Major7#11: The Jazz Musician’s Ending Chord of Choice

Joe Henderson: Inner Urge

Joe Henderson: Inner Urge

Ok, I have no statistics to back up that headline. However, from listening to jazz for years and years, I do know that it is a very common chord choice for ending a tune. The Major 7 sharp 11 chord is modern sounding and beautiful. While it has almost become a cliché, it is still very effective way to end a jazz tune.
These chord voicings can also be used in tunes. Check out some Joe Henderson tunes like Black Narcissus and Inner Urge. These are extremely fun tunes to play that employ major7#11 chords all over the place. Joe is also a fantastic soloist. I suggest that you really check out his playing. Lift some of his lines, his ideas, his amazing use of sequences across entire progressions and his time feel. Transcribing instruments other than your own will give you a new perspective and ideas for material that may not be as apparent to you. For example if you play jazz guitar, you should be transcribing and lifting ideas from horn players or piano players. Get some horn player phrasing into your playing and some piano player harmonization ideas in there as well. I have listed some Joe Henderson resources below.

The Raw Material

Here are some voicings you can check out. Pick out a few that you like and try to integrate them into your playing. It is always a good idea to know what each note of the voicing is and functions. (ex. root, 3, #11, etc). Also work with the scale notes surrounding the chord. (On guitar, it is easy to visualize).

Major7#11 voicings


CMaj7#11 Voicings

Major7#11(omit 5th) voicings


CMaj7#11(omit 5)

Major9#11 voicings


CMaj9#11 Voicings

69#11 voicings

C69#11 Voicings

C69#11 Voicings

Essential Joe Henderson Listening

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8 Responses to Major7#11: The Jazz Musician’s Ending Chord of Choice

  1. Mike Miller says:

    Thanks for your site. Came upon it while Googling Steve Masakowski. I’m an intermediate level player, who hasn’t played much for several years. Emily Remler liked #11 chords if memory serves. I frequently ended on 6/9 chords , which you have included in this grouping. Anyway, wanted you to know that while recouping from pneumonia, I got some enjoyment from the chorus an commentary. Peace. Mike

  2. Ian Holmes says:

    If memory serves me correctly, I believe Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind ends in the cliche Major7#11 chord in the key of C. I never thought about that until now. So good point and article!

    • admin says:

      Thanks Ian. I haven’t listened to that turn in a while, but if memory serves me correctly, I think it does. Thanks for the comment. R

  3. Paulina Alvarado says:

    Thank you so much for this! I am making a bossa nova arrangement and even though I am not a guitarist I try to write my music so that whoever plays it doesn’t have to move so much.

  4. Jim says:

    It looks like these guitar chords are incorrect.
    Ex: the Cmaj9(#11) is just a Cmaj7

    • admin says:

      Hi Jim, I looked them over and I believe they are correct. The “F#” or the #11 seems to be present every voicing. I might still be missing something though. Thanks for the input. R.

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