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Beginner Guitar Lessons:

6th and 13th Chords




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What is a major chord? A minor chord? What do all those numbers
and letters and other symbols in a chord's name mean?
Find out in this free mini-course.

Let's add a different flavour to our chords by using the sixth note from the root this time.

In our first example we start from an E Major shape and add a C# on the second string: it's the note that is one tone higher that the fifth (open B string) or a half tone lower than a minor seventh (D on the 2nd string). If you really want to know why a C# and not C, you can learn more on intervals in the Theory section.

E Major

 

E 13

You'll notice that we called our new chord E 13 and not E 6: we added the C# in the second octave so it is technically a 13th (6+7=13), 13 notes higher than the root. Like 9th and 2nd or 4th and 11th, you can find both names for the same kind of chords and it really matters only when we want a specific note on a specific octave, like in the examples below.

E7/13

 

E7/9/13

In these chord we have a C# (6th) and a D (dominant 7th) at the same time and, since they're only one half tone apart, we generally play them in different octaves to avoid unwanted dissonances. Also it would be pretty difficult to fret those notes in the same octave. So, in this case, we really mean a 13th.

See also how we can mix different colors, textures by adding and taking out notes from the chord. Try all the different combinations and listen carefully at the resulting chords, for example the different 'suspension' or 'tension' created by a 9th or a 13th, with or without a 7th.

Now let's see some 13th chords in the A and in the D shapes.

We can add an F# on the first string to our basic A Major shape. The note we're looking for is 4 and a half tones higher than the root or one and a half tones lower than the octave (just another way to find the 6th or 13th).

A

 

A 13

Then we can combine different chord types to get new 'sounds'. In the first example we moved the octave (A on the third string) back one fret to get a Maj7/13 chord.

We don't have to limit ourselves to major chords, so in the fourth chord we moved the C# (major third) back to a C (minor third) to get a minor chord: A-7/13.

Amaj 13

 

A 9/13

A7/9/13

 

A-7/13

In the D shape we cannot add a 13th, we ran out of strings... So here's our chance to see some real 6th chords: the note we need is B (you do the math, if you want) and we got a handy open second string that makes our shapes easy to fret.

Dealing with just four strings limits our choices a bit, but we get some nice sounding chords.


D 6



D sus 6/9



D min6

If that was too easy, here's a couple of different chords that don't use the standard D shape. We used the B on the third string so now we don't have a 5th anymore.... This doesn't change the character of the chord too much since a perfect fifth is a very consonant and neutral interval and can go missing without anyone really taking notice: most 'jazz' chords shapes omit the fifth unless it's altered (augmented or diminished). More on that in the Chords section of the site.

Please note that we moved from first to second position so the first fret in the tabs is now the second: mind the fret numbers at the top of the tabs.

D 6 (no 5th)

 

DMaj 6 (no 5th)

Let's close our little excursion in the world of 6th chords with two more nice sounding shapes that are essentialy like the last two chords but played higher on the neck, in 6th position. The B now is on the first string so it's really a 13th and the 5th is still missing. As always, I encourage you to liisten to the difference in sound when we move the same notes around, up or down an octave and we change their order: in the last two examples the 13th is the top sounding note.

D 13 (no 5th)

 

DMaj 13 (no 5th)

Next up two more guitar strummers favourites: the C and G shapes.





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