Major 13th chords
The Major 13th chord is most common in jazz and can function as a substitution chord for major 7th and major 9th. It can also be used in pop and similar styles when added tone color is wished for. Diagrams in open position and as movable shapes for major 13 chords are presented.
Open maj13 chords
At least one of the notes in the chords are omitted in the chords. The sixth note in the chord, the 11th, is the one that is most often left out. In the Cmaj13, for example, G (5th), D (9th) and F (11th) are omitted.
Alternative chord shapes
Here are alternative versions in open position for this chord category:
Emaj13: 021120 / 046800
Movable maj13 chords
The shape presented above is movable and is all you need to remember. There are, of course, other versions as well, which can be seen below.
Major 13th with flats and sharps
Additional chords in this category:
C sharp / D flat maj13: 9 X 10 10 11 X
D sharp / E flat maj13: 11 X 12 12 13 X
F sharp / G flat maj13: 2X334X
G sharp / A flat maj13: 4X556X
A sharp / B flat maj13: 6X778X
The 13th chord is built with the formula 1-3-5-7-9-(11)-13 (root, major 3rd, perfect 5th, major 7th, major 9th, perfect 11th and major 13th). The 11th is mentioned in the formula, but is usually excluded.
Chord constructionCmaj13 C -x - B - E - A - x
Dmaj13 D -x - C# - F# - B - x
Emaj13 E -x - D# - G# - C# - x
Fmaj13 F -x - E - A - D - x
Gmaj13 G -x - F# - B - E - x
Amaj13 A -x - G# - C# - F# - x
Bmaj13 B -x - A# - D# - G# - x
Guitar versions of the chord
Notes in chordCmaj13 C - E - G - B - D - A
Dmaj13 D - F# - A - C# - E - B
Emaj13 E - G# - B - D# - F# - A
Fmaj13 F - A - C - E - G - B
Gmaj13 G - B - D - F# - A - C
Amaj13 A - C# - E - G# - B - D
Bmaj13 B - D# - F# - A# - C# - E
The intervals are 1 - 3 - 5 - 7 - 9 - 13
It's possible to include the first strings as well, by bar the two highest strings by the little finger. Notice the similarity with the 13 dominant chord shape.
Alternative chord shape
It's handy to have a second shape to use when the situation calls for it.
Major 13th with the root on 5th string:
An easier shape for major 13th with the root on the 5th string is X35455 (Cmaj13), similar to one of the major 7th shapes. A third way is X3X455 (Cmaj13), with the 5th omitted as well.
Major 13th chord inversions
A Major 13th chord is possible to play in numerous configurations including six inversions (it's also common to combine inversions with omitting notes for this chord type).
C major 13th can be used as an example:
- C - E - G - B - D - F - A (root position)
- E - C - G - B - D - F - A (1st inversion)
- G - C - E - B - D - F - A (2nd inversion)
- B - C - E - G - D - F - A (3rd inversion)
- D - C - E - G - B - F - A (4th inversion)
- F - C - E - G - B - D - A (5th inversion)
- A - C - E - G - B - D - F (6th inversion)
To indicate that a chord is played inverted it is written as slash sign before the bass note. For example, the first inversion of the Cmaj13 chord is written Cmaj13/E. Some examples follow below in short notation:
For more chord diagrams, see The Chord Reference ebook.
Progressions including this chord type:
Dm7 - G9 - Cmaj13
Am7 - Fmaj9 - Cmaj13
A11 - Cmaj9 - Gmaj13
D6/9 - C6/9 - Gmaj13
Major 13th chords work as I and IV, but not as V chords (atonal). So, for example, in C major key, Cmaj13 and Fmaj13 are viable (diatonic) options.
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