The Emadd9 guitar chord is a dark, deep and slightly somber sounding chord that can be built in the keys of G and D major. G & D major also build the Em9 chord and it is also a similar-sounding chord.
I cover the notes and intervals in both chords and the basic structure of a minor add9 and m9 chord in general. There are 25 guitar chord shapes in total following the chord descriptions: 13 open and closed guitar chords for an Emadd9 chord, and 12 for the Em9 chord.
Below the chord voicings are songs that use both chords in E as well as in other keys.
Emadd9 and Em9 guitar chords
Both the Emadd9 and Em9 chords have the minor triad as their base chord, and both have the major 9 F# in common as well. F# is the note that is a whole step above the root note E.
The only scale degrees that build minor triads AND have a major 2nd\9th are the 2nd and 6th of every major scale. And for Em, that would be the ii chord in D major and the vi chord in G major.
You can also build a minor add9 chord on the 1st and 4th scale degrees of the harmonic minor scale. The m9 chord can also be built on the 4th scale degree of the harmonic minor scale.
It’s difficult to describe the sound of a minor add9 and minor 9 chords, but eerie, somber and slightly dark come close. You’ll have to hear it for yourself. I love the sound of each chord.
Emadd9 chord in detail
The Emadd9 chord has the following notes and intervals (R stands for Root):
Chord tones: E-G-B-F#
Chord intervals: R-m3-P5-M9, or 1-♭3-5-9
Chord Tendency: Resolves best to D major but also to G.
Alternate Names: Em add9, E minor add 9, Em/9
The last name convention of “Em/9” is too close to Em9 if you ask me. I personally write the chord with a space between “m” and “add9”, such as Em add9. That’s the naming convention I use for the chord shapes in this article.
The “9” is actually F#, the major 2nd of E, but one octave higher, or 7 notes above (2-7=9).
If you do not understand what major 2nd or 9th means, then read my Music Intervals article. Once you understand intervals, then all scales and chords start to make sense.
Em9 chord in detail
The Em9 chord has the following notes and intervals:
Chord tones: E-G-B-D-F#
Chord intervals: R-m3-P5-m7-M9, or 1-♭3-5-♭7-9
Chord Tendency: Resolves best to D major but also to G.
Alternate Names: E minor 9, Emin9, E-9, E minor ninth, Em7(9)
Chord with the same notes: Gmaj13 (G-B-D-F#-E)
You can think of the Em9 chord as an Em add9 with the b7 added, or an Em7 with the major 9th added. Note, the practice of putting the extensions in parentheses is ridiculous IMO, so Em7(9) should just be written as Em9.
I really like this chord and it sounds fantastic. That’s not surprising because all major 7 chords sound great, including the major 13.
Keep in mind that the Em9 equals Gmaj13 if you are writing a song. Don’t follow an Em9 with some sort of Gmaj7 because the chord change will not stand out unless that is your intention.
This chord can also be played without the 5th so you can think of it as a shell voicing. An Em9 chord without the 5th has the notes E-G-D-F#.
Open and closed Emadd9 guitar chord shapes
The first 5 chords are closed chords for minor add9 followed by open Emadd9 chord shapes. Here is a chord diagram of the symbols I use in my chord voicings.
Notes on the minor add 9 chord voicings
CLOSED: I only like #’s 1 and 5.
OPEN: I like every voicing except #6 which is difficult to hold. For #4, you can also hold the notes with fingers, 1, 2, 3 but I found 1, 3, 4 easier. And for #8, you can use the pinky (4) to hold the F# instead of your ring (3) finger if you prefer.
Popular songs that use an Emadd9 chord
I could only find 3 songs that use an Emadd9 chord (songs that I like). I’m sure there are plenty more.
Beatles: Happiness Is A Warm Gun
Pink Floyd: Hey You, Welcome To The Machine
Here are 2 songs that use a minor add9 chord but not in the key of E:
Craig Fuller: Aimee (Dmadd9)
Grateful Dead: Cassidy (Gmadd9)
Open and closed Em9 guitar chord shapes
The first chords are closed m9 voicings followed by open Em9 chord shapes.
Notes on the m9 chord voicings
CLOSED: I like every voicing except #3 because it is harder to hold than #2 which is better anyway. For #1, barring with your 3rd finger is easier than with your 2nd.
OPEN: Numbers 4 & 5 sound similar, so take your pick. For #1, I prefer using my 2nd finger on the B, but 1 is the finger for that note if you are coming off an E minor chord. I like every voicing except #5 and #7 with the optional E at the 12th fret is my favorite.
Popular songs that use an Em9 chord
Here are some songs that use Em9 chord:
Dooley Wilson: As Time Goes By (Casablanca)
Indigo Girls: History Of Us
Bob Dylan: Boots Of Spanish Leather
Grateful Dead: France (Em7/F#)
Here are some songs that use a minor 9 chord but not in the key of E:
Allman Brothers: In Memory of Elizabeth Reed (Am9)
Grateful Dead: Terrapin Station (Dm9 & Am9), If I Had The World To Give (Fm9)
Stevie Wonder: As (C#m9), If You Really Love Me (Dm9)
Police \ Sting: Every Breath You Take (F#m9), Invisible Sun (Cm9)
Joni Mitchell: Coyote (Dm9)
Beatles: Golden Slumbers (Dm9), Julia (Gm9), You Never Give Me Your Money (Dm9)
Led Zeppelin: The Rain Song (Gm9)
Harburg-Jarrett: Somewhere Over The Rainbow (Dm9)
The Emadd9 chord is a guitar chord you’ll want to incorporate into your original songs if you can. It has a great sound that will add depth to your chord progressions and melodies. And the same is true of the Em9 chord. I like both chord types, but I have a preference for m9 chords.
You can read about various ninth chords on Wikipedia’s Ninth Chord page, otherwise, have fun learning and jamming!