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Ab11 Piano Chord

    Piano Diagram of Ab11 in Root Position

    Ab11 Chord - Root Position - Piano Diagram

    Ab11 is a chord that includes the root note Ab, the major third (C), the perfect fifth (Eb), the minor seventh (Gb), the major ninth (Bb), and the eleventh (Db).  Keep reading to learn something more about this chord.


    Structure of Ab11


    Ab, C, Eb, Gb, Bb, Db


    R, 3, 5, m7, 9, 11

    Playing Extended Chords on Piano

    Extended chords are commonly used in piano playing, but they can be tricky to play in their entirety due to the large number of notes involved. To make these chords more manageable, pianists often omit certain notes, such as the root or the 5th. Another technique is to split the chord between both hands, playing either full or partial chords in each hand.

    How to play an Ab11

    For example, to play the Ab11 chord, you can start by playing the root note Ab with your left hand. Then, with your right hand, you can play the major 3rd C, minor 7th Gb, and the 11th note Db. This will result in a simplified Ab11 chord that consists of the root note, major 3rd, minor 7th, and the 11th notes only.

    Ab + C, Gb, Db

    However, even when notes are omitted or split between hands, extended chords can still create complex and dense harmonies. When these chords are inverted, the resulting clusters of notes can be particularly challenging to voice effectively.


    Ab11 Chord Inversions


    The Ab11 chord has a total of 5 inversions:

    Root Position: Ab C Eb Gb Bb Db
    1st Inversion: C Eb Gb Ab Bb Db
    2nd Inversion: Eb Gb Ab Bb C Db
    3rd Inversion: Gb Ab Bb C Db Eb
    4th Inversion: Bb C Db Eb Gb Ab
    5th Inversion Db Eb  Gb Ab Bb C

    Piano Keyboard Diagrams

    Chord Inversions on Piano

    Understanding chord inversions is an essential aspect of music theory as it helps to explain how chords are constructed and used in progressions. When playing chord inversions on a piano, it’s important to keep in mind that the diagrams used to illustrate the order of notes may not always be practical to play.

    To achieve the proper chord voicings on a piano, you need to distribute the notes of the chord across various octaves and positions on the keyboard. This often means that the basic shape of the chord’s inversions shown in diagrams may not be the most convenient or comfortable way to play the chord.

    While chord inversion diagrams can be useful in comprehending the structure and sequence of notes in a chord, it’s recommended to experiment with different voicings and fingerings to find the most efficient and comfortable way to play the chord while still preserving its intended harmonic function and sound.

    Music Theory and Harmony of Ab11


    The Ab11 chord is an extension of the Ab7 chord and is commonly used on the V and VII degree of major and natural minor scales, respectively. It can be used in all the positions where Ab7 can be played, but a more common use is to play it in conjunction with an Ab7 chord. However, it’s important to note that some positions may not work as well as others when using Ab11 instead of Ab7.

    If you want to experiment with using Ab11 as an alternative to Ab7, you can start by checking out the Ab7 chord page for ideas on where to begin. Trying out the Ab11 chord in different positions can help you understand which ones work well and which ones may not be as effective.


    Building the Ab11 Chord: Different Approaches

    Starting from the Ab Major Scale

    To form an 11th chord, you combine the root, the major 3rd, the 5th, the minor 7th, the major 9th and the 11th from a major scale:


    Ab Major Diatonic Scale up to 13th

    Ab Major Scale


    Ab Major Diatonic Scale up to 13th Keyless Notation

    Ab Major Scale – Keyless Notation


    To create an Ab11 chord, apply the formula R, 3, 5, m7, 9, 11 in the following manner:

    1. Begin with the Root note, Ab.
    2. Select the major 3rd interval, C.
    3. Add the 5th interval, which is Eb.
    4. Add the minor 7th interval, Gb.
    5. Add the major 9th, which is a 2nd at the higher octave, Bb
    6. Lastly, add the 11th Db, which is a 4th interval at the higher octave.

