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Why are 11th chords voiced without the 3rd?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by TheIndieKid, Sep 29, 2019.

  1. The whole point of a dominant chord is to supply the dissonance and leading tone to the root. In jazz, 7th chords have chromatically altered extensions to heighten the tension, so why is the b9 interval between 3rd and 4th not allowed?
  2. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Is it always omitted? Is it merely the "running out of fingers" effect?
    Malcolm35 and TheIndieKid like this.
  3. The inclusion of the natural 11 gives the chord a suspended feeling. In suspended 4 chords, you don’t simultaneously play the third.

    In fact, many pianists abbreviate the V11 and simply play IV/V—eliminating the triadic 3rd and 5th altogether.
  4. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    I think it's mostly just tradition. To my ears it doesn't really sound that much more dissonant than your typical alterations (b9, #11, b13). I was in a prog band once where the guitarist used an 11 chord (with a major third) on one song. He picked it as an arpeggio, but it was still a pretty spicy chord. But in context it was perfect.

    I'll say this, though: in functional harmony, the V chord wants to go to the I. So G7 goes to C. If you put an 11 in that G7, you kind of spoil the resolve, by giving away the C before you even get there.

    Omitting the third makes the chord 7sus4. The ones you hear in jazz tend to be non-functional, quartal voicings used in modal contexts. To my ears they completely lack the dominant sound of a regular 7th chord.
  5. Good point about functional vs. non-functional dominant chords. Not everything is designed to resolve to the tonic.

    I think the OP had a good question and was very astute to notice that something suspicious was going on there.
    foal30, TheIndieKid and LouBass like this.
  6. True, those chords don't have the same feel as a common or garden dominant 7th chord, but I don't think that necessarily makes them nonfunctional (though they certainly can be). A V9sus4 chord (basically equivalent to an 11th chord in common practice, even if not in the most technical definition) can resolve perfectly well to a tonic. V-I is not the only possible cadence; IV-I can also be a good strong cadence (plagal cadence). In a way, you could think of a V9sus4 (11) chord as being a sort of hybrid of IV and V in relation to your I. The root movement is a V-I, but the upper extensions (7-9-11) resolve more like a IV-I.

    EDIT: I just noticed that dreamadream99 already said essentially the same thing....
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2019
  7. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Cool beans, I'll have to try that just to hear it. :) Not that I can even play a V9sus4 (11). :D
    TheIndieKid likes this.
  8. If you play keys at all, try this. Starting from low to high, play C-G in your left hand, then Bb-D-F with your right. Next, play just F in your left hand and A-C-F in your right.
    TheIndieKid and bholder like this.
  9. Well, never say never, but yeah, it usually is omitted.

    HOWEVER, when you have a #11, rather than a "regular" 11th, as an extension on a 7th chord, you usually DO keep the 3 in the chord as well. So a C9#11 would contain the notes C-E-G-Bb-D-F#.
    TheIndieKid likes this.
  10. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    I’ve often felt that referring to these pitch-class collections as “11th chords” was a misnomer, precisely because it makes one presume that they are constructed like and behave like other dominant chords with tensions. OP’s question makes perfect sense; why wouldn’t an 11th chord be just like a 9th chord or a 13th chord (a 1-3-5-b7 dominant chord plus extensions)?

    And to me the answer is, because it’s not an “11th chord”. It’s a 7sus4 chord with added upper structure tensions.*

    IOW, it isn’t so much a question about music theory (per se), it’s a question about music semantics.

    *Edit: or more specifically, with the added 9th. Though frankly I think I’ve seen more instances of an “11 chord” that were missing one or two chord tones than those that were complete 1-5-7-9-11 spellings...so again, the name is a misnomer.
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2019
  11. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    The Major 3rd can be voiced in a Dominant 7th Sus chord - you just need to find the most pleasant voicing - in the case below, the Major 3rd is separated from the Suspended 4 with a lot of space - an interval of a major 7th separates them.
    If it is voiced below the Sus 4, (a half-step below), it still works, but it grinds a bit more. IME.
    Here is a useful voicing for Bb7, 9, 13, sus, add maj 3 - a beautiful sound. Try it at a piano, and "see".
    IMFO, of course.
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2019
    foal30, Whousedtoplay and TheIndieKid like this.
  12. OptimalOptimus


    Jan 4, 2019
    it is a b9 in your exemple...
  13. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Eb (up to) D is a major 7th interval.
    Whousedtoplay likes this.
  14. b9 chord would have a B natural in there. C is the 9.
    Whousedtoplay likes this.
  15. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music.

    May 3, 2009
    N.E Illinois
    Allan Holdsworth voiced the third with the 11 all the time.
    Because he could.
    IamGroot and Whousedtoplay like this.
  16. Groove Master

    Groove Master

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    How to voice a chord is an art on itself ;-)
    foal30 likes this.
  17. foal30


    Dec 3, 2007
    New Zealand
    It wasn't a Suspended Chord it was a Suspicious Chord!
  18. foal30


    Dec 3, 2007
    New Zealand
    Herbie Hancock "Maiden Voyage"??
    IamGroot, Lownote38 and Spin Doctor like this.

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