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25 Altered Guitar Chords - Theory and Shapes

25 Altered Dominant Guitar Chords

Stef Ramin

On 04/03/2018

In Chords


Altered dominant chords are used to bring tension and an outside

flavor to jazz chord progressions. They generally resolved to an inside
chord as the I or a substitute as iii or vi. They have one or more notes
lowered or raised by a half-step, in other words they contain one or
more alterations. These alterations can be b9,#9, b5 (#11) and b13 (#5).
Jazz musicians, composers and arrangers used them as substitutions for
diatonic chords for adding more dissonance and spice up the harmony.
This tutorial provides 25 altered guitar chord shapes to understand
how they are constructed and how to play them on guitar.

Altering the fifth

In jazz music, alterations are used for all types of chords, however, they are most often applied to dominant
chords. So let's start with the fifth of V7, it that can be altered with a sharp (#) or a flat (b). So we can get two
altered chords named 7b5 or 7#5. Please note that the b5 and the #11 are the same notes, they are enharmonic like
the #5 and the b13 that are enharmonic too, so there are two other possibilities, 7#5 and 7b13. However, it is better
to use the b5 and #5 extensions as shown in the shapes below.

Dominant flat five drop 2 and drop 3 voicings

Here are four guitar neck diagrams to play 7b5 chords.[19.07.2018 16:44:08]
25 Altered Guitar Chords - Theory and Shapes

Dominant sharp five drop 2 and drop 3 voicings

These four diagrams take the same voicings as above, but with an augmented fifth. Please note that 7#5 chords can
be written 7aug or 7+5 or aug7.
Altering the ninth
The ninth of a dominant chord can be lowered or raised by a half-step, thus giving two altered dominant
chords : 7b9 and 7#9. Here are eight guitar diagrams to play altered dominant chords. Notice that there are two
rootless chord voicings, meaning that the root tone is not play but simply represented by a red circle.

Dominant 7 flat ninth chords

The b9 is generally used to alter the dominant 7 chord of a minor II-V-I chord progression giving a iim7 - V7b9 -
Im(maj7) sequence.[19.07.2018 16:44:08]
25 Altered Guitar Chords - Theory and Shapes

Dominant 7 sharp ninth chords

Now the same voicings but with a #9 instead of a b9. Please note that 7#9 chords are dominant chords with a major

One or more alterations

Altered chords contain one or more alterations, the choice depends on the melody. They are most of the time
simplified and written "ALT", for example G7#5b13 can be written G7alt. It means that the altered notes are not
specified, you can decide which alteration you add to the dominant 7 chord. Here are some chord shapes that will
help you to hear some of these altered chords.