How to Play a C9 Chord on the Piano

Ninth Chords

Let’s look at how to play a C9 (“C ninth”) chord on the piano. This pattern can be used to build any ninth chord.

What Are Ninth Chords?

A ninth chord is a major chord with two added notes. The added notes are the seventh note of the matching major scale, lowered 1/2 step, and the ninth note of the scale.

So to build a ninth chord, we’ll start by building a major chord. Major chords are built using the first, third and fifth notes of the matching major scale.

Next we’ll find the seventh note of the matching major scale and lower it 1/2 step.

Then we’ll add the ninth note of the scale to the chord. You may be wondering how we can do this, since a scale only has eight notes. Well, if we continue the scale into the next octave, the ninth note is right after the eighth. It’s basically the same note as the second note of the scale, but one octave up.

piano chords printable charts

Chord Types Printable

Learn to play 17 types of piano chords using 12 different root notes with this 34-page PDF! Chords are sorted both by their root note (C, D, E, etc.) and type (major, minor, augmented, diminished, etc.).

How to Play a C9 Chord

Now let’s build a C9 chord. First, we’ll build a C major chord by playing the first, third and fifth notes of the C major scale: C – E – G.

Then we’ll find the seventh note of the C major scale, B, and lower it 1/2 step to B♭.

Finally, we’ll add the ninth note by repeating the C major scale into the next octave. When we do, we find the ninth note is D.

So to play a C9 chord, we’ll play:

C – E – G – B♭ – D

C9 Chord Piano

Now you know how to play a C9 chord on the piano!

You can use this pattern to build any ninth chord on the piano. First play a major chord, then add the seventh note of the matching major scale, lowered 1/2 step. Then add the ninth note of the scale by repeating the scale into the next octave to find the ninth note.

Fingering

Ninth chords sound really pretty, but you probably can’t reach all those notes with your right hand only.

You can re-arrange them if you want, by moving the D back down to the position of a second. Or you can play the C with your left hand and the other notes with your right.

If you move the D down to the position of a second, you’ll need to play both the C and the D with your thumb at an angle, and play the other notes with fingers 2 – 3 – 5 (thumbs are 1’s).

If you play the C with your left hand and the other notes with your right, you can use fingers 1 – 2 – 3 – 5 to play the E – G – B♭ – D.

Other Chord Types

Some of the other chord types you can learn are:

Major
Minor
Augmented
Diminished
Second
Minor second
Suspended
Fifth
Sixth
Minor Sixth
Seventh
Minor Seventh
Major Seventh
Minor ninth
Major ninth

Conclusion

Now you know how to play ninth chords on the piano! Learning different types of chords can help you play more creatively and freely at the piano.

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11 Comments

  1. Pam

    Julia, I am a Senior classically trained pianist who recently volunteered to play electric keyboard backup for my church. It has required me to learn all of the chords, which I did not play frequently in classical music. I am very grateful and appreciative for your instructive emails! MaynGod bless you for your continued work!

    Reply
    • Julie Swihart

      That’s wonderful, I’m so glad to hear that! Thank you so much for the kind message and encouraging words!

  2. HENSON INDEMBUKANI CHOMA

    Hi Julie hope all is well with you,I have a question about this lesson why is it tha when forming a ninenth chord on a major key you flatten the seventh not half step, like the one you’ve shown up.is a must flatten the seventh note or you can just retain it the way it is e.g on cmajor scale why not B. but you flatten it to Bflat.

    Reply
    • Julie Swihart

      Yes, that is a good question. A ninth chord does lower the seventh note 1/2 step, and a major ninth chord doesn’t. So to play a ninth chord you would play the first, third, fifth, seventh (lowered 1/2 step), and ninth notes of the matching major scale. And to play a major ninth chord, you would play the first, third, fifth, seventh and ninth notes of the matching major scale. The word “major” in “major ninth” is actually referring to the seventh note not being lowered 1/2 step, but being left alone. I hope that helps!

  3. HENSON INDEMBUKANI CHOMA

    Wow Julie now I know, there’s a difference between a nineth and a major nine chord thank you so much I appreciate.

    Reply
  4. Dorothy Gi

    It’s useful. Thanks Julie
    God bless you and your family 🙏🏻

    Reply
    • Julie Swihart

      You’re welcome Dorothy, thank you!

  5. Pat C

    Great post, inspiring! Can you suggest any songs which use these chords and how do we practice them.
    Thanks!

    Reply
  6. Ed Gamboa

    This is so cool.

    Reply
    • Julie Swihart

      I’m glad it’s helpful!

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