    By following this simple formula, you can create a dominant 11th chord from any major scale.


    by Combining Intervals

    One method to create a dominant 11th chord is by combining specific intervals – a major 3rd, a minor 3rd, a minor 3rd, a major 3rd and a minor 3rd. This is the formula:

    3 + m3 + m3 + 3 + m3 = 11th Chords

    To build an Ab11 chord,

    • we begin with the root note Ab and
    • add a major 3rd interval, which is four half-steps up from Ab, to get C.
    • Next, we add a minor 3rd interval, which is three half-steps up from C, to get Eb.
    • Continuing in this pattern, we add another minor 3rd interval to get Gb and
    • then a major 3rd interval to get Bb.
    • Finally, we add the 11th note (Db), which is a minor 3rd higher than Bb to complete the chord.


    by Combining Chords

    An alternative way to build dominant 11th chords is to merge a major triad with the major chord based on its minor 7th.

    To form an Ab11 chord, for instance, you can blend an Ab Major triad (Ab, C, Eb) with a Gb Major chord (Gb, Bb, Db).

    Ab Major + Gb Major = Ab11

    When played together, these two chords produce an Ab11 chord.


    How to Use Ab11 in a Chord Progression


    The Ab11 chord is essentially an extension of the Ab7 chord, with the addition of the 9th (Bb) and the 11th (Db) notes. As the Ab11 chord includes the dominant 7th note (Gb), it serves a similar function to the Ab7 chord in creating tension and leading to the tonic chord.

    Because of this, the Ab11 chord can often be substituted for the Ab7 chord and vice versa, depending on the desired musical effect. While there are examples of 11th chords used as tonic chords, this post will focus on the more common uses of the Ab11 chord.

    Here are the tables of the major and natural minor scales that include the Ab dominant 7th chord, which can be substituted or complemented by an Ab11 chord:


    on Db Major Scale

    Major Scale I ii iii IV V vi vii
    Db Db Maj7 Eb min7 F min7 Gb Maj7 Ab7 ⇒ Ab11 Bb min7 Cm7b5
    • Dominant chord in Db Major


    on Bb minor Scale

    Natural Minor  i ii III iv v VI VII
    Bb Bb min7 Cm7b5 Db Maj7 Eb min7 F min7 Gb Maj7 Ab7 ⇒ Ab11
    • Leading Tone chord in Bb minor


    Ab11 Chord Function in Major and Minor Keys

    Understanding Scale Degrees

    When we form chords from a scale, each note in the scale is given a specific degree that reflects its position within the scale. The degree of a note in a scale determines its function and the role it plays in the overall harmony of the music.

    1. Starting with the first degree of the scale, we have the Tonic chord. This chord serves as the foundation of the scale, providing a stable tonal center for the music. It’s like the “home base” of the music, and all melodies and harmonies are anchored to this chord.
    2. Moving on to the second degree, we have the Supertonic. This degree acts as a transitional note between the tonic and other notes in the scale, creating a sense of movement and flow in the melody or harmony.
    3. The third degree is the Mediant, which is located halfway between the tonic and dominant notes. This degree helps to establish whether the scale is major or minor and plays a critical role in determining the mood and emotional impact of the music.
    4. The fourth degree is the Subdominant, which complements the dominant and adds tension and resolution to the music. It creates a push-pull effect that keeps the listener engaged and interested.
    5. The fifth degree is the Dominant, which generates tension and a sense of expectation. It often acts as the climax of a musical phrase or section and is resolved by returning to the tonic.
    6. The sixth degree is the Submediant, which provides a sense of stability and restfulness to the music. It’s often used as a transition between the dominant and tonic, creating a feeling of calm and relaxation.
    7. Finally, we have the seventh degree, the Leading tone. This degree produces a strong sense of tension and a desire to resolve to the tonic. It’s often used to create a sense of resolution and completion in the melody or harmony.


    Ab11 as Dominant Chord in Db Major

    In the context of the Db major scale, the Ab11 chord can serve as the dominant chord on the fifth degree. This means that Ab11 would be the fifth chord in the scale and have a strong tendency to resolve to the tonic chord, which is Db major in this case, or to the VI chord (Bb min7), which is the relative minor chord of Db major.

