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Tip: The Dominant 9

We’ve been adding some tasty new flavors to our usual major, minor and dominant 7 chords. We started with the major 9 in a previous installment, and now we’re going to look at the dominant 9.

Here’s a common shape for the dominant 9 sound to get us started:


It’s a pretty sound. Used a lot in jazz, but other genres, too. The dominant 7 chord has 3 possible kinds of 9s: a flat 9, an unaltered 9, and a sharp 9. We’re going to look at the unaltered 9 now.

Notice the notes in the pattern above: D, F#, C, E. See what’s missing? Yes, the A. We don’t need it. Remember that it’s common to omit notes in chords played on the guitar, and still be able to get to the essential sound.

What scales can you play over D9 and where can you use the chord? A dom 9 shows up in a couple of different common scales, so you can naturally use those scales to solo over it.

Our first scale is a major scale: G major. We can also use A melodic minor and G melodic minor if we’re feeling a bit more exotic. Use those scales for improvising over the D9. Also, try the D minor/F major pentatonic for blues improvising.

Let’s do an abbreviated blues using the D9 and some other dom 9 shapes:



We alternate between straight dom 7 and dom 9 in this mini blues.

Next time we’ll look at a “dangerous” alteration to the dom 7 chord: the dom 7 flat 9.

Thanks for reading.

Darrin Koltow

Copyright © 2008 Darrin Koltow

This first appeared in the Guitar Noise News – June 1, 2006 newsletter. Reprinted with permission.

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