Altered Chords

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Altered Chords

In music, an altered chord, an example of alteration, is a chord with one or more diatonic notes replaced by, or altered to, a neighboring pitch in the chromatic scale. For example the following progression:

Altered chord progression

uses an altered IV chord and is an alteration of:

Unaltered chord progression

The Ab serves as a leading tone to G.

In jazz music, an altered chord is a dominant chord that has the 5th and the 9th flatted or sharped. An altered chord may contain any of the following:

  • b5
  • #5
  • b9
  • #9

They may be in any combination. It is more common to have one of each, for example an altered 5th and an altered 9th rather than both being altered 5ths (or altered 9ths).

The altered chords create more tension and dissonance and in jazz harmony they are preferable to a generic dominant chord with either diatonic tensions (9 and 13) or no tensions whatsoever.

However, in more recent times, even such altered harmony has become commonplace, and more dissonant chromatic harmony is being explored by jazz players such as David Liebman and Randy Sandke. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Altered Chords are created by raising or lowering the 5th and/or 9th notes of a dominant seventh chord (or its extension) by a half-step (one fret). Click below for the best in free Altered Chord lessons available on the web.

Altered Chords (Jack Grassel)
Dominant 7 - altered tensions/extensions (Cyberfret)
Modal Interchange - Altered Chords (Pete Thomas)


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