I'm looking for the naming background behind the Dm9 chord (perhaps some others also but this one got me confused).

Here is the example:

enter image description here

This translates to:

  • d2 - root (for the D in the chord)
  • f2 - minor third (for the m in the chord)
  • c3 - minor 7
  • e3 - ninth (for the 9 in the chord)

I'm confused by two things:

  • Why isn't there a 5th?
    • was under the impression it defaults to being there unless stated otherwise
  • Why isn't the 7 explicitly stated in the chord name?

2 Answers 2


First question: the 5th is often left out of chords, particularly on guitar, for a couple of good reasons. Often, a note contained in a full chord cannot be fingered with a good voicing, and in any case, the sound of the 5th is implied in an overtone produced by the root. In chords containing many notes, some need to be sacrificed when played on guitar.

Second question: after a chord has a 7th (of any kind), the next interval is usually the 9th. It's accepted that any 9th chord will have the 7th in there as well, so it doesn't need stating. It's implicit in the '9th' name. Obviously if the chord is 'add9', then it's just the triad, and no 7th is there anyway.

It might be interesting for you to try finding other voicings for Dm9, using D F A C and E. You will find out that when four out of the five notes are under your fingers, that elusive fifth is just out of reach ! Although a couple do exist which contain all the notes.

  • If desired, for the given voicing the fifth could be added without much effort on the fifth fret of one of the two E (e) strings.
    – Matt L.
    May 13, 2018 at 11:58
  • @MattL. - you could indeed. That's the trouble with blindly using chord shapes someone else has made up, and the reason for my last paragraph.
    – Tim
    May 13, 2018 at 12:03

I would add something to the above statement. While fingering is the key to understanding guitar chord forms in harmony theory we are taught that the 5th of just about any chord can be sacrificed, it rarely serves a purpose in movement from one chord to another. It is often deleted fro the dominant 7 chord and all of its extensions. So, even if you had enough fingers and strings to grab it, it isn't necessary.

  • Ask any guitarists who uses 'power chords' and they will disagree.
    – Tim
    May 25, 2018 at 10:55
  • Look at classical and modern music theory. Guitar habits don't rule the world. The Powerless Chord (no harmonic content), :-D
    – user50691
    May 25, 2018 at 11:02

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