From page 752, of Laitz's The Complete Musician 4th edit.

''(...) By continuing the process of stacking thirds, these composers added another third above the seventh, creating a ninth chord; by adding another third above that ninth they created an eleventh chord(...)''

These composers=generally late 19th and early 20th century composers (Bartok,Ravel,Debussy,Schoenberg)

From the text I draw on the conclusion that 9th chord invented during those years which surprised me as I though that it is much older than 1900s.

Is it the thing that the author mentions or is it something else? When in the western music history, 9th chords invented and widely used first?

  • I know you're asking about ninths in analysis and theory, but the sound of a ninth chord is embedded in the harmonic series, where the 5th, 6th, 7th and 9th harmonics correspond to third, fifth, ♭seventh and ninth.
    – Theodore
    Nov 11, 2022 at 14:47

3 Answers 3


Like ttw says, it depends on how you define a ninth chord (or any similar extended tertian, like an eleventh or thirteenth). Kirnberger differentiated between "essential" dissonances and "inessential" dissonances. In short, the difference is whether the dissonance resolves simultaneously with the chord change (meaning it is an "essential" part of the chord) or if it resolves before the chord changes (meaning it is an "inessential" part of the chord).

In my experience, true ninth chords, where the ninth is an essential dissonance, starts to appear around the middle of the 19th century with Wagner, Liszt, maybe some Chopin, etc.

But inessential ninths are found at least as early as the Classical era; see m. 7 of the second movement of Mozart K332. I would argue that this D♭ resolves before the chord change, making this D♭ just a long non-chord tone and not a true chordal ninth.

  • Do the ninths that often occur in 16th century counterpoint not count for some reason?
    – phoog
    Nov 10, 2022 at 21:51
  • As "inessential ninths," I mean, not essential, because of course they are suspensions that resolve before the chord change.
    – phoog
    Nov 11, 2022 at 9:48
  • @phoog I'm not sure what you mean. If you're saying that these are examples before the Classical era, then I'm all for it! I'm not much of an expert on earlier music, so I frankly wasn't aware those ninths occurred so often.
    – Richard
    Nov 11, 2022 at 13:44
  • Is this an essential IV9 in Mozart K488 m1? youtube.com/watch?v=bkSVeH4zoFI#t=2m9s The D in b.70's 1st half's bass shows that that half-bar's harmony is D, not A. If the seventh and ninth (C#, E) are said to resolve, they do so very fleetingly, for only a semiquaver (16th) which sounds more like a passing chord than part of the harmony.
    – Rosie F
    Nov 12, 2022 at 13:06
  • Yes, that's what I meant; I was just probing the precise meaning of "at least as early as the classical era." I thought I'd find them in Tallis, but I haven't (I'm not counting passing tones in ornamental scalar passages). They're fairly common in late 16C English madrigals, often in sequences of double suspensions (e.g. a third above a 7-6 suspension). I didn't see any in a quick scan of a couple of Palestrina pieces. I haven't looked at any other countries. It would be interesting to identify when and where they first came into use.
    – phoog
    Nov 12, 2022 at 13:14

I found a reference from Kirnberger (though no source, just a comment) suggesting that the ninth is an "unessential" harmony; a ninth chord may drop the ninth without changing the basic harmony; this (nach Kirnberger) cannot be done with the seventh. I didn't find a reference to using an unprepared ninth as an object in itself (though such discussions occur in the 1600s about sevenths.) Some time back I found a circle-of-fifths progression in Vivaldi using all chords as sevenths (some major, some minor.)

The question has a somewhat fuzzy answer in that suspensions of ninths may cause an "ephemeral" ninth chord to occur; one can also treat suspensions of a seventh similarly.


T-Bone Walker used ninth chords in many of his songs, including his immortal Stormy Monday Blues. I don't know of any earlier use of ninth chords in blues prior to his recordings but the chord I call the T-Bone Walker chord has been used by plenty of blues guitarists since then.

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