How to tell the difference between add chords and altered guitar chords

Andy Summers
Andy Summers’ chordwork with The Police used some ‘add’ and ‘sus’ chord voicings on hits such as Walking On The Moon and Every Breath You Take (Image credit: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

When you’re looking at the conventions for chord naming, it’s easy to become confused around sus, add and altered chords. Here we aim to demystify some of this by taking a closer look at what an ‘add’ chord is – and isn’t! 

Though the name seems self-explanatory, it isn’t always quite that simple. After all, we don’t call C7 ‘Cadd7’, do we? The reason the ‘add’ suffix came about was to highlight additional notes that you would usually only expect to find in extended chords, which include the 7th (such as 9th-11th-13th), or any non-triad notes from below the 7th (add2-add4). Having said that, I can’t remember the last time I saw D6 being called Dadd6! 

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Richard Barrett

As well as a longtime contributor to Guitarist and Guitar Techniques, Richard is Tony Hadley’s longstanding guitarist, and has worked with everyone from Roger Daltrey to Ronan Keating.