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

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
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    It's way too soon to vote a 'favourite' answer. This debate may run... – Tim Apr 16 '14 at 15:57
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    From my experience and training, as well as studying on my own, I have found that there is no necessity to use all the notes. Saying 13 does imply that the other extensions would be appropriate in the chord. Saying 'no 9' typically means that there specifically should not be one, which would be implied without the note. – Basstickler Apr 16 '14 at 15:57
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    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
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    @TimHargreaves - first past the post doesn't make it the best answer you're going to get. – Tim Apr 16 '14 at 16:11

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.

13th Chords always have a major 13. When altering the 13, the extension of your chord gets smaller. The 9th and/or 11th can be omitted. But when omitting both, it's probably better written as an add13 chord. The 3th and 5th can be omitted if they are respectively major and perfect. When omitting the 3th, but with either an 11 or 9, a sus chord is formed (11 has priority over 9). A sharp 11th is common for dominant 13 chords to avoid a clash between the 3th and 11th. The root can be omitted if it is implied by another instrument (like the bass).

Common 13th chords:

  • C△13 C (D) (E) (F) (G) A B
  • C-13 C (D) Eb (F) (G) A Bb
  • C13 C (D) (E) (F) (G) A Bb
  • C13♯11 C (D) (E) F# (G) A Bb
  • Cø13, C-13♭5 C (D) Eb (F) Gb A Bb
  • C-△13 C (D) Eb (F) (G) A B
  • C+△13, C△13♯5 C (D) (E) (F) G# A B
  • C+13 C (D) (E) (F) G# A Bb
  • △13, C-△13♭5 C (D) Eb (F) Gb A B
  • 13 C (D) Eb (F) Gb A Bbb -> you will never encounter this chord because B𝄫 and A clash

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

You would use the highest extension below the 13th of the chord, with an altered 13th.


  • C11♭13 C (D) (E) F (G) Ab Bb
  • C-9♭13 C D Eb (G) Ab Bb
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  • I think this is the best answer, because it's much clearer that the 13th is assumed to be major (A), not ♭13 (A♭). – user45266 May 13 '19 at 15:12

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. 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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  • We CAN actually play 13th chords on guitar. For example, we can play Cmaj13 (C - E - A - B - E), Dm13 (D - B - C - F), Em7 (b13) (E - C - D - G - B), Fmaj13 (F - A - E - A - D - E), G13 (G - B - F - G - B - E), Am7 (b13) (A - F - G - C - E), and Bm7 (b13) (B - G - A - D). – user53472 Feb 18 '19 at 11:52
  • You can not unless you tune weird and use 7 strings. You need 7 notes for an actual 13th sort of chord. When you omit notes leading up to it such as the 2 or 4.. you are not playing a real 13th sort of chord. – user10304 Feb 25 '19 at 8:23
  • I wouldn't accept a chord name for a chord that isn't containing the required notes of the chord. That would mean there is no system and music theory is not a science or shouldn't exist at all. – user10304 May 25 '19 at 3:35

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