I would like to know how to play extended/add chords on the guitar, for example Cadd9 here. I want to systematize chords and draw diagrams of them.

  1. What does "Сadd9" or "С+9" mean? Can chords such as "C+10" or "С-5" exist?

  2. What does "A/C" mean? Can "A/A" or "B/A" exist?

Where can I see diagrams of chords?

  • 1
    be careful with the answers for this question. there is no real standard for naming conventions and you may get a different answer for some symbols from a "jazzer" then someone that studied classically or is a "rocker". for example you may have capitol M for major and lower for m but other might thing a - is minor. some will use a triangle for something, i don't know... that being said some things will be standard, just beware – b3ko Sep 24 at 15:11
  • this page is a good start: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chord_names_and_symbols_(popular_music) – b3ko Sep 24 at 15:14
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Cadd9 is a C major triad with the 9th note from that scale added. C E G D. C+9 is rather a different beast. It has an augmented 5th note, and because it's a 9th, will include the m7 too. Thus C E G# Bb D. Don't be fooled into thinking 'add' and '+' are the same!

C+10 wouldn't make a lot of sense, since usually the affected numbers are 5, 7, 9, 11 13, but would be C E G# E, not sounding any different from a standard C augmented (C+).

The '-' sign usually means 'minor', so -5 can't exist.

A/C would be an A major chord, with a C as the bass under it. Strange sounding again!. Yes, A/B is used a fair bit, in jazz, and A/C# is just the first inversion of A major, with the third at the bottom.

There are many sites which show 'chord boxes', some more accurate and helpful than others. Have a look at some chord theory, which will help you understand what's in this and other answers, and clear up some of your misunderstandings. We all had (and still have) some ourselves!

Basic formula: start with triad (CEG). For 'add' the commonest one is 9. So add D. Yes, it's 2 as well, but doesn't sound good against the 3 (D again!), or sus 4, using F to replace E.

The '+' augments an interval. Usually P5. So C+ uses C E G#, where G# is aug.5. With a '7' in the chord, if it's major 7, it uses the major 7 note (surprise!) so C E G B. If it's dominant 7, it uses m7, so C E G Bb. If it's m7, it uses min. triad - C Eb G - with m7 of Bb.

  • 1
    Actually, C+9 means a C augmented chord (C E G#) extended up to the ninth. A 9 implies a dominant 7th (just as a 13 implies a 9th and a 7th), so a C+9 spelled out is C, E, G#, Bb, D. If you wanted a C E G Bb D#, you would notate it as C7#9. In jazz music, we often use "alt" ("altered") as a shorthand to describe b9 and #9 extensions with or without augmented or diminished triads. – Jay Carlson Sep 24 at 16:24
  • @JayCarlson - thanks for that. Yes, it's correct. I have seen C #9, (not C#9), and fallen foul of that one! Edited. – Tim Sep 24 at 16:29
  • Please read edit for edification. – Tim Sep 25 at 7:46

"A/C" means "A major with C as the bass note". I guess you could technically have "A/A" but it would be a little redundant because it would just mean "A major with A as the root note" (aka just "A major"). "A/B" is certainly a valid chord, albeit a little unusual-sounding.

Regarding "Cadd9", this means "C major with major 9th added", or the chord C E G D. This is as opposed to C9, which is C E G Bb D (Bb meaning "B flat") - the 9th is added to the top of the chord, rather than just adding notes until you get to the 9th.

I'm not sure what you expect something like C-5 to be. Technically it means "C minor" but is a very weird way of writing it; the - symbol can be used to signify a minor chord (though it's pretty uncommon to see it written like that) and it's usually just a given that the 5th is there.

The most common symbols are things like b (flat), # (sharp), + (augmeted) and o (diminished). Wikipedia can be a good source of knowledge for things like this.

In terms of chord diagrams, just a quick google search will tell you countless ways of playing the chord you're looking for on your chosen instrument.

