Piano Chords: How To Spice Up Your Major Chords Using The 9th

piano chordsDo you play the same old tired piano chords every time they come up in a chord chart?

Well, in today’s free piano lesson I’m going to teach you an easy way to spice up you major piano chords. We’re going to talk about how to add the 9th (sometimes called the 2nd) into your chords in a very musical way.

These simple variations on major piano chords will add a lot of variety and interest to your playing.

Major Piano Chords Variation Video

Why not take 3 minutes and watch the piano lesson video where I demonstrate how to play the variations.

We break down step by step the theory behind them how to play them, and how to use them in a band situation or when you’re accompanying another instrument or a singer.

In the second half of the video you can hear me demonstrate the piano chords with the drums playing behind me with a groove. (Make sure you scroll down for the notation and extra tips as well.)

Piano Chord Notation

piano chords major

(Click to expand and open in a new window. Feel free to share this but please credit pianolessonsonline.com when you do)


7 Tips To Help You Master These Piano Chords

1. Adding the 9th to your major chords create a really nice variation that seems to brighten the sound of major chords.

2. To find the 9th of a chord you can simply go up the major scale and find the 2nd scale. The 9th is the same as the 2nd but just up an octave.

3. I recommend you practice breaking up these chords and arpeggiating them in a number of different ways. If you need ideas how to do that watch how I approach this technique in the video above.

4. You can also remove the 3rd from the chord entirely and just play the root, the 2nd scale degree, and the 5th. ( I love this sound!) 🙂

5. You don’t have to play all 4 notes of this piano chord at the same time. You can break them up in several different ways.

6. It’s important that you eventually learn to play those chord voicings in all 12 keys. This should especially be true if you love this sound!

7. If you have 2 bars of a chord you can use this technique and create a little harmonic motion where there is none. As an example, for the first measure you can play Cadd9 and the second measure you can just play your basic major triad.

4 Famous Songs That Use This Sound

There are so many songs that use this technique that there’s no way I could list them all. I will list 5 very famous ones for you though. This should give you a great start.

1. Angel by Sarah McLachlan

Sarah McLachlan uses this chord and fill concept on the Gb chord in the verse and all over the place in the chorus. Take a listen…

2. Fluffhead by Phish

This is one of the favorite devices of Phish’s keyboard player Page Mcconnell. You can hear him using hear in the Phish song Fluffhead.

3. Fire And Rain by James Taylor

You can hear it in the main riff in this classic. James Taylor plays it on guitar but the piano player picks up on the riff later on too.

4. Love Song by Sarah Bareilles

In the second chord of the song Sarah Bareilles plays a Bb2 chord (no 3rd). This is a perfect example of using this sound!

Your Next Steps

Now that you’ve heard some songs that use this chord concept spend some time at the piano exploring the sound of this chord.

Try to listen for it on your favorite recordings too. It’s used all the time. Definitely try using it in your next band practice or piano arrangement.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick and easy piano lesson. Have fun practicing and remember to check back for many more piano lessons!


Do you like the sound of this chord? Where can you use it in your music? Please leave a comment below and share with the community!

If you’re new to pianolessonsonline.com be sure to also subscribe to the email list to receive great free piano lessons right in your inbox. 

About The Author

Steve Nixon is the owner of PianoLessonsOnline.com. He is a world touring piano player based out of Chicago, Illinois. Steve is thrilled to be your guide to learning piano online!


  • paul allen

    Reply Reply

    Hello Steve nice website,any chance of you doing some John Lennon songs like Jealous Guy and Oh My Love.

    • Steve Nixon

      Reply Reply

      That’s a great idea Paul. I definitely plan on doing some Beatles related stuff and hopefully John Lennon in the near future.

  • Antonio

    Reply Reply

    Hi, Steve.
    Congratulations for your new piano site. Thanks for your lessons, as always and my best wishes for your new project.

    • Steve Nixon

      Reply Reply

      Thank you Antonio!

  • David Jones

    Reply Reply

    I still have not purchased a keyboard. And at 62, I think I’d better before my metronome runs down. Years back, when I did own my Yamaha V50, I wish I’d known some of the little hints you give. It just blows my brain out how one simple note added like this 9 can totally remake the sound. Those are the chords I always wanted to hear, but just didn’t know how.

    I thank you for all the time and work you give to us making these lessons. Even without a keyboard, I get a lot of enjoyment listening. I might get that PSR-E433 yet.

    Thanks again.


  • Belinda Baker

    Reply Reply

    Love your site! I am working on learning chords – learned to read music at a young age, altho I am not very good, I love to play. Thanks

  • Marge

    Reply Reply

    Love your tutorials! I have been playing pop songs with triads only – getting a little boring, needed to learn some riffs etc. After watching only a couple of your videos I can’t wait to try out some new techniques!
    How about some Coldplay stuff? Just saw the concert in Toronto it was fantastic!

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field