Upon occasion, I have gotten music for a gig in the form of a lead sheet where the harmony is written in chord symbols. As a working musician, it’s important to know what those symbols mean so that everyone on stage is performing their parts in the right key. Even though there are various chord variations, this post will only focus on Major 9th chords.
Below is an excerpt from a lead sheet that has the chord symbols written above the staff:
The basic format of every Major 9th chord in terms of scale steps is: 1 – 3 – 5 – 7 – 9
As an example, let’s use the key of C Major – which has no flats or sharps in the key signature. This means that all of the notes in its Major 9th chord will be naturals (only white keys on the piano). The 1st step of the scale is C … 3rd step is E … 5th step is G … 7th step is B … 9th step is D. You may also see the Cmaj9 chord notated as Cmaj7(add9).
Chord structure: C – E – G – B – D
Chord structure: C# – E# – G# – B# – D#
Chord structure: D – F# – A – C# – E
Chord structure: Eb – G – Bb – D – F
Chord structure: E – G# – B – D# – F#
Chord structure: F – A – C – E – G
Chord structure: F# – A# – C# – E# – G#
Chord structure: G – B – D – F# – A
Chord structure: Ab – C – Eb – G – Bb
Chord structure: A – C# – E – G# – B
Chord structure: Bb – D – F – A – C
Chord structure: B – D# – F# – A# – C#