Guitar chord vocab: dissonant chords

(Image credit: Future)

Dissonance is often seen as a negative, but it’s a bit like sourness in food: you might not want too much, but without it, we’d all be eating cottage cheese.

Here are four chords, all with at least one dissonant note.

1. Cadd9/#11

(Image credit: Future)

As an alternative to C major, this adds the ninth (D) and the dissonant #11 (F#).

2. Em6add9

(Image credit: Future)

There are two dissonant notes in this E minor substitute. The F# (the ninth) is just a semitone away from the open G (minor third) and the C# (sixth) is a dissonant tritone from the open G.

3. Bmaj9

(Image credit: Future)

Here, the dissonance is between the major seventh (A#) and the root. In most major 7 chord shapes, the major seventh is placed above the root, making a larger interval, but here we’re emphasising that dissonance.

4. Em add#11

(Image credit: Future)

Another Em substitute, but this one sounds much more menacing. You can hear this chord, with its clashing A# to B interval, in some of Buckethead’s more ambient work.


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