The E7#9 Jimi Hendrix Chord
Some people would call this a “jazz chord” 🙂
We musicians of course (should) know better: we know there is no such thing called “jazz chords”.
There’s only stacking 3rd intervals.
When you keep stacking 3rds above the 7th in the chord, you get chords with tensions, which jazz musicians tend to favor for their rich sound.
One of those tensions is the #9.
This tension adds a punchy, recognizable sound to the chord.
While all over the place in jazz, the 7#9 chord is also heavily used in rock music.
One guitarist in particular who REALLY liked the sound of the 7#9 chord is Jimi Hendrix.
We can tell this was Jimi’s favorite chord because he wrote so many songs that use that chord.
Some of which include:
- Purple Haze (E7#9)
- Crosstown Traffic (C#7#9)
- Stone Free (E7#9)
- Foxy Lady (F#7#9)
- Little Miss Lover (E7#9)
Some 7#9 Theory and Some Other Bands Who Used The Chord
The 7#9 chord is a dominant chord with altered tension #9
The chord formula is: 1 3 5 b7 #9
Being that it is a major chord, with a b7, this is a dominant chord, or in other words a V chord.
That is how jazz musicians use it: as a V chord that wants to resolve to its I chord.
As an example: in jazz, the E7#9 would resolve to an A or Am chord (depending on the key being major or minor)
Interestingly enough, when used in rock music, the 7#9 chord is usually treated as a I chord.
The 2 most popular and heavily used fingerings for that chord on guitar are:
These are also the 2 fingerings Jimi uses.
Jimi however was not the only rock musician who likes using this chord.
Here are some more examples of songs with really cool guitar playing, that feature the 7#9 chord.
I’m A Man – Stevie Winwood
Born To Be Wild – Steppenwolf (underneath the organ solo at the end of the solo)
Testify – Stevie Ray Vaughan
Improvisation over the 7#9 Chord
This is the fun part: which scales can you use over this chord?
- Minor pentatonic from the root
Most guitarists in rock usually solo with the E minor pentatonic scale over the E7#9 chord.
The reason why this works is revealed when you look at the notes
E minor pentatonic scale: E G A B D
E7#9 chord: E G# B D F## (which is really a G note of course)
Both the scale and the chord share the notes E, G, B, and D
That is why both work together really well.
- Minor pentatonic up 3 frets from root
This option sounds really cool. Not enough rock guitarists know about that one.
This “altered scale” sound is something that might take getting some used to if your ear is primarily steeped in the sound of rock music.
Over for example a G7#9, you can solo with the Bb minor pentatonic scale
As always, the reason why this works becomes clear when you look at the notes.
G7#9 chord = G B D F A#
Bb minor pentatonic scale: Bb D E F Ab
3 notes in common: Bb/A# D and F
This is the go-to choice for guitarists who want to “fake” the sound of the altered scale (which will be discussed next) without having to worry about learning that scale.
(the Bb minor pentatonic scale shares 5 notes with the G altered scale)
A fun soloing idea:
Most common chord progression in jazz: II V I
In the key of C, this translates to Dm7 G7 Cmaj7
You can make the G7 chord an altered chord by adding an altered 9th to the chord, for example, G7#9.
Dm7 G7#9 Cmaj7
If you want to solo only using minor pentatonic scales: over the Dm7 and Cmaj7 you’d play A minor pentatonic, and over the G7#9 you’d play Bb minor pentatonic.
Sounds cool to move the scale up and down a half step (from A minor pent to Bb minor pent and back), while the chords actually move in 4ths (D to G to C is a root motion in 4ths)
- The Altered scale
The is the scale that jazz guys use to solo over 7#9 dominant chords.
The Altered scale is the 7th mode of melodic minor.
What this means is that: you are playing an altered scale when you play a melodic minor scale starting and ending on the 7th note of the melodic minor scale.
C melodic minor, the notes are: C D Eb F G A B
The 7th note is B.
Starting those 7 notes starting from B is
the B altered scale: B C D Eb F G A B
It’s interesting to go over the scale formula of the altered scale.
B = tonic
C = b9
D = #9
Eb, can be called D# = 3
F = b5
G = #5 (F##)
A = b7
Formula: 1 b9 #9 3 b5 #5 b7
This is the scale of choice to improvise over dominant chords with altered 9ths and altered 5ths (also called: “altered chords”)
If this is a bit complicated: there’s no better, faster, more efficient way to learn this in a way that is super easy to understand, than with lessons.
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Here’s some more fun info about the Jimi Hendrix chord.
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