Guitar lesson: learn 'add' guitar chords, for the sound behind Every Breath You Take and more

(Image credit: Future)

Guitar skills: 'Add’ chords come in the form of either ‘add9’ or ‘add11’. The name tells you to add either a 9th or 11th interval to a basic major or minor chord. So, Cadd9 is a C chord with an added 9th interval.

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 Police – Every Breath You Take
• Opeth – Windowpane
Pearl Jam Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town

When to use them:

1. For a chilled out sound
Use major add9 and add11 chords for a rich, bright sound with a more sophisticated vibe than the more basic major chords.

2. For a chilled out sound
Bands like Opeth make use of the minor add9 in particular, because the minor 3rd gives a dissonant yet somehow still sweet clash with the 9th.

Learning add chords 

A number of these shapes need a bit of a stretch. You can ease the tension by positioning your thumb near the centre of the neck and pointing it towards the headstock.

Aadd9, Cadd9 and Gadd9 are similar to their major chord counterparts, requiring just a simple fingering change.

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

(Image credit: Future)

Exercise 1: Funky And Fun 

(Image credit: Future)

Here we’re using the sweet open add9 sound in a line you could apply to many styles. Ensure your fingers don’t touch the open strings – they need to ring out.

Exercise 2: Additional Weight 

(Image credit: Future)

Listen to the dissonant sound of the minor add9 chord in this metal riff. Begin by palm-muting the fifth string before opening up on the three-note shape.

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