“Song Forms: Intros that work with
Dominant Seventh Sharp Ninth
- Examples of Intros in Popular Songs IV
- The history of a 7 (#9) chord
- Where lays its origin of a 7 (#9) chord
- How to make a 7 (#9) chord
- 7 (#9) chord played in the intro of Shining Star
- 7 (#9) chord played in the intro of Foxy Lady
- 7 (#9) chords played in Taxman & The Word
- 7 (#9) chord played in the blues chorus of Scuttle Buttin’
- 7 (#9) chord played in the intro of Pick Up The Pieces
In this fourth post I will talk about popular song intros which use dominant seventh sharp ninth chords.
“Examples of Intros in Popular Song IV”
“The History of a 7 (#9) Chord”
This chord started to be used in blues, bebop and rhythm & blues all the way back to the 1940’s and 50’s.Evolving over time it started to appear in other contemporary music styles, such as funk, R&B, rock and even pop.
In the 1960’s Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles made this chord popular in rock and pop. In the 1970’s and 80’s it continued to be used in funk and disco. Today it’s mostly used in instrumental jazz but now and then it also appears in hip-hop.
“Where lays its origin of a 7 (#9) chord”
This chord has its origin in blues music. Because of its minor mood the blues scale was formed, which is basically a minor pentatonic scale with an added flat 5.
During the bebop era (Charlie Parker) the saxophone player usually played this scale as a part of his improvisation in the solo section, while the piano player played dominant chords behind it. This created this special sound playing a minor third over a dominant chord which has a major third.
Look at the chart below and try it out on the piano yourself by playing an E minor blues scale in the right hand and an E dominant seventh chord in the left hand:
“How to Make a 7(#9) Chord”
Now you might wonder, OK but how do I play this chord and what notes do I use? To explain this we have to go back to the last post “Popular Song Intros in G & A Major” under the sub-heading “What is an A Major Scale starting on E with an added Sharp Ninth“.
There I discussed what scale we could play over a 7 (#9) chord. This turned out to be the A major scale beginning on E with the added tension (#9). The E is the fifth scale degree (step) of the A major scale. We can also apply this when building seventh chords on the scale degrees:
Now we are going to do the same with the chords as we have done with the scale.
1. Look at the fifth step above and you can see that this becomes E7.
2. Take this chord out of the scale and add a sharp ninth on top.
3. Usually when playing this chord as a keyboard player in a band, the fifth, B in this case, is often left out. Depending on the texture of the chord, sometimes it is better playing less than more notes. This creates a clear and open sound.
4. Leave the bass note, E, out of the chord, transpose it down one octave and play it in your left hand. Done!
All the four steps are outlined below:
“7 (#9) Chord played in the Intro of Shining Star”
When we look back at the intro of “Shining Star” in my last post, you saw that in bars five to eight a groove was laid down to set up the vocal in bar nine. The chord in these bars was, you have guessed it, E7 (#9).
The title of that post was “Popular Song Intros in G & A Major”. Do you get it! This song is in key of A major because E7 is built on the fifth step of the A major scale.
Though, there is one more reason why it is in A major. Listen to the chorus of “Shining Star“. With what chord does this start?
The obvious is true, it starts with an A major chord which implies that this is the I chord. Here are the timings to check out the different sections:
Intro 00:00 – 00:10
Set up Verse 00:11 – 00:19
1st Verse 00:20 – 00:47
1st Chorus 00:48 – 00:56
Interlude 00:57 – 01:13
2nd Verse 01:14 – 02:09
2nd Chorus 02:10 – 02:37
Ending 02:38 – end
“7 (#9) Chord played in the Intro of Foxy Lady”
Listen to the next song “Foxy Lady” by Jimi Hendrix:
After a sustaining F# with feedback and distortion, Jimi sets in his groove and plays a F#7 (#9) as his first chord. When played on a keyboard the order would be from bottom to top: F#, A#, E and A.
What is different in this song, is that this chord is played as the I (tonic). There is a chorus but instead of going to B major, Jimi stays on the F#7 but takes out the sharp ninth.
When a 7 (#9) is used as the I chord, in any key, we don’t use any key signature in order to prevent confusion. We just write the accidentals (sharps, flats and naturals) in the chord itself. The chart of Foxy Lady for chords and bass will look like this:
“7 (#9) Chords played in Taxman & The Word”
Below is a chart of the first six bars of “Taxman” with the D7 (#9) chord circled:
Continuing with a pick up into the two bar intro of “The Word“, note how the guitar and piano compliment each other on the D7 (#9). The guitar plays the 7th (C) and sharp 9th (F) on top while the piano takes care of the 1 (D), 3rd (F#) and 5th (A):
“7 (#9) Chord played in the Blues Chorus of Scuttle Buttin'”
Another legendary guitar player who used this chord as part of his 12 bar blues form was Stevie Ray Vaughan, please listen to “Scuttle Buttin’“:
Quite hilarious seeing Stevie smoking a pipe while playing his behind off.
Stevie doesn’t really use an intro form, instead he plays a three beat pick up fill on his guitar which leads into the main 12 bar blues form. He continues to use this fill every other two bars as part of the main blues chorus.
The I chord is an Eb7 (#9), the IV is an Ab7 and the V is an Bb7:
“7 (#9) Chord played in the Intro of Pick Up The Pieces”
“Pick Up The Pieces” by The Average White Band:
This song uses C7 (#9) in its four bar intro. It’s emphasized by the rhythmic pattern of the guitar. Here it is used again as the V chord as in “Shining Star”, but instead of resolving to the I major chord it goes to the I minor chord, Fm7:
Two other popular songs which use 7(#9) chords are
Lastly, what chord progression sounds better:
1. from C7 (#9) to a Fmaj7, or
2. from a C7(#9) to a Fmin7.
Compare the two progressions below:
I think the second option from C7 (#9) to F min7 sounds better because of its blues quality, which by rule of thumb leans towards minor.
Two other popular songs which use 7(#9) chords are
Compose a four bar intro with a 7 (#9) chord using a 1 or 2 bar rhythmic pattern as in “Pick Up The Pieces”.
A recap of today’s post:
- I’ve discussed the history of a 7 (#9) chord
- I’ve explained where its origin of a 7 (#9) chord lays
- I’ve shown you how to construct a 7 (#9) chord
- I’ve shown you how 7 (#9) chords are used in existing song intros
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The fifth and last installment of popular song intros will be in the keys of D major & minor. Any questions about this post don’t hesitate to ask. Good luck!
About the Author:
Hans Hansen is the author and founder of “The Music Arrangers Page” and is always happy to share his passion for music arranging. In addition, he is a well experienced piano & bass guitar teacher, specializing in classical, rock and jazz. Any questions you have about music arranging; he is the person to ask. He also likes to invite you to download his Special Free Gift and connect with him on Facebook & Twitter or leave a comment on his blog.