The Cadd9 guitar chord sounds great, is easy to hold and is a great chord for the songwriter’s toolbox.
I cover the notes and intervals in the chord and the basic structure of an add9 chord in general. The Cadd9 chord is built in 3 common major keys.
Finally, I have 8 open guitar voicings for a Cadd9 chord and 4 closed voicings for an add9 chord. I also give examples of popular songs that use a Cadd9 chord.
Everything you need to know about the Cadd9 chord
Let’s define what an add9 chord is. An add9 chord is a major triad with the major 2nd (9th) of the major scale added. And to add the major 2nd, you have to pass the 6th, 7th, and 8th (octave) scale degrees to finally arrive at the major 2nd one octave higher.
It has the “9” in the name because it’s the 9th note\letter after the root (or 1st) of the chord. Don’t make it harder than it is, it’s very simple: 2 + 7 = 9. And you are adding the 9th note to the major triad so it gets called an “add9” chord.
Major triad = 1-3-5
add9 chord = 1-3-5-9
The intervals in an add9 chord are the 1st (also called the root note), the 3rd, the 5th, and the 9th. If you are new to music intervals, then do a quick read of my Music Intervals article.
There are many other types of 9th chords like major 9, dominant 9, 6 add9, minor add9, minor 9, suspended add9, and others. All those chords have additional notes or different intervals. Check out the Wikipedia page on ninth chords if you want an overload of information on the subject.
The add9 chord resolves best to its 5th and secondly to the major triad version of itself. For example, a Cadd9 chord resolves best to a G major chord (V) but also to C major (I). But use your ear and follow it with any chord which sounds good to you.
The notes in an add9 chord are equal to a suspended chord with the 6th added which I call a 6sus chord. I consider a 6sus chord (1-4-5-6) as an inversion of an add9 chord, but I have seen it in popular songs.
The Cadd9 chord in detail
Once you play a Cadd9 chord on the guitar, you will hear just how sweet the chord sounds. All add9 chords have a great sound, especially when played with open strings. And the most common Cadd9 chord shape is easy to play!
The notes in a Cadd9 chord are C-E-G-D: C = the 1st, E = the 3rd, G = the 5th, D = the 9th (1-3-5-9)
You can build the chord in 3 different major keys:
In C major on the 1st scale degree (I), in F major on the 5th sale degree (V) and in G major on the 4th scale degree (IV). Another way to look at is that the 1st, 4th and 5th notes in any major scale, not only build major triads, but they also build add9 chords.
You can also build an add9 chord on the 4th and 5th scale degrees of the melodic minor scale.
Other names you may see for a Cadd9 chord are C add9, C/9, C added ninth. I prefer using the space between the C and the add9 (C add9).
The Cadd9 chord has the same notes as a G6 sus, which is a Gsus4 chord with the major 6th added (G-C-D-E) as mentioned earlier. It’s something to keep in mind in case you ever see a 6sus chord.
Two common substitutes for the Cadd9 chord are Cmaj9 and C9. C major 9 is a Cadd9 chord with the major 7th added, whereas the C9 chord adds the flatted 7th (minor 7th) to a Cadd9. The C9 chord is strictly from the key of F major, but Cmaj9 can be built in both C and G major.
Open and closed Cadd9 guitar chord shapes
The first 4 chord shapes are closed chord shapes for an add9 guitar chord. I marked the root note, so just move that shape to where there is a C and you have a closed Cadd9 chord. Then I have 8 open Cadd9 chords.
Here is a chord diagram of the symbols I use in my chord blocks:
Notes on the chord voicings:
CLOSED: I like #’s 1, 2, and 4, though #4 is very difficult to hold. For #2, drop the thumb holding the root note if you find that difficult.
OPEN: #1 is by far the best. #2 sounds great even though there is only 1 open string. For #3, the open D string should be labeled as 2 instead of 9 but I didn’t want to throw anyone off. #6 sounds almost identical to #5 but #5 is a little hard to hold. My favorites are 1, 2, 5, and 7.
Popular songs that use a Cadd9 chord
Here are some songs that use one of the Cadd9 guitar voicings found above:
Lynyrd Skynyrd: Sweet Home Alabama
Beatles: Love Me Do, Paperback Writer
John Lennon: Give Peace A Chance
Sly And The Family Stone: Everyday People
Jewel: You Were Meant For Me
David Bowie: Ziggy Stardust
U2: Where The Streets Have No Name
Brad Paisley: Last Time For Everything
The Cadd9 chord is a bright and happy sounding chord, especially when played with open strings on a guitar. And since it is so easy to play, you’ll be wanting to add this chord to some of your original songs.
If you are not a songwriter, then try using the chord in place of a C major triad, maybe for just a beat or two. You are allowed to do that – add notes to chords in cover songs. That is how musicians sometimes cover other songs, especially jazz musicians.
Check out my article on Chords From Scales where I cover every chord that can be built from the major scale and other scales. Have fun playing this chord.