Dominant Eleventh Chords (11) - Guitar Diagrams and Voicings

What's a Dominant Eleventh Chord ?

Dominant seventh chords are built based on major triads with a minor seventh added (b7). In other words, the skeleton of a dominant chord is : root (1), major third (3), perfect fifth (5) and minor seventh (b7).  To get a dominant 11 chord you just need to add the ninth (9) and the eleventh (11).

Major triad 1 3 5      
Dominant 7 chord 1 3 5 b7    
Dominant 9 chord 1 3 5 b7 9  
Dominant 11 chord 1 3 5 b7 9 11

 

Similarities with Suspended Fourth Chords

Dominant 11 chords can be confused with dominant 7sus4 and suspended 4 chords (sus4). There are some similarities indeed, these three chords contain a fourth (4) which can serve as an eleventh (11).

Sus 4 1 3 4 X
7sus4 1 3 4 b7

 

What is The Difference Between 11, Major 11 and Minor 11?

  • Major 11 chords contain a major third (3) and a major seventh (7).
  • Minor 11 chords contain a minor third (b3) and a minor seventh (b7).
  • Dominant 11 contain a major third (3) and a minor seventh (b7).
Major 11 1 3 5 7 9 11
Minor 11 1 b3 5 b7 9 11
Dominant 11 1 3 5 b7 9 11

Dominant 11 Guitar Diagrams (Dissonant)

Playing both the major third (3) and the fourth (4) doesn't sound pretty good (please note that the 11th is the same as the 4th). These two tones, when they are played together, create a dissonant and pretty unpleasant sound (however, it can be interested in certain situations).

Consequently, the third is often omitted in the eleventh chord (see the diagrams 3, 4 and 5). This can create confusion because it changes the name of the chords. Dominant 11 becomes 9sus4. Still the chords are often written as an 11th chord.

Here are two diagrams representing the dissonance produce by the 11th and the 3rd. You can notice that the 9th is omitted. Indeed, it is physically difficult if not impossible to play all the needed tones on the guitar.

Dominant 11 guitar diagrams (Consonant)

The two following dominant eleventh guitar shapes are less dissonant than the previous voicings. The third (3) has been omitted and replaced with the ninth (9). They are also easier to play. 

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Last edited: 07/26/2019