When I try to construct 11th chords, they always sound horrible and muddy. I also rarely come across them in chord charts unless it's a #11. The only extensions that sound good are 9ths and 13ths. Is there any use for 11th chords? Does anyone use them, or know of any examples of their usage?
Oftentimes 11th chords are voiced without the chordal third. This is because the chordal third can often conflict with the 11th to create an unwanted dissonance.
Imagine, for instance, we want a C11 chord. Technically speaking, this chord would consist of
C E G Bf D F. However, the minor 9th between
F can create a dissonance more harsh than is intended. As such, composers will often just omit the chordal third.
This is actually why you've found so many more #11 chords: because here the chord will be
C E G Bf D F#, and the dissonance from
F# is now a major ninth, which is much more palatable.
Interestingly, now you have a major seventh between the
G and the
F# in the #11 chord. For some reason, this dissonance of a major seventh (a half-step adjusted by an octave) is okay. Meanwhile, the minor ninth from the original
F (also a half-step adjusted by an octave!) is less desirable...funny how that works.
But typically these extended chords just function as dominants. You can throw them in wherever you see a dominant and see how you like it; just make sure the melody isn't hanging out on the chordal third that you're omitting!
Of course, they don't have to be dominants; that was just an easy example to get you experimenting. There's something called a "rock dominant" that is just a IV chord played above the fifth scale degree. In C major, this would be
F A C occurring over
G, which creates a V11 chord.
Believers in the "pile of thirds" get uncomfortable when you mention the 11th :-) Yes, the #11 is far more common. It doesn't fit into functional harmony nearly as well as the 9th or 13th, it's normally more of a colourful decoration (like an added 6th or 2nd).
A sus4 chord (whether or not it resolves) or a F/G is sometimes incorrectly labelled as an 11th. The incorrectness wouldn't matter so much if it wasn't for the confusion whether "G11" is intended to mean G7sus4 or F/G. In the sort of harmonic shorthand that uses chord symbols I think we could be confident it WOULDN'T mean G, B, D, F, A, C.
Here's something that could be a full 11th chord though, bar 3 of 'Hey Jude'. I don't think there's more than one chord in that bar. I'm not going to notate it as G11 though, or someone will play a G7sus4 or a F/G. Better to leave it as G7 with both C and B in the melody.
"Muddy" isn't the same as "dissonant". The simplest way to avoid mud in any chord voicing is to avoid intervals of a third at the low end of the chord.
The underlying reason for that voicing strategy is because equal-temperament thirds are horribly out of tune compared with "pure" just intonation intervals, though having listened to them from birth many people tend not to notice how out of tune they are. An equal-tempered major third is almost 1/6 of a semitone wider than a pure third. Below middle C, that creates out-of-tune beats that are almost slow enough to count, if you listen carefully.
A C11 chord can be built mostly from a stack of fourths: C F Bb E G, F Bb E G C, or G C F Bb E. That will sound much less "muddy" than a stack of thirds, which may be the "obvious" way for a relative beginner to think about the chord.
With those voicings, a C minor 11 chord (with Eb) has every interval a perfect fourth, except for the third Eb to G.
Yes, but not many of them. See my response to https://music.stackexchange.com/questions/45965/what-is-the-mood-of-the-eleventh-chord/45967#45967. In truth, the min11 begins my favorite tritone substitution. And those eleventh chords that are not dissonant have an uncommon feel about them. (For further information, check out "avoid notes" and map out the elevenths that have them and those that do not.)
For the record, that tritone sub is iimin11 - bIIdom7#11 - Imaj7 (in A), all pedaling the high E voice (in the fifth position) with both the open string and the fretted note.
I think that a better question may be "Does anyone play 11th chords with a major third?".
The dominant 11th and minor 11th chords are used a lot in soul music. If you want a super popular example, listen to Justin Timberlake's Can't Stop the Feeling. they are found in almost every song by Jamiroquai or Stevie Wonder, lots in Micheal Jackson, stuff like that. The lack of usage reflects mostly the way that music theory is taught - JUST STACK THIRDS, THAT SOUNDS GOOD. Stacking fourths gives a more open, ambiguous sound. You can play any bass note under them.
Yes, a lot of people do!
„So what chords“ are 11th chords:
11th and sus4: is this the same chord? No:
11th contains the third: in major this will sound quite dissonant!
Yes. Everyone can play 11th chords any time. This is because we have a set of diatonic 11th chords:
In C major:
- Cmaj11 (C - E - G - B - D - F)
- Dm11 (D - F - A - C - E - G)
- Em11(♭9) (E - G - B - D - F - A)
- Fmaj9(♯11) (F - A - C - E - G - B)
- G11 (G - B - D - F - A - C)
- Am11 (A - C - E - G - B - D)
- Bm11(♭5 ♭9) (B - D - F - A - C - E)
In A minor:
- Am(maj11) (A - C - E - G♯ - B - D)
- Bm11(♭5 ♭9) (B - D - F - A - C - E)
- Cmaj11(♯5) (C - E - G♯ - B - D - F)
- Dm9(♯11) (D - F - A - C - E - G♯)
- E11(♭9) (E - G♯ - B - D - F - A)
- Fmaj7(♯9 ♯11) (F - A - C - E - G♯ - B)
- G♯dim7(♭9 ♭11) (G♯ - B - D - F - A - C)
Since we have this set, it is 100% possible to play 11th chords any time. Therefore, some people would choose to use it, while others choose not to sometimes.