6

For the E7 sharp 9 chord, I don't understand how it has a G in it.

The ninth note on the E scale is F, so that would be F sharp. How is it G?

  • 2
    9th note of the E scale is F#. F# is the 9. F## is the sharp nine. Of course to play it, it would be a G under your fingers. – b3ko Nov 22 at 0:54
  • Very related: this question. – Matt L. Nov 22 at 11:33
  • As a comment because this is minor (no pun intended), but E7#9 is roughly Ealt, and the E altered scale has G and Ab. See it also as substituable with a Bb lydian dominant chord (your 9# becomes the 13 of that chord) – Alexandre C. Nov 22 at 19:38
  • But technically, as said elsewhere, 9# here is F double sharp... – Alexandre C. Nov 22 at 19:38
10

An E9 would have an F♯ in it. An E7♯9 doesn't have a G in it, it has an F𝄪 (double sharp) rather than a G.

While those are enharmonic equivalents, they are very different in connotation. When double sharps are introduced, there are some lines of thought where it's better to write an enharmonic equivalent that may be less accurate that go into double sharps or flats and you may have encountered it in this scenario.

  • 2
    Or you can just call it the Hendrix chord, and no talk about double sharps and enharmonic equivalents is needed. ;) But looking at it as "G" is good because then you can see a possible re-interpretation. If you lock down "F##" as the only "correct" name, you need an extra step of thought to see the reinterpretation. – piiperi Nov 22 at 8:41
  • Sorry , but giving chords eponymous titles is not good imho , especially for generic , ubiquitous ones. In some cases e.g 'Tristan chord' it's appropriate due to the sheer amount of highbrow analysis it has received. Oh and because that;s my given name ! :-) – DrTris Nov 22 at 11:56
  • @piiperi it is always interesting to look for re-interpretations. Of course you know that E-G♯-B-G would not be called E7♯9 (it would be something like E7-b10. I think that the two different interpretations of the identical sound depend on context. If someone spelled E7#9 (ie: using Fx), I think they are emphasizing the upward push of the 9. If E7-b10, the emphasis is on the G♯ vs G-natural/major vs minor, and so is more of a modal context. We can think whatever we want when playing, but I think it helps "the next person" if we're mindful of these things if we're writing/transcribing. Yes/no? – s-k-y-e---c-a-p-t-a-i-n Nov 22 at 18:14
  • @s-k-y-e---c-a-p-t-a-i-n Mindfulness is my goal. ;) Raising an F# yields a G, so the E7#9 is almost a Bb13. I have no use for an F##, it's a potential extra pitfall for the unexpected, rubbish to be cleaned so it becomes an actual common note. ;) For similar mindfulness reasons, I don't like to use the "m7-5" chord name, because in practice it will be played wrong. Many players will unfortunately not know that "Bm7-5" contains a Dm and they play it without the "-5", ruining the whole thing. Similar thing with double sharps. :) Btw, your "E-G#-B-G" is missing the dominant seventh! :D – piiperi Nov 22 at 18:41
  • @DrTris just the other week I told a young enthusiastic guitarist to play "E9" in a song ... he was like, "huh? never heard of such a thing", so I asked, do you know the Hendrix chord? "Yeah of course!" kid immediately plays 0-7-6-7-8-x... Ok, just lift off your pinky and extend the ring finger on the 7th fret as a barre on the three highest strings. Done! The "Hendrix chord" is a very common name to hear particularly among guitar players. :) I've even heard things like "D Hendrix" or "C# Hendrix". – piiperi Nov 22 at 19:18
5

E7#9 should have (E, G#, B, D, F##), in general (1, 3, 5, b7, #9). It has an F##, or Fx. Many music students equate enharmonic tones but the fact is this is not always correct. It works in Equal Tempered Tuning but not all tuning systems. A proper music text should not equate these. The #9 is not the same thing as a b3. My question to you would be where are you getting this info? If you have a book or sheet music that lists it can you upload a pic of it so we can see. It's possible that you just got a resource with a typo in it.

Thanks to b3ko for correcting my mistake.

  • 1
    I don’t think this is correct. The 9 is F#. The chord he mentions has a sharp 9, am I missing something? – b3ko Nov 22 at 0:55
  • @b3ko, you are 100% correct. Thanks. I decided to edit rather than delete the answer. – ggcg Nov 22 at 1:54
  • The correct double-sharp spelling is with "x" not "+" in other words Fx. The plus means augmented, which if taken out of context would imply an F augmented triad whereas you mean an F## note. – NickGrooves Nov 22 at 2:26
  • @NickGrooves, right you are. Oy, I'm really off on this one. – ggcg Nov 22 at 2:28
3

This has already been answered correctly twice, so I will instead try to add a new perspective. Yes it is technically inaccurate to perceive the #9 as a minor 3rd scale degree, and so F## or Fx is how I teach it to my students. However, the G is practical. Many accomplished Blues and Jazz players will spell it [as a G] to ease real-time improvisation, harmonization, or even when songwriting to understand potential modulations and voice leading.

