How to Play the Cadd9 Chord on the Guitar

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How to Play the Cadd9 Chord

The Cadd9 ("C add nine") guitar chord is a nice and easy, yet interesting sounding chord you can use to create some additional color in your guitar playing. Let's focus first on how to play a basic Cadd9 chord in open position:

  • Place your second (middle) finger on the third fret of the fifth string.
  • Next, put your first (index) finger on the second fret of the fourth string.
  • Leave the third string open.
  • Lastly, put your third (ring) finger on the third fret of the second string.
  • Strum strings five through one, being careful not to let your low E (6th) string ring.
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About the Cadd9 Chord

The Cadd9 is a type of major chord, with an additional note added for color. A "plain" major chord is built based on the first, third and fifth notes in the major scale of the chord you're trying to play. In this case, it's:

  • C (the first note in a C major scale)
  • E (the third note in a C major scale)
  • G (the fifth note in a C major scale)

The Cadd9 chord includes a color note in addition to the core C major chord. These color notes are referred to in music theory as "extensions". The actual note being added is hinted at right in the chord name Cadd9 - in addition to the standard C major chord, the 9th note in a C major scale is added.

For those of you who have learned your major scales, you'll remember that they only have seven distinct notes. When talking about chord extensions, however, we refer to the notes up an octave. Meaning that the second note in a major scale is referred to as the 9th when referencing extensions. In this case, the second note of a C major scale is the note D, making the notes in the Cadd9 chord:


For those of you who have learned their note names all over the fretboard, try examining the image of the chord shape shown above to verify the chord does include all the correct notes. The notes are (from low to high) C, E, G, D, and E.

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When to Use the Cadd9 Chord

You'll need to experiment here a bit to find out when it sounds exactly right, but very often you can use this chord whenever you'd use a C major chord. Whereas other chords with "color" notes like ​Dsus2 sound like they need to resolve back to D major, the Cadd9 chord can often stand on its own, and not need to move to a plain old C major chord.

One common progression in acoustic rock music involves moving from G6 to Cadd9. To play G6, start by playing a G major chord, but shifting your finger on the third fret of the first string over a string, instead of holding down the third fret of the second string. Strum all six strings - and you're playing a G6.

Now, move your second and first fingers over a string, from the sixth and fifth to the fifth and fourth strings, leaving your third finger where it is on the second string. Strum again (avoiding the low sixth E string), and you're playing a Cadd9. Try moving back and forth between the two chord shapes. Fans of 80s glam metal will recognize this as the main progression in Poison's "Every Rose Has It's Thorn."