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Db7b9 Piano Chord

    Piano Diagram of Db7b9 in Root Position

    Db 7b9 Chord Root Position Piano Diagram

    A Db7b9 chord is an altered dominant seventh chord that is built upon the key of Db. This chord consists of the root Db, the major third F, the perfect fifth Ab, the minor seventh Cb, and the minor ninth Ebb. The Db7b9 chord can be used as a substitute for dominant chords only in specific musical contexts. Keep reading to learn more about the music theory that underpins this chord.


    Structure of Db7b9


    Db, F, Ab, Cb, Ebb


    R, 3, 5, m7, m9

    How to play a Db7b9

    To play a Db7b9 chord, you can use the following voicing: start by playing the root note Db with your left hand. Then, with your right hand, play the notes F (major 3rd), Cb (B, minor 7th), and Ebb (D, flat 9th).

    Db + F, Cb, Ebb

    This approach will result in a simplified Db7b9 chord that includes only the essential notes: the root note, major 3rd, minor 7th, and minor 9th.


    Db7b9 Chord Equivalencies

    When you remove the root note from a 7b9 chord, it becomes a diminished 7th chord. In the case of a Db7b9 chord, if you remove the root note Db, you’re left with the notes F, Ab, Cb, and Eb, which are equivalent to an Fdim7 chord.

    Db7b9 without root = Fdim7

    F dim7 = Ab dim7 = Cb dim7 = Ebb dim7

    Diminished 7th chords have a unique quality where each inversion is another diminished 7th chord. So, Fdim7 is enharmonically equivalent to Abdim7, Cbdim7, and Ebbdim7. Therefore, even if you remove the root note from a Db7b9 chord, it is still enharmonically equivalent to all of these chords.

    Db7b9 Chord Inversions


    The Db7b9 chord has a total of 4 inversions:

    Root Position: Db F Ab Cb Ebb
    1st Inversion: F Ab Cb Db Ebb
    2nd Inversion: Ab Cb Db Ebb F
    3rd Inversion: Cb Db Ebb F Ab
    4th Inversion: Ebb F Ab Cb Db

     Piano Keyboard Diagrams

    Db7b9 Chord - Root Position - Piano Diagram

    Db7b9 Chord – Root Position

    Chord Inversions on Piano

    Understanding chord inversions is crucial for music theory, as it reveals how chords are constructed. When playing chord inversions on a piano, it’s important to remember that the charts showing the order of notes may not always be playable.

    To properly voice chords on a piano, the notes must be spread across various octaves and positions on the keyboard. This often means deviating from the standard shape of the chord’s inversions, as shown in charts. It’s always a good idea to experiment with different voicings and fingerings to find the most efficient and comfortable way to play the chord, while still maintaining its intended harmonic function and sound.

    Chord inversion charts can help understand the structure and sequence of notes in a chord, but it’s important to be flexible and adaptable when playing them on the piano. With practice, you can find your own unique voicings and develop a personal style that suits your playing needs.

    Music Theory and Harmony of Db7b9


    The Db7b9 chord can replace or enhance the Db7 chord, typically on the V degree, but also on the III degree, and occasionally on other degrees as a secondary dominant chord. However, it has a distinct vibe, so it should be used carefully in the appropriate musical context.

    Before delving into the most frequent uses of this chord, let’s first understand how to build it.


    Building the Db7b9 Chord: Different Approaches


    Starting from the Db Major Scale:

    To form a 7b9 chord, you combine the root, the major 3rd, the 5th, the minor 7th, and the flat 9th from a major scale.

    To build a Db7b9, you can start with the Db Major scale:

    Db Major Diatonic Scale up to 13th

    Db Major Scale


    Db Major Diatonic Scale up to 13th Keyless Notation

    Db Major Scale – Keyless notation


    To create a Db7b9 chord, apply the formula R, 3, 5, m7, m9 in the following manner:

    1. Begin with the Root note, which is Db.
    2. Select the major 3rd interval, which is F, and add it to the chord.
    3. Add the 5th interval, which is Ab.
    4. Add the minor 7th interval, Cb.
    5. Finally, select the 9th Eb and subtract a half tone to get the minor 9th, Ebb.

