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Tip: The Major Chord With #11

We covered the major chord with a sharp 5 last time, and this time we’ll cover its “sister” chord, the #11. Where does the term #11 (pronounced “sharp eleven”) come from? Look at the notes in the G major scale. Yes, that’s not a typo: the G major, not the C major scale:

C D E F# G A B C D E F# …etc

Counting up from C to the second F#, you’ll see the F# is eleven. And since it has a # (sharp) after it, we get the name sharp 11 (#11). Making a major chord from this, we take every other note, starting with C:

C E G B D F#

That looks like a lot of notes for a chord, doesn’t it? We guitarists like 3 and 4 note chords, generally, as far as ease of playing goes. So we can eliminate some notes, being sure to hang onto the F#. We can play patterns like these:

|-2------|-5----|
|-5------|-5----|
|-4------|-5----|
|-2------|-4----|
|-3------|-3----|
|--------|------|

The second one is better for strumming. And it has the 13 added, yet another extended chord “color.”

Where to use major chords with a #11? Try them in place of unaltered major chords. They won’t sound right in every situation, but they could add a fresh change of pace from the usual 1 3 5 major.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright © 2008 Darrin Koltow

This first appeared in the Guitar Noise News – September 15, 2006 newsletter. Reprinted with permission.

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