9th Chords - What to Drop?

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Playing a lot of Jazz & Bossa lately. Mostly just me on guitar comping for a soloist; usually a flute.

I keep running into 9 chords (e.g. C7, CMaj9, C7(#9), etc) and can't figure the best way to play them using a root on the 6th string (bass E).

Drop the 5th? e.g. C9 = 8-7-8-7-x-x

This type of shape (R,3,7,9) sounds fine when using the root on the 5th string but off the 6th, playing the 5th & 6th string together sounds bad. Not sure why but I understand a lot of jazzers typicaly don't play the 5th & 6th string together in a chord. Its as if the major 3rd interval sound is too dominant played off the two bass strings.

Drop the Root? e.g. C9 = x-7-8-7-8-x

Great if you have a bassist playing with you but without one I feel i'm losing some important notes there - especially with the 5th being played so high. 

Are there any other voicings that might prove more effective? Maybe stay off the chords with a root on the 6th altogether?
Before I learnt 9th chords I just played the 7 variant. I figure this is fine if the melody covers the 9th note. If not I guess I should adjust my voicing accordingly? - if only I could sight read that fast :dizzy: 
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Comments

  • LestratcasterLestratcaster Frets: 379
    edited January 11
    Yeah drop the 5th, depending where you're playing the shape on the fretboard. The 5th tells you the least about an extended chord, only if it was augmented or diminished would that interval be prominent.
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  • robinbowesrobinbowes Frets: 1812
    Learn a few voicings - sometimes root on the lowest string might be appropriate, sometimes it may not.


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  • BradBrad Frets: 209
    @tralfamadan investigate Drop2 and Drop3 chords to get some new voicings under your fingers. It seems (well I assume!) you're playing your chords only on adjacent strings - nothing wrong with that at all but you may need to split the chords between different strings to get voicings you're happy with. Also try and only have each voice only once in your chord, don't have two roots or two 5ths.

    C9 could be played 8-x-8-9-8-10 or 8-x-8-7-5-x rather than x-7-8-7-8-x. I just put one of the tones (E in this case) up an octave on the second option. 

    As @Lestratcaster said, generally the the 5th is the first and most common note to be dropped, unless the chord requires an altered 5th of course.  

    As you ask, you can drop the root too, or rather replace it with the 9th instead. Looking at it another way, this will actually result in a m7b5 chord. So Em7b5 is C9 just without the C. By itself it may sound jarring, but used with good voice leading will sound nice and smooth. Try this for a ii V I.

    Dm7 = 10-x-10-10-10-x  

    G9* = 10-x-9-10-10-x 

    Cmaj7 = 8-x-9-9-8-x

    *This is either G9 (no root) or a 1st inversion Bm7b5.

    Or this,

    Dm7 = x-5-7-5-6-x

    G9 = x-5-7-4-6-x

    Cmaj7 = x-3-5-4-5-x

    Ultimately, the best advice I can give is listen to guitarists who are known for great comping in those styles or solo/duo settings and find out what voicings they use. Joe Pass/Ted Greene for Jazz and for Bossa, Antonio Carlos Jobim instantly spring to mind.
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