When performing popular songs, mellow music, love songs and old favorites, is it necessary for any reason to play extend chords beyond 9th chords to sound good?

  • Short answer: no. – leftaroundabout Sep 1 '16 at 7:07
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    This is a bit like saying, "when playing rock music, do I need a male singer". Or "when playing classical music, do I need violin". The answer is that it's completely a matter of taste, it absolutely depends on the song and the arrangement, and absolutely on the effect you want to give. There are no hard and fast rules; "dream a little dream of me" probably is going to benefit from extended chords, "high and dry" probably wants some suspended chords in there and "hey jude" probably wont benefit from a C11b5 add(#5). But never say never. – Some_Guy Sep 1 '16 at 10:20
  • The real answer is that a lot of jazzier tunes (Show tunes, crooners etc.) will include extended chords and you'll miss the whole emotion of the song without them, some songs sound better with them but do fine without, some songs would sound busy and bland with unnecessary chord extensions. "Somewhere over the rainbow" sounds awful if you strip it to triads. As would... say... "have you met miss jones". But then the most commonly played "acoustic" version of the somewhere over the rainbow song completely changes the melody and harmony altogether and is always a winner. – Some_Guy Sep 1 '16 at 10:27
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    the point is, will you always be able to play everything? No. Will you be able to amass a decent repertoire, sure! – Some_Guy Sep 1 '16 at 10:27
  • There are many songs I don't bother to cover because they won't sound right without the extended jazz chords and my short stubby fingers can't always reach the right spots. But I often can find substitute chords that sound authentic for some songs in place of the extended chords . If playing solo guitar as the only accompaniment, it is not as easy to get away with playing the substitute chords without losing some of the authenticity. My repertoire of songs I cover with the band is much larger than for solo. Even in a two guitar duo, the second guitarist can fill in the missing notes. – Rockin Cowboy Sep 2 '16 at 1:21

Most pop type songs will include major and minor triads, sus chords, 6th chords, the 3 main 7th chords, and occasionally 9ths, more often dominants than minor 9, #9 or b9ths So, as leftaroundabout states explicitly, no. 11ths and 13ths can be used, in place of others, to spice up the accompaniment, but that's discretion, rather than what's written.

'To sound good' is subjective, but with the options of different voicings, slash bass notes, etc. there's probably enough to be going on with, without straying into jazz type territory, which almost expects chords to have bigger numbers than 7 or 9!!

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