13 chords piano with Example

What is a 13th chord?

A 13th chord is a chord built from the 4th and 5th notes of the major scale. For example, if you’re in the key of C major, the 13th chord is built from notes F, A, and C. You can also build it from the 5th and 6th notes. This would give you a C, E, and G chord. The thirteenth chord is sometimes called the flat ninth because it’s built from the flat ninth notes of the scale. The flat ninth is built from the 2nd and 3rd notes of the scale. The other notes, the fourth and fifth, are then flattened. So, in the key of C major, the flat ninth chord is built from notes E and G, while F and A are flattened. Interestingly, the flat ninth chord and the thirteenth chord are the same. They’re just different representations of the same chord.


This video is all about 13th chords – what they are, how to use them, and some examples. It’s just one in a series of short videos covering some of the basics when it comes to playing the piano.

What is the function of the 13th chords piano?

Specifically 13, flat 13, and flat 13 flat 9. It would also help if you could provide songs that utilize these chords.

Generally, a 13 chords piano is really a dominant 7th chord with a 13 added. For example, if you’re in C major, G13 will often be voiced G F B E, and the idea is that the 13th is an alteration to the dominant 7th for color or for melody or something like that. This is the chord you would use when you have a V7 but a 3 in the melody. In minor, the chord used is the 7b13, which is the same but with a b13 instead of a 13. So G7b13 is often voiced G F B Eb, and it’s the same kind of thing, a V7 with a b3 in the melody. You can think of both of these as 6-5 suspensions in the chord, and both usually resolve down to the 5. The 6 (or 13) can resolve to the 9 of the tonic chord that follows, but it doesn’t have to (obviously).

13 chords piano with example

Both of these voicings have some interesting bits that make them very nice-sounding chords. In the G F B E voicing, you get the crunchy major 7th between the F and the E, and everything feels really major. In the G F B Eb voicing, you get a diminished fourth between the B and Eb, an unusual interval, and since diminished intervals want to resolve down and the leading tone (the B) wants to resolve up, you get a strong tension.

  • Now, of course, you don’t need to use 13 chords this way or voice them like this. But since a complete 13 chord contains 7 notes, using all of them is a bit unwieldy, and the “traditional” voicing of 1 3 5 b7 9 11 13 is extremely rigid.
  • I’ve never come across a 13 chord voiced as a stack of thirds in music. But since the chord is 7 notes, it’s a complete-scale — you can think of any 7-note scale as a 13th chord. For example, G Mixolydian is G B D F A C E.
  • When you play a G7 in C major, you could really add any of these other notes as color tones and they would belong. But what if you’re in C minor?
  • The G7 chord is G B D F Ab C Eb (the leading tone is raised in minor), so your other notes include a b9 and a b13. You can add any of them to the chord for color.
  • The b9 is especially common in minor — a V7b9 is the first chord of “I Will Survive”, it’s all over “Sunrise, Sunset”, etc. Very common chord.
  • But if you’re going to continue adding color tones to it, the next one is the b13, unless you’re in melodic minor (jazz happens to like that mode).
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13th defines how many notes are in a chord in its complete full spelling.

The Root of the chord tells you which notes specifically are the ones in the chord. In the key of C, a C13 would be C E G B D F A. Notice it includes all of the scale tones of the Key of C major.

The function is about how the chord fits into the harmonic scheme. the above is a tonic chord in the key of C and it would function as a Tonic in the Key of C just as any other tonic chord. A V13 in C major would be G B D F A C E, again it includes all of the notes in the C major scale but because the root is G, it functions as a dominant chord just as a G7 chord would. The same would be true of any scale step in any key. The function is determined by the Root and the scale defines the exact notes for that chord..

The 13th chord, like any other chord built in 3rds, may be incomplete or may have alterations in the spelling of the chord.

In modal contexts, the 13th can be used to define the notes in the mode as it includes all the possible letter names of the notes and the root can tell you which actual notes are in the scale. I am not sure which is the definitive default for the scale to be used, but if there is a key signature, one would assume that it would be a chord built upon the root in that key signature. It’s not used that much so I am not familiar with the default spellings but still, it would depend upon which scale would best fit the context of the chord in a composition or by a note from the composer. Maybe someone can tell you the default spellings of these chords.

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Some posters here define it as always being a V type of chord and if that is the criteria, you would choose the notes from the scale that had the root on the 5th step of either the major or the minor. I think that they assume the minor but I am not sure of the details of its default. It could be they are correct (I have no reason to doubt them) and if so then a delimiter would answer the questions as to which scale is the default scale for that chord.

that’s about it. The rest is examples of how people have used them in context. I would not write a C13 if I wanted a Cmaj7 to add 9 and/or 6 but some might. I have seen. but that context would seem to indicate that the chord would be a tonic as the addition of the 9 or 6 to the C major triad is an ending I have seen more often than other ending tonic chords, but again, I would be as simple and specific as I could be and that’s why I would not use it.

So, you can see that function is not really related to the 13th chord without the root note and the scale context. It is a coloration chord and/or a chord to increase the density of the harmony. You can use all 7 notes. That is pretty dense.


13th Chord piano octave.:

  • The 13th can be seen as a 6th plus an octave. Remember, a 6th is an inversion of a 3rd. Also, the voice leading and key implication concepts are similar to the 9th chord. However, there is a slight difference in how the 13th wants to resolve, which will be explained below.

  • Let’s build this on C. So, CBbEA. Play this chord. It has a sort of hanging quality due to the A. Remember, this will ideally resolve to F-major. So, C goes to F, Bb goes to A, E goes F, and A goes to….G? Here is where the 13ths have their special function. Unlike the other upper voices in the previous examples, the 13th can’t resolve by step. If it resolves by step, we’d end up with FAFG. Clearly begs for the 2-1, G-F resolution. Thus, 13th chords can be utilized as having a sort of appoggiatura-like quality, where if we resolved all upper tones by step, we’d end up with an appoggiatura, G, that begs to be resolved to F to fit the chord. This lets the top note, the 13th, lend itself to being incorporated into melody quite nicely. It doesn’t have to function this way; the A can resolve by leap down to F just fine as well.

  • The flat-13th behaves in the same manner as above. It also behaves in the same manner as the flat-9th, as having this flattened interval implies the minor mode and therefore sounds like it should resolve to a minor chord.

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For example, “to make the chord more playable [on guitar], thirteenth chords often omit the fifth and the ninth.”

Further down:

Since thirteenth chords contain more than four notes, in four-voice writing the root, third, seventh, and thirteenth are most often included, excluding the fifth, ninth, and eleventh.


In modern pop/jazz harmony, after the dominant thirteenth, a thirteenth chord (usually notated as X13, e.g. C13) contains an implied flatted seventh interval. Thus, a C13 consists of C, E, G, B♭, and A.


In the common practice period the “most common” pitches present in V13 chord are the root, 3rd, 7th, and 13th; with the 5th, 9th, and 11th “typically omitted”.

How To Play A C13 Chord On The Piano?

When a chord has a 7 (also called a dominant 7), the note that is played is a whole step below the root. A whole step below a C is a Bb (accidental). So, if you had a Cmaj7, then you would only have white notes (a major 7 note is the same note as a half step below the tonic. In the key of C, a half step below C is a B – no accidental).

In this lesson, I’ll show you how to play a C13 chord on the piano in order to help you improve your skills. If you have any requests for other lessons, please leave me a comment below and I’ll do my best to accommodate your needs.

How To Play 13th Chords In Your Left Hand

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