The C#13 chord contains the notes C#, E#, G#, B and A#. It is produced by taking the 1 (root), 3 , 5, b7 and 13 of the C# Major scale. It is essentially an C# dominant 7 chord with an added 13. Here’s how to play it.
10 Ways To Play The C#13 chord
If you’ve come to this page just to view some chord diagrams for C#13, here they are.
Some Quick C#13 Chord Theory
- The C#13 chord contains the notes 1, 3, 5, b7 and 13
- The ’13 note’ is the same as the ‘6 note’ of the scale, but the 13 implies that the ‘b7 note’ is also included.
- The C sharp 13 chord is made up of C#, E#, G#, B and A#.
- The 9th of the scale is sometimes included, but because guitarists have a limited number of strings available, it is often left out.
- The C# mixolydian mode is often used for soloing over C#13.
- C#13 is essentially a C#7 chord, with an added note (13).
Standard C#13 Shape
The standard C#13 shape is played with the root note on the sixth string. Although this uses all four fingers and can seem difficult to begin with, it can quickly become a comfortable shape, because there is no barring involved, and none of the fingers need to stretch.
This is the standard shape that most guitarists default to when they think of the C#13 chord.
Easy C#13 shape
The easy version of the C#13 chord is played on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings. It’s actually a very easy shape, because each of the first three fingers gets its own fret (and string), forming a diagonal pattern, as seen below).
Keep in mind that with this version, the root note and the 5th of the chord are omitted. However, this is still a legitimate 13th chord, because in guitar land, it’s very common (and often necessary) to leave out chord tones.
How to use the C Sharp 13 Chord in a Musical Context
The easiest way to start using the C#13 chord is use it in place of the C# dominant 7 chord (C#7). In almost all contexts, the C#13 will work well in place of the C#7 chord and will add an interesting colour. Consider the following chord progression, which is a ii V I in F# Major.
- G#m7 – C#7 – F# Maj 7 – F# Maj 7
Try playing the chord progression above. Once you are familiar with the sound of the chord progression, try substituting in the C#13 chord for the C#7 chord, like this:
- G#m7 – C#13 – F# Maj 7 – F# Maj 7
This is just one example. Another useful exercise is to play the 12-Bar-Blues in the key of C# and use 13th chords instead of dominant 7 chords.
Can C#13 be Played as a Barre Chord?
Although some of the possible C#13 chord shapes contain barred fingers (usually half barres), the 13th chord in general is not really a barre chord. The most common way to play the C#13 chord does not use any barring. However, we can look at the root 6 and root 5 versions of the C#13 chord. This can be helpful, because most guitarists use the sixth and fifth strings of the guitar as navigational strings, when locating chords. By learning the root 6 and root 5 versions of the C#13 chord, they can be grouped more easily with other root 6 and root 5 chords (that have C# as the root).
What’s the Difference Between C#13 and C#6?
The ’13’ in the C#13 chord refers to the 13th note of the Major scale. The 13th note of the Major scale is simply the 6th note of the scale, up one octave. We refer to it as the 13 (instead of 6) because generally speaking, the 13th note is played in a higher octave (although this is a very general guideline and not a rule). Therefore, people sometimes question whether C#6 and C#13 are the same chord. The answer is that they are actually not the same chord. The C#13 chord contains the b7 (B), whereas the C#6 chord does not contain the b7:
- C#13 = C#, E#, G#, B, A#
- C#6 = C#, E#, G#, A#
The C#6 chord is also used as a substitute for the C# Major 7 chord, whereas the C#13 chord is used as a substitute for the C# dominant 7 chord.
Funky Versions of C#13 (3 shapes using only 4 strings)
Although the 13th chord is often associated with Jazz, it is also used prolifically in the Funk and RnB styles. Often, when used in these styles, the chord voicings are isolated to the first four strings of the guitar, with allows for a lighter, less bass-heavy sound, more suitable for funk strumming.
Here are three C#13 shapes which use the first four strings of the guitar.
Does C#13 Contain the 9 (D#)?
Technically speaking, the C#13 contains the 9th of the scale (D#) as well as the 13th:
- 1 – 3 – 5 – b7 – 9 – 13
Piano players are likely to add the 9 in the chord when they come across A#13. However, as guitarists, we rarely play all of the notes in a chord, especially with extension chords. Therefore, most of the C#13th chord voicings that guitarists play, don’t actually include the D# note (which is the 9). Keep in mind that the 9 will generally always compliment the C#13 chord, so it can be included, but often it is not.
Here are the two most common C#13 chords with the 9 included:
Which Scales can be Used Over the C#13 Chord?
- C# Mixolydian mode – this is the standard scale (mode) for C# dominant 7 chords (including C#13).
- C# Major Blues Scale – using this scale will add a Blues flavour to the C#13 chord.
- C# Major pentatonic scale – this is an easy scale to use with C#13, but it does not contain the b7.
- C# lydian dominant – this scale (mode) is especially popular in a Jazz context.
Which Key Does C#13 Belong to?
Because the C#13 chord can function as a substitute for the C#7 chord, we can say that it belongs in the key of F#:
C#13 Chord Substitutions
C#13 itself can be used as a substitute for the C#7 chord. This also means that in many contexts, C#13 will work well as a substitute for other C# dominant 7 chords with extensions and vice versa: