is this F 6'9 chord a figured bass or a chord extension?

I am looking at a lead sheet for I loves You Porgy, and the chord notation reads like a figured bass but does it not make sense as such, so I am wondering, if it is intended as a chord extension for F6/9 chord?

Thanks in anticipation.

• The notation does look like that of an inversion in classical music theory. But there is no 9th in a major triad. there is a 6 and 6/4. – ggcg Aug 12 '19 at 11:21
• I like this song as you can finely show that 79 chords can be analysed as a tower of 2 triads: e.g FMA9 = Cmajor over F ... – Albrecht Hügli Aug 12 '19 at 17:36
• @AlbrechtHügli - what song is it? Where is the 79 chord? Aren't they just a continuation of 'stacked triads'. There's no tower! – Tim Aug 13 '19 at 6:35
• @ Tim: "I love you porgy." DO MI SO TI RE = I79 and LA DO MI SO TI = VI79. you can think you're playing I79 or imaging V/I (V over or above I) – Albrecht Hügli Aug 13 '19 at 11:22

69 chords are chords in their own right. They are major triad, with M6 and M9 added. So F69 comprises F A C D G. 9th chords generally are expected to include a 7th of some kind, unless they're 'add9' chords, but in 69 it's a 6th chord with an added 9, so no 7 is required.

• Sounds better too, without the 7 :) – ugajin Aug 12 '19 at 10:53
• Good answer but is the notation shown in the chart standard for a 69 chord? It looks like the notation for an inversion (confusing). – ggcg Aug 12 '19 at 11:50
• Fairly standard. Often it's written as 6/9 instead, with the 6 in superscript and the 9 horizontally offset, but some notation fonts use the stacked-with-no-divider version as shown above. My personal preference is between the two: stacked but horizontally offset numbers with no divider. – Jacob Smolowe Aug 12 '19 at 15:08
• @ ggcg: I don't think it's confusing, as in Jazz chords usually the inversions aren't shown in a classical way. An inversion would be notated as: F9/A – Albrecht Hügli Aug 12 '19 at 17:23

This is a plain major F with 6 and 9 (major) added for some color.

You can consider the 6 and 9 as optional, this symbol will sometimes appear when 6 or 9 is in the melody or when there is some nice voice leading possible (or characteristic to the piece) in the context.

When chords get jazzy, the notation becomes less about rules and more about conventions and communication (hand-waving). As you can tell from the various "identify the chord" questions on this site, it's far from an exact science.

A rule of the thumb for major chords is that you should not think about any specific notes, but first decide whether it's a dominant chord or not.

• If it has no markings, 69, "M" or a triangle, it's a plain major chord.
• If the chord notation includes just 7, 9, 11 or 13 or any alterations, it's likely a dominant.

When you know the function (major or dominant), then you can pick up the best sounding voicings - and there will be certain tension (no pun intended) between what's exatly in the chord symbol and what "plays right" in the context. It's an artistic choice - and with a choice, comes a responsibility.

A good resource and an eye opener is the Ralph Patt's Vanilla Book - a collection of standards that leaves out the "colors" up to the performer - and provides just the actual, vanilla chords.

• I wouldn't consider the 6 and 9 optional here any more than I'd consider the 7th optional in a major 7th chord. Sure you can leave them out, but you're probably losing some of the composer's intended sound for that chord. – Jacob Smolowe Aug 12 '19 at 15:10
• @JacobSmolowe I know exactly what you mean and generally I agree - sometimes it's precisely the color that's important. Nevertheless: 1) fakebooks like the one cited are already far from authors intentions, they are often more influenced by famous reinterpretations (and reharmonizations) than by the original. 2) sometimes even more important factors than 6 and 9 – fdreger Aug 12 '19 at 16:04
• (continued) are things like exact voicing, bass, texture etc. While there is a profound difference between G and Gm, and a noticeable difference between G and G7, the difference between GM7, G69 and plain G is more a question of style. It would be interesting, by the way, to look at Gershwin's score for "Porgy and Bess", this would be the only way to know the authors intentions here. – fdreger Aug 12 '19 at 16:22
• I thought that real and fake books tried to show what the original lead sheet was. – Tim Aug 12 '19 at 17:02
• @Tim there probably was no "original lead sheet" for Porgy and Bess. Same for most other standards. Lead sheets are already a form of interpretation, like a black-and-white sketch of an architectural landmark. Also, the "original" version is often less known than its jazz reinterpretations, and fake books tend to represent the latter. – fdreger Aug 12 '19 at 17:22

Yes, this is a chord extension. This is not at all a figured bass - imagine: Gershwin's music of the 20th century notated in figured bass, more Jazz that any other "classical" music!

This is the final chord of a phrase of the verse with an added 6th and an added 9th:

C9sus4 you could also interprete as an Gm9 above the root of C. The F96 contains F,C,G,A,C,D,F.

The added picture shows that F maj7 would be an option too, of course. The 2 chords above the rest in OP's example are the transition chords to the bridge (B) in a minor.