    By following this simple formula, you can create a 7b9 chord from any major scale.


    by Combining Intervals:

    One method to create a 7b9 chord is by combining specific intervals – a major 3rd, a minor 3rd, and another minor 3rd.

    3 + m3 + m3 + m3 = 7b9 chords

    For example, to build a Db7b9 chord:

    • we start with the root note Db.
    • We then add a major 3rd interval, which is four half-steps up from the root, to get F.
    • Next, we add a minor 3rd interval, which is three half-steps up from F, to get Ab.
    • Then, we add another minor 3rd from Ab so we find the minor 7th Cb (B).
    • and lastly, we add a minor 3rd  interval from B (Cb in this case), to get D (Ebb).

    Together, these intervals form the Db7b9 chord.


    by Combining Chords

    Another way to build a 7b9 chord is by combining a major triad with a diminished triad derived from its 5th.

    To build a Db7b9 chord, you can blend a Db Major triad (Db, F, Ab) with an Ab diminished chord (Ab, Cb, Ebb). The Ab note is shared between the two chords.

    Db Major + Ab dim = Db7b9


    How to Use Db7b9 in a Chord Progression


    The Db7b9 can work as a substitute or as a passing chord to a Db7 that can be found in major and natural minor scales. The 7b9 chord is considered a non-diatonic chord, which means that it contains notes that are not found in either the major or minor scales.


    Most common uses of Db7b9

    Db7b9 in Gb Major and Gb minor

    The Db7b9 chord is commonly used as a dominant chord. In the key of Gb major, the Db7b9 chord can be used as the V7 chord, which leads back to the I chord (Gb major).

    Major Scale I ii iii IV V vi vii
    Gb Gb Maj7 Ab min7 Bb min7 Cb Maj7 Db7 ⇒ Db7b9 Eb min7 Fm7b5
    • Substitute or Passing Chord to the Dominant chord in Gb Major


    Db7b9 as Substitute of Dbm7

    The Db7 chord derived from the harmonic minor scale is commonly used to replace a Dbm7 chord in the key of Gb minor. In some cases, the Db7b9 chord can also be used instead of the Db7 chord, further enhancing the harmonic tension and leading to the Gbm7 chord.

    However, Gb minor is a theoretical key so it’s easier and more practical referring to its enharmonic equivalent key F# minor.

    Minor  Scale i ii III iv v VI VII
    Gb = F# F# min7 G#m7b5 A Maj7 B min7 C#m7 ⇒ C#7 ⇒ C#7b9 = Db7b9 D Maj7 E7
    • Substitute or Passing Chord to the Dominant chord in F# minor as C#7b9


    Db7b9 in a I – III7 Progression

    The Db7b9 chord is used as a substitution for the III degree in an I – III7 chord progression, which traditionally features a Db minor chord. This chord progression, represented by the chords Bbb Maj7 and Db7, can accommodate the Db7b9 chord in place of the expected Db minor chord. The Db7b9 chord provides a dissonant augmented triad that offers a unique flavor to the progression.

    Even in this case, it’s better to refer to the easier key of A major instead of the theoretical Bbb major.

    Major Scale I ii iii IV V vi vii
    Bbb = A A Maj7 B min7 C#m7 ⇒ C#7 ⇒ C#7b9 = Db7b9 D Maj7 E7 F# min7 G#m7b5
    • Substitute or Passing Chord to the Mediant chord in A Major as C#7b9


    Db7b9 in Eb minor

    While the Db7b9 chord can be used in the key of Eb minor, it may not be the most common use of this chord. In fact, the resolution to Eb minor may be less strong than Gb major or Gb minor.

    Minor  Scale i ii III iv v VI VII
    Eb Eb min7 Fm7b5 Gb Maj7 Ab min7 Bb min7 Cb Maj7 Db7 ⇒ Db7b9
    • Substitute or Passing Chord to the Leading Tone chord in Eb minor (less common)


    Db7b9 as Substitute of a Secondary Dominant 7th chord

    A secondary dominant is a chord that doesn’t belong to the main key of a musical piece but is used to create a strong pull toward another chord that does. In Western music, the fifth scale degree has a dominant function and generates tension that resolves to the first scale degree chord (I). A secondary dominant is used to create the same dominant function but towards a different chord, resulting in a brief departure from the main key.

