The C13 chord contains the notes C, E, G, Bb and A. It is produced by taking the 1 (root), 3, 5, b7 and 13 of the C Major scale. It is essentially a C dominant 7 chord with an added 13. Here’s how to play it.
10 Ways To Play The C13 chord
If you’ve come to this page just to view some chord diagrams for C13, here they are.
Some Quick C13 Chord Theory
- The C13 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 C13 chord is made up of C, E, G, Bb 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 B13.
- C13 is essentially a C7 chord, with an added note (13).
Standard C13 Shape
The standard C13 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 C13 chord.
Easy C13 shape
The easy version of the C13 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 C13 Chord in a Musical Context
The easiest way to start using the C13 chord is use it in place of the C dominant 7 chord (C7). In almost all contexts, the C13 will work well in place of the C7 chord and will add an interesting colour. Consider the following chord progression, which is a ii V I in F Major.
- Gm7 – C7 – 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 C13 chord for the C7 chord, like this:
- Gm7 – C13 – 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 F and use 13th chords instead of dominant 7 chords.
Can C13 be Played as a Barre Chord?
Although some of the possible C13 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 C13 chord does not use any barring. However, we can look at the root 6 and root 5 versions of the C13 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 C13 chord, they can be grouped more easily with other root 6 and root 5 chords (that have B as the root).
What’s the Difference Between C13 and C6?
The ’13’ in the C13 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 C6 and C13 are the same chord. The answer is that they are actually not the same chord. The C13 chord contains the b7 (Bb), whereas the C6 chord does not contain the b7:
- C13 = C, E, G, Bb, A
- C6 = C, E, G, A
Funky Versions of C13 (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 C13 shapes which use the first four strings of the guitar.
Does C13 Contain the 9 (D)?
Technically speaking, the C13 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 C13. However, as guitarists, we rarely play all of the notes in a chord, especially with extension chords. Therefore, most of the C13th 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 C13 chord, so it can be included, but often it is not.
Which Scales can be Used Over the C13 Chord?
- C Mixolydian mode – this is the standard scale (mode) for C dominant 7 chords (including C13).
- C Major Blues Scale – using this scale will add a Blues flavour to the C13 chord.
- C Major pentatonic scale – this is an easy scale to use with C13, but it does not contain the b7.
- C lydian dominant – this scale (mode) is especially popular in a Jazz context.
Which Key Does C13 Belong to?
Because the C13 chord can function as a substitute for the C7 chord, we can say that it belongs in the key of F:
C13 Chord Substitutions
C13 itself can be used as a substitute for the C7 chord. This also means that in many contexts, C13 will work well as a substitute for other C dominant 7 chords with extensions and vice versa: