How to Play 11th Chords on Guitar

11th chords consist of six notes in theory; however, only four can be practical to play on guitar at once; therefore some notes must be left out to create this sound differently from a normal chord yet still very useful.

This Cm11 voicing does not contain the fifth, so it could also be called C11no5. This tone is very similar to the C7sus but with no third.


11th chords differ from most chords in music by only having four notes, yet their intervals can still be adjusted by half-tone to create different types of chords. These extensions, known as chord tones or chord alterations, give these four-note chords unique sonic qualities; most common sonorities being Major, Minor and Dominant but others exist such as Sus4 or sus2.

Addition of an eleventh to a major triad produces a tritone between E and F notes – this form of eleventh chord can be considered dissonant and discordant simultaneously. By adding it to minor triad, another tritone occurs between B and C notes which creates more harmonic chords but nonetheless demonstrates dissonant qualities as an 11th chord.

An eleventh chord can be enhanced to form either a dominant sharp eleventh (Cmaj11) or an augmented minor eleventh (Cm11). Furthermore, an augmented eleventh can also be used to make minor chords that combine major seventh and major fifth tones (Cmaj9#11).

Minor 11th Chord is a six-note chord, typically played with one or more tones omitted. It’s most frequently employed to replace 7th and 9th chords in jazz fusion and progressive rock; these movable shapes represent the most commonly heard versions. All have roots on the 6th string.

Major chords featuring an eleventh root on the fourth and sixth strings can be played open or barre chords depending on your preferred fingerings; double stops may work better as these chords don’t require root position on the first string.


The minor 11 chord has the same structure as its major 11 counterpart, but adds two extra notes – a minor third and seventh – which make up its unique sound. Also known as 7sus4/Cmaj11 chord and sometimes called quartal chord (see chart for details), since neither major third nor 11th clash. Although usually avoided on major or dominant chords as it could lead to dissonance; major seventh can be removed for an easier minor 7sus4.

This chord shape can be found most commonly played on guitar. It resembles a root-on-6th chord with bass note on fifth string; its sound varies between traditional dominant-seventh (7) chord and open dominant chords like G11 found in jazz music like John Lennon’s Sun King track which uses it in bridge section for modulation from E to C chord.

Omitting the minor-on-6th chord creates an m11(b13) chord, making for more challenging fingerwork that involves moving three fingers across four strings. But this chord shape should definitely make up part of your repertoire as it adds plenty of variety to chord progressions in major keys (but will break the overtone series), or in minor keys such as C major Dm and Am. This chord has more melancholic tones that complement minor melodies well.


Dominant eleventh chords can be an excellent way to transition from one key to another in a musical progression. Their fuller sound provides added tension while serving as an alternative to dominant seventh chords; John Lennon used one in “Sun King”, shifting between keys from E to C using this approach.

Dominant elevenths can be played in several ways, with composers often opting to forgo chordal thirds when creating dominant elevenths. This is because adding 11th notes creates a tritone between major seventh and minor ninth that may produce harsh overtones that create tension and dissonance; to prevent this problem composers often choose to drop the third altogether and change its voicing so as to turn into a major 9 instead of an 11.

Subtracting out the fifth tone creates the more common C9sus4 chord, still a major seventh chord but sounding much more open than its original version. You could also use just root and fifth notes, though this would likely not support enough notes to sound harmonious.

Finally, there are also augmented eleventh chords, which add both an augmented fourth and third to create tension and drama; these should not be mistaken with dominant nineteenths which serve to bring resolution; however, as these chords also form minor ninths with their tonic chord it would not be advised.


Sus chords differ from triad chords in that they add an additional note suspended between three notes to create a more complex sound and add tension to songs. Sus chords are most frequently seen as replacements for dominant and minor chords; however, they can also be used with other types of chords; for instance C major can be substituted by Dsus4 chords and vice versa. Sometimes known as “6” chords due to replacing fifths with sixths, sus chords provide tension without changing key.

There are two primary suspension types, sus2 and sus4. Sus2 chords replace a third interval with two intervals above the root, while sus4 chords use four intervals above. Both can be combined to create hybrid chords; often found in dominant progressions while sus4s are usually used with minor chords.

These chords may be difficult to play, but their reward more than makes up for any difficulties encountered in practicing them. To begin with, play them solo without fretting any buzzing or muted notes; then move your fingers around the neck in different configurations to create different voicings; finally switch between them in rhythmic fashion while improvising on top.

Practice these chords both alone and as part of songs using them; The Who’s Pinball Wizard features many sus chords in its chorus and bridge, while Queen’s Crazy Little Thing Called Love uses quick shifts between Dmaj and Dsus4 chords. In order to master these chords effectively and quickly, practice must occur frequently so as to build up skills needed for swift playing of them.


Sus2 chords resemble sus4 chords in that their second note has been reduced by one step. These can often be played without resolving to a 3rd and more often resemble an ii/m11 type chord than dominant 11th ones due to how their 2 / 4 relationship does not clash with its respective major/minor 3rds as is seen with add9 chords.

Suspended chords can add dimension and movement within a chord progression. While it is most frequently found in V chords, suspended i chords may also create this effect, especially in jazz music.

These chords may be unfamiliar as they’re rarely utilized in modern music. While similar to regular chords, these have an additional “floaty” sound created when one or both third notes (usually 2 and 4) is substituted with one from its neighbouring notes (usually the 2 or 4). As such, these don’t feel complete and often linger longer than traditional ones would. They are most commonly played after V chords for an enhanced finish of music pieces.

Gnarls Barkley’s song ‘Crazy’ is an excellent example. The riff in this track features an attractive looping sequence of Dsus4 chords that adds a distinctively beautiful sound that perfectly compliments its lyrics. Furthermore, when resolved back into normal version brings everything back into focus from sepia of suspended chord.