add11 Chord / Music Theory Lesson

Author: sleepfreaks

About the add11 Chord

This time we will be looking at the relatively new “add11 (add4)” chord.
The information from our sus4, 7sus4, add9, and sus2 articles will be required so be sure to check those out.

Though this isn’t as common of a chord, it has a very pretty sound.
As we move into minor related and tension chords, we will see new intervals, so take this time to familiarize yourself with how certain distances between notes sound.

How the add11 Chord Sounds

Lets start by hearing how the add11 chord sounds.

  • Cadd11 (piano)
  • Cadd11 (guitar)

It has brightness, but also a sense of flotation and clarity.

How to Write the add11 Chord

An add11, for example Cadd11, would be written as the following.


Though you will most likely only ever see it written this way, it may differ depending on your DAW.


How to Make an add11 Chord

We will take a look at the numbers on the major scale once again to figure out how to make this chord.


Cadd11 for example, has F in the chord, which is the 11th note from the root.
It may be written as add11 or add4, but it similar in the way that the add9 or add2 chords are.

In addition, although we always focus on the key of C for these articles, by practicing your major scales every day, it will become easier to count up from the root by knowing how to play the scale.
For example, the 11(4) in an F major scale would be Bb, and in the G major scale this note would be C.

Until you get used to it, you can move the C major scale around to figure out these notes.
Practice this out on other chords to get better at quickly figuring these out.

Though we took a roundabout way getting here, lets take a look at Cadd11 on notation and the piano roll.


Though the notes that make up the chord are as written, lets hear how it sounds played exactly like this.

It sounds much muddier and different to when you first heard this chord earlier.

This has to do with the avoid notes that we took a look at in our 32,33,34th article.
These are notes that, unless you are looking to purposely create dissonance, should be avoided in a specific chord.

The area is shown boxed in blue above.
There are exceptions to this rule, but in general the m2nd and m9th create a dissonant harmony.

Lets take a look at the intervals.

Let take out the m2nd or m9th sounds and hear them seperately.

  • m2nd


  • m9th


It is a sound that doesn’t sound great.
The m9th makes the tritone interval sound practically cute.

Then how were the notes arranged in the first sample we heard?
Lets take a look at this as well.


On this guitar, it was played as so.


The reason that this chord sounded clear was because it did not contain m2nd/m9th intervals. Adding another root helps stabilize the chord, and if playing piano you could play the sus4 with your left hand, and play a triad with your right to get good results as well.

In addition, by using this process, you could even find ways to make E (3rd) of the Csus4 chord stand out.

Using the add11 Chord

Last, lets take a look at a chord progression that uses the add11 chord.

  • Cadd11→Fadd11→Gadd11→Bbadd11

It has a distinct floating sense, and a modern sound that cannot be imitated using triad or seventh chords.
If you come across this chord while analyzing, check out the chords that come before and after it as well, to add to your repertoire of usable chord progressions.

Article Writer: Kazuma Itoh

講師 伊藤
After moving to the USA at 18 years of age with a scholarship from Berklee, he completed a 4 year study focused on song writing and arranging there.
Using this knowledge, he works across a variety of fields from pop music, film music, and more.