Guitar lesson: Learn extended minor chords

(Image credit: Future)

Guitar skills: Minor chords are always moody, but they can take on a mellower character when you add extensions. Using the trusty Am (A C E) as our foundation, the simplest way to extend this is to add a b7th (A C E G) into the mix. Then, keeping the b7th, from there you also can add a 9th (A C E G B) or an 11th (A C E G D) for more colourful sounding chords.

Look at two octaves of the C major scale (C D E F G A B C D E F G A B) and you’ll see that the 9th and 11th notes are D and F.

You know them from: 

• The Doobie Brothers – Long Train Runnin'
• America – A Horse With No Name

When to use them:

1. Wherever there’s a minor chord

You can nearly always change a basic minor chord to a minor 7th – the change in character is subtle. 9th and 11th extensions may need more experimentation..

2. When a minor chord is too moody

Minor 7th chords have a lighter, mellower mood than pure minor chords. If you’re after a nebulous, hazy mood the m7 is the right chord for you.

Learning minor chords 

These m7 shapes are good all-rounders that you can play in any style of music and in different keys by moving up or down the neck. Am9 and our first Dm9 shape include open strings, so they only work in the keys used here. Listen out for the slightly dissonant sound of the m9 chords.

Click on the icon at the top right of the chords to enlarge.

(Image credit: Future)

Chord examples audio 

Exercise 1: Mellow Minor Chords 

(Image credit: Future)

This example shows how open strings can add richness and space to your sound, particularly when the strings are ringing out. These shapes are easy, too!

Exercise 2: At Sixes And Sevens 

(Image credit: Future)

This line runs through four extended minor chords – try to pick up on the mood of each one. These chords are colourful enough to bring any progression to life.

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