Dominant 7th, minor 11th, major 9th – whether you know them by name or not, these and so many other extended chords are at the heart of some of the most popular and contemporary forms of music today. Whether they are used in neo-soul, R&B, hip-hop, funk or pop, extended chords provide music with a contemporary sound, despite being rooted in jazz.
Basic major and minor chords are made up of three notes: root, third (flattened third for minor) and fifth. For this reason, these chords are commonly referred to as triads, and are the basis of harmony in music. It can be the case, however, that these chord voicings become stale and uninspiring for producers looking to create new music. Adding extension notes to these chords is a great way of providing extra colour to the harmony of a piece. To extend a major triad, add the seventh degree of the scale (major seventh interval) relative to the major chord you are playing – in the key of C major this would be spelled C E G B. Likewise, you can extend a minor triad by adding the seventh degree of the scale also (minor seventh interval), which in A minor would be spelled A C E G. Using these chord spellings, you can experiment with the order in which you play each note and construct the chords differently. Which note you use as the lowest when spelling the chord changes which inversion of the chord is being played; for example, if you spell Cmajor7 as E G B C, it functions as a Cmajor7 first inversion as the third degree of the scale is the bass note. As well as the major and minor seventh extensions, chords can be further extended further to 9ths, 11ths and 13ths.
Adding these extensions to your keyboard and Rhodes repertoire will bring a contemporary neo-soul flavour to your music akin to the likes of Robert Glasper. If you are unable to execute these kinds of extension on keyboard, but wish to add these colours to your compositions, there is an excellent MIDI pack available on Samplicity that will allow you to access beautifully extended keyboard chords.
Off The Grid Keys
The Off the Grid Keys pack is a selection of MIDI loops available from Samplicity that can be dropped into any of your favourite VSTs, whether it be piano, keyboard or Fender Rhodes. This pack is perfect for artists or producers looking to give their music a jazz influenced contemporary edge associated with the likes of Robert Glasper, Jordan Rakei or Cory Henry. If you are not an expert at the keyboard, it can be useful to have a bank of rich chord extensions at hand should you ever need them for a project. Whilst MIDI keyboards are a tool used by almost all producers, it is rare that producers have the skillset demonstrated in the Off the Grid Keys pack. Most often, producers that are not primarily keyboard players tend to be limited to playing triads when inputting keys on a project. Whilst this is not always a problem, triads are certainly not as creatively stimulating, or as sonically interesting as four or five note extended chords when it comes to searching for inspiration.