Chords, the groups of notes that are the building blocks of harmony, have been a fundamental part of most Western music for hundreds of years. Beginning in the 17th century, composers from Europe began to create music in which melodies were accompanied by chords based on notes of the major and minor scales. These chords, and the common chord progressions that composers collectively came up with, took root wherever European music spread throughout the world and, of course, are still used today.
While many types of music primarily stick to three note triads or four note 7th chords, more than a few contemporary styles such as jazz, R&B, use chords that contain quite a few more notes. When navigating chord progressions in one of these genres, one may encounter five-note 9th chords, or even seven-note 13th chords alongside a myriad of chromatic alterations like flat 9 (b9), sharp 11 (#11), and more. These harmonies can feel like a different world of sound than their less dense triadic cousins and learning them can seem daunting. Fortunately, there are many ways to build these larger chords from both a theoretical view and as a player.
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