  • perhaps that C-5 was meant to be C5 (like a power chord). Only some styles of music will use the - to mean minor. – b3ko Sep 24 at 15:13
  • @b3ko maybe. The question wasn't clear so I thought I'd mention what it technically means just in case. I linked to the Wikipedia article if OP is interested in any further reading though :-) – James Whiteley Sep 24 at 15:16

Interesting thread. Good comments!

perhaps that C-5 was meant to be C5 (like a power chord).

[edit] Yes! I overlooked that earlier. I use that notation where needed; "C5" being open-5th power chord; no 3rd. Thanks for the reminder. :-)

I agree with James, "A/A" is totally redundant. It's not wrong in any academic sense, but is unnecessary in any conventional situation. The default is always "no inversion". The "bass note" of chord X major, X minor, X whatever, is always X unless otherwise specified.

"A/B" is certainly a valid chord. :-)

Yep. At a glance, that construct appears to be an A major triad played over the 2nd degree (B) of the chord scale. However, 99,999 times out of 100,000, it fulfills the the usual harmonic function of a B7 chord, because it's not an A chord at all: it's a variation of a B dominant 7th chord. Specifically, it is a B(9)sus4.

(The A major triad up top is the triad based on flat-seven of the bass note, B, which is the REAL root of the chord. In other keys: Bb/C, Eb/F, E/F#, etc. The denominator is the root.)

Rarely will you see B(9)sus4 on a lead sheet. Typically it will be A/B or F#m7/B; both fulfill the same function as B7sus4 (even though none of the three are are literally equivalent).

Both forms are EXTREMELY COMMON V-of-I chords in popular songs. I'd say that way, WAY more than half of all R&B, Soul, and soft rock tunes of the '60s, '70s, and '80s utilize that construct when a five-of-something chord is needed. Sit at your piano, play an Em7 chord with your right hand, a lower A with your left, and resolve it to some sort of D (such as D, D6, Dmaj7, Dm, Dm7, Dm9). Whatever you do, it will probably sound somewhat familiar. :-)

On a guitar, it's the easiest barre chord you'll ever play: Mute the low E, and barre all the other strings at (say) the 5th fret -- and that's it. You've got a C/D (more accurately, Am7/D) which makes a nice five-of some form of G or Gm. The root will be on the A string. (There are other forms, of course, but they are beyond the scope of this comment.)

BTW, the little triangle is shorthand for "major", the context virtually always being a Major 7th chord:

CΔ7 = C major 7th chord, (a C-E-G-B tetrad in the inversion of your choice). :-)

I also agree with James' caution about standards. They exist, and though they are not universal or immutable, it behooves us to adhere to them as best we can. Sometimes, context can reveal the meaning of an otherwise ambiguous operator.

For example The "+" can mean "add" but more often means "augmented" or "sharp" (example: D7+5 is a D7 aug 5th; D7+9 would be synonymous with D7#9).

The "-" is often shorthand for "minor" (e.g. "E-7", an E minor 7th chord) but could also be used to mean:

  • "diminish" : e.g. "D-5", meaning "D flat-5th", not "D without a 5th" or
  • "flat" ("E7-9", meaning "E dominant 7th chord with a flat9th". Note that in this case, the minus sign means "ADD a flat 9th to the chord".

I hope this is useful, and not too confusing.

  • Not seen '+' as meaning 'add' yet. And while logic says '-' should mean dim., not seen that either. Have seen '-' to depict flatten a note - but that doesn't always make it diminished. – Tim Sep 25 at 7:19
  • perhaps that C-5 was meant to be C5 - no, I see that C+5 exists, is this cause that C-5 exists? – nick_n_a Sep 25 at 7:28
  • @nick_n_a C- is an uncommon way of writing "C minor". The opposite symbol to - is Δ (ie "major"). Thinking of + and - as mathematical symbols will cause you a lot of headaches. Look at the link I posted in my answer for more info on symbols in musical notation. – James Whiteley Sep 25 at 8:27

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