The 7#5b9 chord is one of my favorite 7alt chords and it works great as a dominant 7th chord, especially the E7#5b9 chord to take you back to either an A major or A minor chord.
In this article, I cover the intervals in the 7#5b9 chord, the notes in the E7#5b9 chord, the chord’s resolution tendency and how, and when, to use the chord.
I have open and closed guitar chord voicings for the 7#5b9 chord in the key of E, as well as for a 7#5b9\#9 chord. Finally, I list 11 jazz standards that use the 7#5b9 chord.
The 7#5b9 altered chord
A dominant 9th chord has a perfect fifth and major 2nd, whereas the 7#5b9 chord has an augmented 5th and a diminished 9th. However, both the dominant 9th and 7#5b9 chords have a root note, major 3rd, and minor 7th (1-3-♭7) in common. Let’s compare both chords.
Dominant 9th chord intervals: root, major 3rd, perfect 5th, minor 7th = R-M3-P5-m7-M9 = 1-3-5-♭7-9
7#5b9 chord intervals: root, major 3rd, augmented 5th, minor 7th, diminished 9th = R-M3-A5-m7-d9 = 1-3-#5-♭7-♭9
Chord equivalent: 7#5b9 = m9♭5 on the ♭7, for example, E7#5b9 =Dm9b5
E7#5b9 chord tendency: this chord resolves best to A & E♭ but also to F and B.
I’m including a 7alt chord that is an augmented 7th with both the ♭9 & #9.
7#5♭9 / #9 chord intervals: root, major 3rd, augmented 5th, minor 7th, diminished 9th, augmented 9th = R-M3-A5-m7-d9-A9 = 1-3-#5-♭7-♭9-#9
Chord equivalent: 7#5♭9 / #9 = 13sus b9 on the #9, or E7#5♭9/#9 = G13sus b9
E7#5♭9 / #9 chord tendency: resolves best to A & E♭ but also to (check this out) F and B, G and C#, and A♭ & C.
* Note: The sharp nine for the note E is actually F##, however, I notate it as its enharmonic equivalent G.
Open and closed E7#5b9 & E7#5b9/#9 guitar chord shapes & tones
The E7#5b9 chord is built on the seventh scale degree of the F melodic minor scale. Here are the chord tones for the 2 E augmented 7th chords above:
E7#5b9 chord tones: E-G#-C-D-F where the G# is actually the ♭3 for the F minor triad A♭.
E7#5b9/#9 chord tones: E-G#-C-D-F-G
Here is a chord diagram of the symbols I use in my chord blocks:
Notes on the chord voicings:
7#5b9 closed chords:#1 & #2 sound great but #3 is really difficult to hold. And the 3 string pinky barre for #1 is tough to pull off when you first try it, but it isn’t that hard. Also, for #1 it’s easier to hold the chord if you add the optional note on the 5th string.
E7#5b9 chord: #’s 1 & 4 are my favorites, #2 is okay and #3 is ehhh.
E7#5b9/#9 chord: First off, the closed 7#5b9 / #9 chord looks difficult but it’s not that hard if you can pull off the 2 string pinky barre. For the 2 voicings in E, they both sound good and of course, there is another 3-string pinky barre for #2.
Songs that use a 7#5b9 chord
The 7#5b9 is a common jazz chord, one of the 7alt chords, so you most likely will only find the chord in jazz songs. Luckily, I have The Standards Real Book (E♭ Version) and I took a look at songs that I knew.
The chord is sometimes used as a V7 chord, but usually as a V \ V substitute or variation of that. I’ll make notes on how the chord is used in each song so that you can get an idea of how to use it in your songs.
Here are jazz standards that have a 7#5b9 chord (one has an E7#5b9 in it). The first set of songs are basic use of the chord. The last 2 songs have advanced chord substitutions.
Basic use of the chord as a V7 or diatonic V7 substitution
As Time Goes By by Herman Hupfield. The song from the movie Casablanca. It’s in the key of C major with an A7#5b9 > Dm7 (V \ ii).
Blues In The Night by Arlen & Mercer. Key of G major with the changes A7#5b9 > D7#5#9 > G6 (V \ V).
Days Of Wine & Roses by Mancini & Mercer. Key of D major with the change C#7#5b9 > F#m7 (V \ iii).
I Get A Kick Out Of You by Cole Porter. The song is in the key of C major with the chords A7#5b9 > D9 > G7#5b9 at the end of the verse.
I’m A Fool To Want You by Sinatra & Herron. This song is in C# minor with a G#7#5b9 coming before each C#m6 add9 chord. There is also a C#7#5b9 before an F#m6 add9 chord. The 1st change is a V7 > i and the second one is V \ iv.
Serenade In Blue by Warren & Gordon. It’s in the key of C major with the change A7#5b9 > D9 > G7#5b9 (V \ V \ V).
Stormy Weather by Arlen & Koehler. It’s in the key of E major with the change B7#5b9 > E6, so that is using the chord as a V7 chord.
Time After Time by Cahn & Styne. In the key of A major with the change F#7#5b9 > B9 > E9sus \ E7b9 at the end of the verse (V \ V \ V).
Time On My Hands by Youmans & Gordon. Key of D major with the change F#7#5b9 > B7#5b9-B7b9 > E9#11 > A13sus – that’s a lot of V of V subs!
Advanced use of the 7#5b9 chord
I Loves You Porgy by Gershwin & Heyward. It’s in the key of D major with a C#7#5b9 at the end of the verse. In the bridge section is the change E7#5b9 > E7b9 > G9b5 > F#7#5b9 > F9b5 > E7#5b9 > A9sus. Now that’s jazz!
‘Round Midnight by Thelonius Monk. The song is in E♭ with the change D7#5b9 > G7b5 > Am7b5 > D7#5b9 > G7b5 > Fm7. That’s not a harmony I would never come up with just to end to an Fm7 chord.
That’s a lot to take in if you ask me. My suggestion is to use the 7#5b9 chord as a V7 chord, V\V substitution or a bV \ V substitution. Or in other words, use an E7#5b9 chord to go to A major or minor, or before A7 > D major, or to E♭ major.
Give the E7#5b9 chord a try in some of your songs, or use the closed voicings for a different key. As long as it sounds good, it is good!
If you like this chord then also take a look at my article G7#5#9 Guitar Chord for another augmented 7alt chord. Also, take a look at the Altered Chord page on Wikipedia to learn more about the chord.