In, for example, the C major key, the available tensions for the C major seventh chord are 9, 13, because:

Harmony 3 - Berklee, Barrie Nettles, p17:

For diatonic chord progressions, available tensions and other non-chord tones will be diatonic.


Harmony 3 - Berklee, Barrie Nettles, p15:

Available tensions are non-chord tones which are a whole-step above a chord tone (a major ninth reduced by an octave).

Which means there are other available tensions, just non-diatonic. i.e., for a C major seventh: 9, #11, 13. But the #11 is flat out denied "available tension" status by some sources:

Secondary dominants - aucklandguitarschool.co.nz:

“Available tensions” are non-chord tones that are diatonic and a major 9th above a chord tone.

Anyhow, if I would assume that available tensions do include the non-diatonics, what would I call them as a whole to minimize ambiguity? All available tensions? Chromatic tensions? NCTs that are a major 9th above a chord tone?

And so, just to clarify, would one use a non-diatonic available tension in a non-diatonic chord progression?

  • 1
    I wouldn't even call some of those extensions 'tensions'.
    – Tim
    Feb 15, 2020 at 8:12

1 Answer 1


Definitions are not always that strictly adhered to, and different authors/sources may use slightly different definitions.

It's pretty common usage to define "available tension" just for a certain chord type, without considering a related scale. E.g., a Cmaj7 chord could be used as a I chord in major (where the #11 wouldn't available diatonically), but it could also be used as a IV chord in the key of G major, where the #11 is available. So you could say that in principle, the #11 is an available tension for a major seventh chord. If you want to use it depends on the context. Note that even if the major seventh chord is a I chord, you could add the #11, which would give the chord a lydian flavor.

And concerning the definition mentioning "a major 9th above a chord tone", it's not correct, at least not for dominant seventh chords. E.g., the tension b9 is very common for a dominant seventh chord resolving to a chord a perfect fifth below.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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