Chord Primer


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Part 4: Chord alterations


Sometimes chords can’t be described by only a root and a suffix, and they require an alteration. Alterations are sometimes in parentheses, sometimes not. Here are a couple examples. Note: these alterations can be found with pretty much any chord.



1-2-3-5. Not rocket science. It’s a C major chord with an added 2:

Cadd2               piano Cadd2


1-2-3-5. This chord is basically the combination of a C and a Csus. Sometimes you see it voiced with the 4th on top, rather than the 5th (as in the second example):

Cadd4 fixed               piano Cadd4

C(+4) or C(add#4)

1-3-#4-5. Sometimes you’ll see “+” used to indicate a sharp note. If this chord sounds strange as written, remember that there are lots of ways to order these pitches.

C-sharp4               piano Cadd-sharp-4


1-b2-b3-5. This is an example of a minor chord with an added b2. Less common, but groovy.

Cm-flat2               piano Cmaddb2


1-3-5-#11. Seriously? Life isn’t complicated enough? Actually, this isn’t that difficult to figure out. Here’s a C scale, extended beyond an octave:

C scale extended

You recognize the 9 from the 9th chords we discussed in the last section. The #11 works the same way. You can see it’s like a #4, but in the higher octave (and probably with a 9th implied):

C-sharp11               piano Csharp11

Next: Chords with other common roots


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