In the key of C major, making a circle of fifths, I get these chord symbols...

CΔ9 - FΔ9 - Bm7♭5 - Em7♭9 - Am9 - Dm9 - G9 - CΔ9

I left the vii chord as just a half-diminished seventh.

I especially wonder about the iii chord. Should it be a minor flat nine?

I know ii-V-I and vi-ii-V-I are jazz basic, but are other segments of the circle using IV, vii, and iii commonly used in jazz?

  • 1
    Of course, why not 13th chords, starting on any note of the diatonic scale play the mode that naturally occurs there in 3rds and you create a 13th chord. The real issue is whether or not the additional notes "move" naturally to the notes of another chord in a progression. That helps but is not a prerequisite for the chord to exist.
    – user50691
    Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 21:25
  • Why did you leave the viio chord as just vii%7?
    – user53472
    Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 2:22
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    @RailroadHill, with the flat 9th it seems so dissonant. I wasn't playing the 9th so I wrote the symbol as I actually played it. But, yes, the ninth chord would be Bm7b5b9. Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 13:52
  • @MichaelCurtis - Well, then why did you use an iii9? (Which also contains a minor second) Is it because the vii9 has a tritone + minor second which makes it even more dissonant than iii9?
    – user53472
    Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 13:03

2 Answers 2


Yes, jazz has a standard set of diatonic 9th chords:

Examples in C major:

  • Cmaj9
  • Dm9
  • Em7(♭9)
  • Fmaj9
  • G9
  • Am9
  • Bm7(♭5 ♭9)

That's pretty much exactly what you said. However, even though these are the diatonic 9th chords, some of them are rarely used, especially the iii chord you mentioned and the vii° chord, because of that flat ninth. IV-vii° is not very common in jazz, but vii°-iii is more common, especially if the chords are dominant sevenths instead.

Also, please note that my notation of these chords is by no means accepted jazz standard, but you get the idea of what they are.

  • I suppose the flat 9 and the min7b5 (half diminished chord) will be typical when the key is minor, something like dm7b5-G7b9-cmin, is that right? Commented Sep 11, 2018 at 20:16
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    On the topic of 9th chords, it's fairly common to hear the half diminished chord with a natural 9th too. This implies the Locrian ♯2 scale (or Locrian ♮2, depending on the naming convention)--the 6th mode of the melodic minor. For ex, the Bm7 chord would now imply the D melodic minor scale. (This obviously isn't diatonic to C maj any longer.)
    – jdjazz
    Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 11:12
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    @jdjazz is correct. It's also very common to play the natural ninth over the iii chord. You can play an Em9 chord in C major without the F# spoiling the fact that you're in C. In this case the consonance of the Em9 chord (as opposed to the very dissonant Em♭9) easily justifies the exception.
    – Max
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 2:05

So user45266 answered your question perfectly well in terms of what the chords would be if you constructed a bunch of 9th chords using only the diatonic scale.

But that doesn't really address the fact that, while it's perfectly possible to construct a set of 9th chords using the major scale, there really is no reason to; if you're talking about jazz (or impressionist) harmony that uses a lot of extended chords (like 9ths, 11ths, 13ths, 6/9s etc. etc.), the harmony of that type of music isn't really based on the diatonic scale at all. And as a corollary to that, music that is diatonic doesn't really use 9th chords. In fact, I would be surprised if you could find a piece of music that is both diatonic and uses 9th chords.

So in a sense, the answer to your question of:

Is there a standard set of diatonic ninth chords in jazz?

Is "no". I mean, yes, there are a set of diatonic 9th chords that you can construct out of the diatonic scale, but no that set isn't in any sense a standard element of jazz (or indeed any music). Now just because 9th chords are used non-diatonically doesn't mean that they're used non-functionally of course (although they certainly can be).

The use of these types of chords started to get more and more prominent in the modern jazz of the 50s and beyond, and one of the major influences on this was Bill Evans, who was in turn influenced by impressionist composers of the 19th and early 20th century (who were in turn also influenced by jazz). Earlier jazz certainly contained a lot of harmonic innovation and block chord voicings, but real extended chords as the bread and butter of jazz harmony started to properly kick in after this point. And the music that uses it is not in any meaningful sense diatonic.

Now I'n not saying this necessarily applies to you at all (I don't know anything about you!) but there is sometimes a tendency of musicians from the classical tradition approaching jazz to view chromatic harmony as sort of "diatonic harmony plus some extra notes", and so group chords into sort of the "basic" chords plus the "chromatic" chords, and when you're not using the default "basic" chords you can turn to some more "chromatic" chords because "jazz breaks the rules". This is a fundamental misunderstanding of how jazz works.

So in a sense your question is kind of like:

Is there a standard set of oud power chords for arabic music?


Are there a standard set of lydian triads for rock music?

And while those questions could definitely be answered materially (it's possible to play power chords on an oud, and there are 7 triads that can be constructed out of the lydian scale), the real answer to the questions is "no."

  • Thanks for the jazz v. classical breakdown. I suppose the something similar can be said of blues: it isn't just a pentatonic scale with a flat 5 added. Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 19:32
  • FWIW, no diatonic 9th chords 'in any music' is an over statement. Sequential 7th and 9th chords are found in classical style. They are treated as suspensions, but they are thought of as chords with 7ths and 9ths. But understood they don't form the basis of jazz harmony. Commented Sep 14, 2018 at 13:06
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    "Diatonic 9th chords" are very strictly defined as well. By definition of the major scale, there exists a set of seven diatonic 9th chords, and only seven. Other chords are usable, by all means, but they are defined to not be diatonic. Diatonic means "containing notes that are part of the parent scale". The confusion comes when people mistake "diatonic" for "can be used in that key".
    – user45266
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 1:25

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