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The 6th chord has a really nice flavor of it’s own. It’s probably not one of the first obvious chords you will learn when you start out, but the 6th chord is used in many popular songs and is a favorite in jazz music.
The chord is often used in intros or as a final chord at the end of a song, but also to add a breath of fresh air throughout a chord progression.
Today we will learn the most common types of 6th chord shapes:
– Open major 6th chords
– Minor 6th chords
– Moveable (closed) 6th chords
Let’s spice up your chord vocabulary and play a bit out of the box.
Enjoy the flavors!
OPEN MAJOR 6TH CHORDS
There is often confusion over the chord symbols 6 and Maj6, but these are interchangeable. So “C6” is the same as “CMaj6“.
A Major chord consist of the root, 3rd and 5th notes of the major scale (1 3 5). The major 6th chord (Maj6) consists of the root, 3rd, 5th and 6th notes of the major scale (1 3 5 6). So the 6th note of the major scale is added to the major chord.
Major chord formula = 1 3 5
Maj6 chord formula = 1 3 5 6
C chord = C E G
CMaj6 chord = C E G A
A popular song that uses a Maj6 chord at the end of a song (G6 chord to be precise) is “She loves you” by The Beatles. And “Fool on the Hill” also by the Beatles begins with a D6 chord. In fact, The Beatles repertoire is loaded with 6th chords.
MINOR 6TH CHORDS
The minor 6th chord (m6) consists of the root, minor 3rd, 5th and 6th notes of the major scale.
Minor chord formula = 1 b3 5
Minor6 chord formula = 1 b3 5 6
C chord = C Eb G
Cm6 chord = C Eb G A
MOVEABLE 6TH CHORDS
A moveable chord can be moved all across the neck. A moveable (closed) chord means there are no open strings in the chord. So now with one chord shape you can play the Maj6 chord in any key.
For example if you take the C6 chord (see image below, first chord from the left). The note on the low E-string is your root note. In this example it’s located on the low E-string, 8th fret, which is a C note. If you move this entire chord up a half step (1 fret) it becomes a C#6 chord. Your root note has now moved up to the 9th fret low E-string which is a C# note. (So if your root note is a C# note that means your chord is C#Maj6.
Move the entire chord up another half step your root note becomes an D note so your chord becomes Dmaj6.
The same principle applies to all moveable (closed) chords. The root note determines the name of the chord.
If you take the C6 chord, second chord from the left, here the root note is located on the A-string, 3rd fret. On the Cm6 chord, second chord from the right, the root note is located on the low E-string, 8th fret. And the root note on the Cm6 chord, first from the right, is located on the A-string, 3rd fret.
If we move the Cm6 chord (second from the right) down the neck one fret at a time you get: Cm6, Bm6, Bbm6, Am6, Abm6, Gm6 and so on.
– Practice all the 6th chords in this post.
– Listen carefully to the sounds of the 6th chords. Create a feeling or picture that you associate with the sound of the 6th chords and try to memorize it.
– Play songs with 6th chords and see how they are applied.
– Locate the root of the moveable chord shapes and practice them in different keys.