I’m reading the jazz piano book and I can’t see how the upper c flat note has a place in the C7+9 chord.

image of the chord

The ninth note on the C major scale is a d so +9 would be d# not c flat = b

Or am I wrong?

  • 1
    Would it be from a Mark Levine book? There are often anomalies such as that.
    – Tim
    Nov 14 '18 at 9:20
  • Yes indeed @Tim Nov 14 '18 at 9:21
  • He has strange ways of explaining some things, in which the figures don't always align with the explanation in the text. I found it hard work, although he is held in high regard, it would appear. Try Bert Ligon.
    – Tim
    Nov 14 '18 at 9:25
  • @Tim passing by, but wondering: what exactly do you suggest reading by Bert Ligon? I also find Levine's not as good to my taste as people say. Is it 'Connecting chords with Linear harmony'?
    – Claud H
    Nov 14 '18 at 11:08
  • 2
    @ClaudH - Jazz Theory Resources.
    – Tim
    Nov 14 '18 at 11:24

Pretty poor writing! If the dots had stems, it would be more clear, as that top note actually belongs to the bass clef, making it Eb. Even though it could be construed as looking like it's part of the treble clef, which would make it Cb, and utter rubbish!

But that's still wrong! C7+9 has an augmented 9th note. That's D#, not Eb, even though it's enharmonic.

C7+9 contains the notes C E G Bb and D#. Although here the 5 (G) has been left out, which is not uncommon.

  • 2
    For what it's worth, it didn't even occur to me that the top note was being read from the treble clef, though that's clearly what the OP has done. It's too low for that (compare the Bb in the next chord), but also too close for comfort. You're right, it's awful notation.
    – user48353
    Nov 14 '18 at 9:19
  • Jazz musicians generally don't seem to get too hung up about the enharmonic spelling. It's more important that the notation is easy to read, than that it is theoretically correct. I'm guessing the author chose to right the #9 as Eb to avoid the augmented 3rd between the Bb and D#.
    – Peter
    Nov 14 '18 at 13:48
  • @Peter - I don't know, as generally I've been the guitarist or keys player - the one with chords to follow - but from my point of view, I check the name before the voicing, and that sort of thing throws me. At the end of the day, as I've said before, the point of writing music out is to make it easier for others to play, not much else. So when I see something like C7~9, I'm looking, on keys at least, for that D#. On guitar, it's quite different, as I think in shapes, and which fret they get plonked on, at that point, note names are academic.
    – Tim
    Nov 14 '18 at 14:21
  • @Tim I see what you're saying, but it seems like you're talking about reading chord symbols, where as I'm talking about reading fully written-out music. Writing a Bb and D# in the same hand in fully-notated music is not best practice. It's fairly rare in the wild to see both a chord symbol and it's intended voicing on a jazz gig.
    – Peter
    Nov 14 '18 at 14:35
  • @Peter - over half of the stuff I play in two big bands and one quartet - all jazz - has the charts written out with both. Some is just dots. I appreciate keeping to all flats or all sharps if possible, but it doesn't seem to work like that for me!
    – Tim
    Nov 14 '18 at 15:36

The note written is Eb not Cb. You're right about the spelling, D# would be preferable.

If the note were Cb, the notation would look more like this:

enter image description here


First, it's an Eb. It's in bass clef.

Which answere the question. But we might as well also answer the question some people THOUGHT you asked: 'Why spell a #9 note as a flattened note?'

I'd reverse that to 'Why do theorists insist in calling a 'b10' a '#9'?' We hear it as a 'blue' flattened third on top of a dominant 7th shape chord. They allow other exceptions to the 'every chord must be analysed as a pile of thirds' rule. But there it is. Levine has used the 'correct' chord symbol, but has notated what he hears.

  • 1
    This reminds me of a debate between two of my professors back in college. One agreed with you that a #9 was always actually a b10. The other argued that jazz was "the Wild West of enharmonic spellings," and that what mattered was the ease of reading. I personally take the latter opinion, and the last two examples in the above figure really demonstrate this I think. No matter how good your ear is, that C7+5 and the C7b13 will sound identical.
    – Peter
    Nov 14 '18 at 14:22
  • @Peter - true about those last two examples. But how far does it go? What's wrong with +8 instead of b9? Or perhaps instead of C7#9, it is C7 add m3, or C7add m10? Apart from sus2,4 or plain old 6, the rest are stacked thirds. If it ain't broke...
    – Tim
    Nov 14 '18 at 14:29
  • @Tim I'm talking about the notated music, not the chord symbols. It's all about what's easiest to read in a sight-reading situation. Using non-standard chord symbols would be just as confusing as notating a Bb and a D# in the same hand.
    – Peter
    Nov 14 '18 at 14:58
  • @Peter - I'm seeing that all the time, especially when something like the Bb is already in the key sig. Or are you talking purely about accidentals, which may or may not need to appear in a chart?
    – Tim
    Nov 14 '18 at 15:44
  • @Tim I'm sure it's out there, but my composition professors would've disapprove of that. I've always heard that you should avoid augmented/diminished intervals when a major/minor, or perfect interval is available.
    – Peter
    Nov 14 '18 at 16:25

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