with:

Cm9 : C, G, Bb, D

Fm11: F, Ab, C, Eb, Bb

Ab13(#11): Ab, C, Gb, D, F

G9(#5) - G, B, D#, F, A

I know that an 11th chord is rare in practice because of its inherent dissonance, but it can still be played if you omit one or two of its degrees. What chord substitutions should I make, if necessary? What works, what doesn't?

  • 1
    When talking about voicings, the placement of the notes (orchestration) matters as much as (if not more than) the notes chosen. Would you be willing to post the score? – Max Dec 3 '20 at 0:07
  • Works fine to me, but I miss the Bb chord at the end of each 4-bars. – Aaron Dec 3 '20 at 0:32
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    It's hardly cm9 if it has the 3rd omitted! – leftaroundabout Dec 3 '20 at 0:37
  • I agree with @leftaroundabout. What do you gain by getting rid of the -3rd in a -9 chord? – ggcg Dec 3 '20 at 0:51
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    Nothing wrong with omitting the third on a minor chord, as long as you have a reason for doing so (e.g. voice leading). If you want to nitpick you can choose to call the chord Gm/C instead, but that's just semantics. The OP is doing a reharm anyway so without seeing the score, it's too soon to count that against him. And Daniel, that link is a local file path on your computer. You should take a screenshot of the score and insert it in your question instead. – Max Dec 3 '20 at 1:23

Ultimately, you are the arranger, so it is up to you to decide what works and what doesn't. I'll just try to limit my answer to just factual, and not artistic, points.

What works:

The minor 11 chords are fine in practice. You seem to have the misconception that these chords are rare, but in fact they are common and sound very nice. You do want to avoid 11 chords with a major third though - like a C11 or Cmaj11 - because of the minor 9th interval between the major 3rd and the 11th.

The Ab13(#11) and G9(#5) chords are good choices here. They are acceptable substitutions for Ab7 and G7, which might normally be written there.

What doesn't:

Your Cm9 voicing is really a C7sus2 because you've substituted the 9th (or 2nd) for the 3rd. It is your choice as an artist to use whatever chord you want there, but the voicing you indicate is not a minor chord. So either change the voicing, or call it a C7sus2. All your other voicings have 5 notes, so why only 4 notes in this chord anyway?

Ab#13#11 - I'm not sure if this is a typo, but it isn't a real chord symbol because the #13 is the same pitch as the 7. Ab7(#11) would be the correct way to write this chord symbol.

The root of the chord has to go in the bass, otherwise it is a different chord. Your first chord says Cm9, but your score has a Bb on the bottom (and no Eb as mentioned above). Again, it's up to you to decide what "works," but the symbol and the voicing don't match.

Lastly, your chords are all voiced too low. One might consider this a matter of taste, but it is quite jarring in this case. A good rule of thumb is to put wider intervals at the bottom, and smaller intervals at the top. This is because the lower notes tend to sound "muddy" and less distinct. Those stacked thirds in the bottom of the bass clef just don't give a clear indication of the harmony. Try spacing the notes out from low to high in the order you have them spelled in the question C-G-Bb-D.


One idea would be to play a G7 rather than G9 at the end of the piece; then finish with a simple Cm. It tends to sound more final sometimes. The ninth and higher more complex chords can sometimes sound muddy; this doesn't hurt in the middle but sometimes it's nice to signal an ending. (Or you could just keep repeating and fade out; I don't like fadeouts much though.)

Also on the last time through, the second measure Ab#13(#11) can be with a Dm7/F before the G7.

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