G is also the relative major scale to E minor, as you may already know. For this reason, it is not uncommon to see a G chord after an E7#9 chord in Rock and Blues genres.

Often you'll see this chord described as "the Hendrix chord" (or some other modern artist attribution). Perhaps the most famous usage example is Hendrix's "Purple Haze" ... in which the chord progression is E7#9, G, A (not E, Fx, A).

Know the correct way, but don't close your mind to other ways.

Edited to add: One more thing! The altered chord (the one we're discussing) can also be spelled with a b9 (flat nine). Sometimes both are indicated, sometimes neither are indicated (it will simply say E ALT). But regardless which notes the chord symbol calls for, it is totally fine to play both when improvising over that chord. So feel free to experiment with F natural over that E7#9 if you like.

  • +1 I think you should say "correct" with big quotes and sarcastic tone, because I think all this thinking about correctness does more harm than good. The double-sharp being "correct" only makes the notes fit some very specific culture and way of thinking, which might not make sense in other contexts. It's the same with people trying to see everything in terms of roman numerals and functional analysis. If you don't play the B note (like in the Hendrix chord you don't) and move the bass to Bb, is "F##" still the "correct" name for the note? Too much theory and youtube videos, too little playing! – piiperi Nov 22 at 9:55
  • 1
    Your last paragraph only applies to the use of E7(#9) as a dominant chord resolving down a perfect fifth. If it is used as a I chord (as Hendrix and many blues players would use it), it wouldn't be appropriate to add a b9. – Matt L. Nov 22 at 11:37
  • @piiperi - the first version of the 'Hendrix chord' that I played did have a B. It was (still is!) 0 2 2 1 3 3(Bot>top) – Tim Nov 22 at 17:45
  • @Tim interesting! Does Jimi actually play it like that on a recording? Anyway, IMO talking about double sharps is not very useful for pop music. If on some suitable instrument someone wants to fine-tune their intonation, they'll do it anyway. Another thing that's more on the harmful side is using the word "correct" without explicitly naming the point of view, as if there was some kind of a universal law-of-nature music context. The assumption of there being universal correctness is a common myth I'd like to debunk. – piiperi Nov 22 at 18:07
  • @piiperi - we know nothing is in stone with music, especially pop! But since we usually 'stack thirds', that might as well be perpetuated. Whatever thirds they happen to be... That said, I guess a lot of guitarists (yes, I'm one too...) would simply see that as a G, rather than Fx. To them, aren't Fx in those little pedals..? – Tim Nov 22 at 20:16
2

As the other answers point out, that 'G' is in fact Fx. Given the fact that the chord is called E7♯9, and the 9th note in E is F♯, then that note gets sharpened again. thus F♯♯, or Fx.

I think the misnaming comes from the fact that m3 is used a lot in Blues (and jazz), and that actually is called 'G'. Since in 12tet it sounds exactly the same as Fx, that note ends up being named G, partially out of convenience, partly ignorance. I used to consider it E7 with a m3, (wrongly), and I'm sure some guitarists regard it the same. There are also sites out there that provide us with spurious information, which tend to re-inforce certain inaccuracies, and those don't help.

0

By now you should be convinced that the #9 in a chord with root E is an F## (or Fx), which is enharmonically equivalent to a G.

However, I think the real question is whether that chord should be called E7(#9) - as is very common, at least in the English speaking part of the world -, or if it should be called E7(b10), which is also used, and definitely not only by people who don't understand the issue. If you accept the b10 notation, then that note is indeed a G.

I personally think it's completely pointless to discuss which of the two is more correct. You can find arguments for both. I always use #9 (because everybody does, and for me it's about communicating chord symbols efficiently), but if you ask me what I hear, I'd probably say that I hear a b10. One important argument for me is that that note virtually never resolves upwards. More arguments (which are not mine) can be found in this answer to a very related question.

  • Generally speaking, chords get built on thirds. So, 1,3,5,7,9 would be the notes concerned. No 10 there! (Not my dv). – Tim Nov 22 at 17:42
  • If you do want to specify a minor third and not an augmented 9th why not simply write E7addG instead of E7(♭10)? – Lars Peter Schultz Nov 22 at 22:58

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.