By Scott Auld
There is one particularly powerful chord that immediately evokes images of Stevie Ray Vaughn or Jimi Hendrix, and everyone should know how to play it:
the G7(#9) (“Gee-Seven-Sharp-Nine”) chord.
This chord sounds very Stevie Ray Vaughn, very hair-raising, very aggressive. It’s just so darned funky, and it has a place in music that can be covered by no other sound.
Of course, you can play this as any “_7(#9)” chord, be it A7(#9) or E7(#9), but for this discussion, let’s just stick with G.
Let’s start by talking about when and how you would use this chord.
We would play this G7(#9) chord as a fifth chord in a song where G is the five. Now, which key uses G as the five? C, of course. G is the fifth note in the C scale. Count ’em yourself:
Naturally, you don’t really have to count them, because you already have the fives memorized for every key:
- A goes to E
- F goes to C
- D goes to A
So now that we have figured out that G is the fifth chord of C, we know that we will play this funky G7(#9) whenever we are in the key of C and the song goes to the fifth, which is a G. So, instead of playing a plain old vanilla G like the Backstreet Boys do, we will play this killer G7(#9) chord instead.
Now that you know when you would use this chord, let’s learn it in a few different locations.
While researching the G7(#9) chord, more and more layers of the onion began to peel away, as they usually do when I start digging in the fertile soil of music theory. I found at least four seperate voicings of the chord on a standard six-string guitar neck, which are circled in big red ovals on this chart:
The root of the chord (G) is circled in smaller red circles. But the BIG red circles show you four different places you can play the G7(#9).
(Theory alert) What’s going on in this G7(#9) chord, anyway?
Basically, you are building a chord using four notes: G, B, F, A#. They are arranged in different order in the various chords, but those are the four notes used to create the G7(#9) chord:
- The G is the root (the “one”)
- The B is the “third”
- The F is the “seventh”
- The A# is the #9 (sharp nine)
In other words, we took the G scale and used these notes:
Help! What are you talking about?
Maybe theory and the fundamentals of chord construction isn’t your cup of tea. If you are sitting here, confused and lost, and you’re not even sure what planet I’m from … relax. You don’t have to understand this theory stuff to enjoy playing the chord. Just learn to play the four chords shown in the big red ovals, and practice going from one to another. And most of all, remember to use it whenever a song in the key of C goes to the G chord … or transpose it into other keys for use in other songs.
Here is a picture of the fretboard without the chords circled, just for reference. You might use this to construct some nifty scales or runs, or to write the next killer riff: