Chord Primer

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 e1428327107214 300x239

piano Cadd2 300x188


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 600x366

piano Cadd4 300x188

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 e1428327334532 300x222

piano Cadd sharp 4 300x188


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

Cm flat2 e1428328800178 300x234

piano Cmaddb2 300x188


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 1024x246

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 e1428328977955 300x252

piano Csharp11 600x190

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