The Beauty In Dissonance (part 2)

In the last instalment, we explored adding in the 9th to degree to a minor chord to get a semitone ‘clash’ between the 2 and b3 scale degrees (2 and 9 are the same note, and while the 9 suggests it’s an octave higher, in practice this may not always be the case!). I hope you had some fun exploring other minor grips and how you can use this dissonance to create beautiful chords.

The interval of a Tone (Major 2nd) is also quite dissonant and can give a similar effect to major chords - when we add in the 9th degree it has a tone distance between the root and the Major 3rd so it’s possible (though the fingerings can be tricky!) to have a tone clash ‘either side’ of the 9th.

If you start by playing a B note, on Fret 4 of String 3 and the note C# on Fret 2 of String 2 you will hear that Major 2nd clash.

<< Maj 2 >>

Now let’s add that into a common open A Major chord which is a really pleasing sound – note that String 1 is optional and if you don’t play it you can barre the notes on Fret 2 with Finger 1.

<< Aadd9 >>

Another really nice way of playing this chord is to play an E Shape barre chord and leave the thinnest two strings open. You might like to explore this chord shape on other parts of the neck too!

<< Aadd9 v2 >>

Going back to the first grip, it’s lovely to play as an Open G grip as well, I suggest using Finger 2 and muting String 5 (that low B often just makes the chord sound muddy anyways!).

<< Gadd9 >>

And one more common add9 grip is the one from an E Shape which can be played as an open chord:

<< E add9 >>

Or as a barre chord form – but it’s quite a stretch. This is ‘that’ chord from the Police hit Every Breath You Take, just lift finger 2 for the minor variation

<< Aadd9 >>

One more tasty and common open grip is the Cadd9 for which we just add Finger 4 in Fret 3 of String 2 which is adding the note D and gives us a tone clash with the open E string. It’s a really nice chord you can use almost anytime you have a regular C chord in a song.

<< Cadd9 >>

In this article, I’ve just explored the 9th, but you can also get tone clashes by adding in the 6th (a tone from the 5th) or the b7 (a tone from the root), so there is plenty more to explore. 

Beginner and Intermediate players should try and put this stuff into practice and have a new pool of chords you can use in most circumstances – add9 grips (both Major and Minor) are usually easy to substitute for a regular chord but do use your ears, and if it sounds bad, it is!

We are just scratching the surface of the concept here and for those with reasonable harmonic understanding you should be able to take this concept and run far with it! For those that like the Blues I would recommend exploring the idea using the Mixolydian Mode notes for Major chords (which will give you dominant chords) and Dorian for Minors (as covered in the previous article). 

You might also explore using Diatonic Chords and the parent Major Scale and adding in any note from the scale to any of the chords in the keys… it’s a fine and deep adventure to explore, and you’ll find many amazing chord grips there!

Hope you enjoyed this further journey into dissonance land, happy trails!

Food For Thought