    For instance, in the key of Cb major, Gb7 is the V chord and resolves to the I chord (Cb Maj7). To create a secondary dominant, another chord is added between Cb Maj7 and Gb7, which creates a powerful pull towards Gb7. In this scenario, incorporating a Db7 generates a pull towards Gb7 since Db7 is the V chord in the key of Gb.

    | Cb Maj7 | Gb7 |

    | Cb Maj7 | Db7 | Gb7 |


    Instead of using a regular Db7 chord, you can also use the Db7b9 chord in place of or together with it. This substitution or addition can add more tension and complexity to the progression, leading to a more interesting and dynamic musical result.

    | Cb Maj7 | Gb7 |

    | Cb Maj7 | Db7/Db7b9 | Gb7 |


    Db7b9 as Dominant Chord in Gb Major

    In the key of Gb major, the dominant chord is Db7. However, this chord can be substituted or paired with a Db7b9 chord for a more complex and interesting sound. Let’s explore how this can be done.

    I ii iii IV V vi vii
    Gb Maj7 Ab min7 Bb min7 Cb Maj7 Db7 Eb min7 Fm7b5


    Db7b9 Chord Progressions as V degree

    Try playing these chord progressions to get an idea of how Db7b9 functions near the dominant chord. Most of the time, I like to use it followed by a Db7 or preceded by a Db7#9 but feel free to experiment.

    ii V I
    ii V I
    Ab min7 Db7b9 | Db7

    Db (F, B, D) | Db (F, B, Db)

    Gb Maj7


    I IV vi V
    I IV vi V
    Gb Maj7 Cb Maj7 Eb min 7 Db7b9 | Db7


     I IV ii V iii vi ii V
    I IV ii V iii vi ii V
    Gb Maj7 Cb Maj7 Ab min7 Db7b9 | Db7 Bb min7 Eb min7 Ab min7 Db7b9 | Db7


    Db7b9 as Dominant Chord in Gb minor

    Check C#7b9 in F# minor


    Db7b9 as III7 Degree in Bbb Major

    Check C#7b9 in A Major


    Db7b9 as Leading Tone Chord in Eb minor

    In the key of Eb minor, the Db7 chord is built on the leading tone, which is the seventh note of the scale. This chord can be replaced or modulated by a Db7b9, although it may not be the most ideal position for this chord. Nonetheless, it can still be a valid option in certain musical contexts.

    i ii III iv v VI VII
    Eb min7 Fm7b5 Gb Maj7 Ab min7 Bb min7 Cb Maj7 Db7


    Db7b9 as VII degree – Chord Progressions


    i iv VII i
    i iv VII i
    Eb min7 Ab min7 Db7b9 | Db7 Eb min7


    i iv VII III
    i iv VII III
    Eb min7 Ab min7 Db7b9 | Db7 Gb Maj7


    Circle Progression
    i iv VII III VI ii V7 i
    Eb min7 Ab min7 Db7b9 | Db7 Gb Maj7 Cb Maj7 Fm7b5 Bb7 Eb min7


    Alternative Db7b9 Nomenclature

    • Db 7b9
    • Db 7/b9
    • Db 7(b9)
    • Reb 7/b9
    • Db dom7b9
    • Db 7th b9th
    • Db 7th flat 9th
    • Db Dominant 7th b9
    • Db Dominant Seventh Flat Ninth



    The chord progressions and examples presented in this post provide a comprehensive overview of the most common uses of the Db7b9 chord. It’s important to note, however, that many advanced harmony-related topics could not be included due to space constraints. These topics include chord progressions built on harmonic and melodic scales, modal scales, hidden tonality, secondary dominants and other chord substitutions, non-functional harmony and atonal music, modal interchange and borrowed chords, voice leading and counterpoint, chromatisms, jazz harmony…I mean, music theory is a huge topic!

    Although I couldn’t cover all of these topics in my post, I encourage readers to continue exploring these areas in their own study and research. By expanding your knowledge in these advanced areas of music theory, you can gain a deeper understanding of the harmonic possibilities that exist beyond the basics presented here.


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