Major Ninth Chords
Let’s look at how to play an Fmaj9 (“F major ninth”) chord on the piano. We’ll also learn the pattern for building any other major ninth chord.
What Are Major Ninth Chords?
Major ninth chords are major chords with two added notes. The added notes are the seventh and ninth notes of the matching major scale.
So to build a major ninth chord, we’ll start by building a major chord. We can build a major chord using the first, third and fifth notes of the matching major scale (learn how to build a major scale here).
Then we’ll add the seventh note of the matching major scale to the chord.
Since scales only have eight notes, to add the ninth note we’ll repeat the scale into the next octave. The ninth note is the same as the second note of the scale, but one octave up.
How to Play an Fmaj9 Chord
Then we’ll add the seventh note of the F major scale to the chord: E
Then we’ll repeat the scale into the next octave to find the ninth note: G
So to play an Fmaj9 chord, we’ll play:
F – A – C – E – G
We can use this pattern to build any other major ninth chord! We can first build a major chord, then we can add the seventh note of the matching major scale to the chord, then we can repeat the scale into the next octave to find and add the ninth note.
You probably can’t reach all these notes with your right hand, so here are a few options:
You can re-arrange the notes by moving the G back down to the position of a second. Or you can play the F with your left hand and the other notes with your right.
If you move the G down to the position of a second, you’ll play the notes in this order: F – G – A – C – E using fingers 1 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 5 (thumbs are 1’s). The thumb can lay at an angle to play both the F and the G.
If you play the F with your left hand and the other notes with your right, you can use fingers 1 – 2 – 3 – 5 to play the A – C – E – G.
Now you know how to play an Fmaj9 chord on the piano, and you can use that knowledge to build any other major ninth chord!
These chords sound really nice, and can be tried as chord substitutions in places where major chords are called for since they add a nice richness and depth.