Is there an easier way to remember the notes in 11th and 13th chords, like maybe an alteration of a different chord or a combination of two triads? For example, if I see a 13th chord, I have to think "ok the 9th is this, the 10th is this note", etc. That's slow (for me anyway)!

  • In general, I don't think there's a way that is easier than just practicing so long that your fingers remember where to go, as it were.
    – Brian Tung
    Dec 11, 2015 at 20:52

2 Answers 2


Subtract 7 from the extension and the note is the same, but an octave up:

 9th - 7 = 2nd (an octave up)
11th - 7 = 4th (an octave up)
13th - 7 = 6th (an octave up)

So instead of thinking of it like this:

1 3 5 7 9 11 13

It might be easier to think of it like this:

1 3 5 7 2^ 4^ 6^

(here I used ^ to indicate an octave higher)

While you could think of a Cm13 (for example) as a combination of the two chords Cm7 + Dm...I don't think this is really all that helpful and it seems like this would only be more confusing than anything.

  • Oh ok great idea - so building on the answer above, if I use 7 as the magic number, an 11th chord would be 11-7 = 4th, a 13th chord would be 13-7 = 6th. I can do those calcs quickly! Thanks!
    – Flatpick13
    Dec 15, 2015 at 0:52
  • My method was for quickly finding the notes of the higher intervals. If you play an 11th chord, you need to make sure you have the notes leading up to the 11th as well. So in an 11th chord would have the notes: 1 3 5 b7 9 11, which you could also think of as 1 3 5 b7 2^ 4^ (where the ^ indicates an octave up) to help find the notes quickly because the 4th might be easier to find than the 11th.
    – Tekkerue
    Dec 15, 2015 at 5:35

Think of it as two chords. Let's say C13. C E G Bb D F A. The first triad is C major, leaving the 4 note chord of Bbmaj7 (Bb D F A). OR - C dominant 7 - C E G Bb, with D minor over it. So the first way is root triad, bVII major 7 chord, the second - main 7th chord, with ii over it. That way, you have all the main notes, which may or may not be altered anyway, but that would still need calculating in any case.

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