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6th Chords Theory

6th chords are often associated with jazz and swing music. They are also can be used as passing chords in rock and roll music.

Sound of the 6th chord
6th chords can be characterised as having a light and jazzy feel.

The 6th Chord Notated
These chords are notated with the name of the chord, followed by the number 6. E.g. D6

D6 chord notated

D6 chord score

Theory - how to go about working out a 6th chord.
The best place to start here is to begin by working out the major chord. Once this is done, go up two steps (by the smallest step you can go i.e. a semitone) from the top note. This becomes the new top note of the chord.

F6 chord

F6 chord

Here's an example of this in action. Let's try to work out F6. Firstly, work out the major chord, which is F - A - C. Then, go up two steps from the top note (do not include the top note, and include all keys e.g. whites and blacks as you go). This gets you to the note "D". So F6 is F - A - C - D.

So 6th chords are major chords altered by the top note (the "fifth") moving two steps up.

In early music, a sixth chord would be just three notes (e.g. C6 would be C - E - A) and the "dominant" note (G in this case) was omitted. However, in conventional popular music C6 is taken to mean the four note chord C - E - G - A (even though technically speaking this should be written Cadd6).

Sixth chords also have a minor varient, the "m6", for example Dm6 (D - F - A - B). This might also be written Dmin/maj6 or Dmin(maj6), and is a popular chord in jazz music.


It's fun to experiment with this chord. Try playing two normal G chords, followed by one G6, followed by another G chord, in a steady beat. E.g. G G G6 G, and repeat this pattern. This gives you a boogie-woogie style piano riff. If you know how to do a walking bass, you could try adding this in the left hand. A suitable bass here would be G, B, D, E, G (moving up the keyboard) then E, D, B, G (going down). Then see if you can play a chord on each bass note. Now that's a bit more tricky!

Piano Keys

chord theory
major chords (eg. A, A major) minor chords (eg. Em. E minor or E min) 2 chords (eg. C2 or Csus2) 4 chords (eg. E4 or Esus4) 5 chords (eg. F5, power or open chords) 6 chords (eg. C6) 7 chords (eg. G7) m7 chords (eg. Gmin7) maj7 chords (eg. Gmaj7)



9 chords (eg. C9 or Cadd9) 11 chords (eg. B11 or Badd11) augmented chords (eg. Faug or F+) diminished chords (eg. Ddim or D°) flat chords (eg. Eb or Gb) sharp chords (eg. F# or C#) chord inversions (eg. E/B or E/G#)

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