    I ii iii IV V vi vii
    Db Maj7 Ebmin7 F min7 Gb Maj7 Ab7 Bb min7 Cm7b5


    Ab11 Chord Progressions as V degree

    Try playing these chord progressions to get an idea of how Ab11 functions as the dominant chord. You can choose to modulate towards the Ab7 chord or play just the Ab11.

    ii V I
    ii V I
    Eb min7 Ab11 | Ab7 Db Maj7


    I IV V
    I IV V
    Db Maj7 Gb Maj7 Ab11 | Ab7


     I V vi IV
    I V vi IV
    Db Maj7 Ab11 | Ab7 Bb min7 Gb Maj7


    I IV vi V
    I IV vi V
    Db Maj7 Gb Maj7 Bb min7 Ab11 | Ab7


    Circle Progression
    vi ii V I IV vii iii7 vi
    Bb min7 Eb min7 Ab11 | Ab7 Db Maj7 Gb Maj7 Cm7b5 F7 Bb min7


    Ab11 as Leading Tone chord in Bb Minor

    Ab11 can be used as a variation for the dominant 7th chord on the VII degree of the Bb minor key. By using the Ab11 chord as a leading tone, it can create a sense of tension and resolution that can be used to lead into the tonic chord or as part of a modulation to the Ab7 chord.

    i ii III iv v VI VII
    Bb min7 Cm7b5 Db Maj7 Eb min7 F min7 Gb Maj7 Ab7


    Ab11 as VII degree – Chord Progressions

    Here are some chord progressions that demonstrate how the Ab11 chord can function as the leading tone or as part of a modulation:


    i iv VII i
    i iv VII i
    Bb min7 Eb min7 Ab11 | Ab7 Bb min7


    i VII VI V
    i VII VI v
    Bb min7 Ab11 | Ab7 Gb Maj7 F min7


    i III VII VI
    i III VII VI
    Bb min7 Db Maj7 Ab11 | Ab7 Gb Maj7


    i iv VII VI
    i iv VII VI
    Bb min7 Eb min7 Ab11 | Ab7 Gb Maj7


    i iv VII III
    i iv VII III
    Bb min7 Eb min7 Ab11 | Ab7 Db Maj7


    Chord Similarities

    Dominant 11th and 9sus4 Chords

    The dominant 11th and 9sus4 chords share many similarities, as they both consist of similar sets of notes. The only difference between them is that the 9sus4 chord omits the 3rd note, while the dominant 11th chord includes the 4th note played at a higher octave. The dominant 11th chord is composed of the root, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, and 11th notes, while the 9sus4 chord includes the root, 4th, 5th, 7th, and 9th notes.

    For instance, an Ab dominant 11th chord includes the notes Ab, C, Eb, Gb, Bb, and Db, while an Ab 9sus4 chord is composed of Ab, Db, Eb, Gb, and Bb.

    The presence of the major 3rd note in the dominant 11th chord contributes to its stability, resulting in a less tense sound.

    On the other hand, the absence of the 3rd note in the 9sus4 chord creates a more suspended and unresolved sound. Nevertheless, both chords have a similar sound due to the inclusion of the 4th (or 11th) interval.

    Dominant 11th and add11 Chords

    The dominant 11th and add11 chords share many similarities in terms of their notes. Both chords contain the Root, 3rd, 5th, and 11th notes, with the only difference being the presence of the 7th and 9th notes in the dominant 11th chord.

    For example, the Ab11 is made by Ab, C, Eb, Gb, Bb, and Db while the Ab add11 is made by Ab, C, Eb, Db.

    The add11 chord is generally considered to be a lighter chord due to the absence of the 7th and 9th notes, which provide tension and richness to the dominant 11th chord. However, the presence of the 11th note in both chords creates a similar sound, making them sound alike.


    Alternative Ab11 Nomenclature

    • Ab 11
    • Lab 11
    • Ab 11th
    • Ab dom11
    • Ab 7/9/11
    • Ab dominant 11
    • Ab dominant 11th
    • Ab dominant eleventh
    • Ab dominant ninth eleventh
    • Ab dominant seventh ninth eleventh



    The chord progressions and examples presented in this post provide a comprehensive overview of the most common uses of the Ab11 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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