Prince’s Favourite Chord Trick

Prince wrote some of the greatest chord progressions in all pop music. He had all sorts of tricks up his sleeve. But he really loved to use 9 and add9 chords. They’re peppered all over his songs and it’s well worth adding them to your own bag of tricks.

Prince’s most iconic use of the chord is the E9 in Kiss:

Kiss

He often used it where you might expect a 7 chord e.g. at the end of a chord progression to create tension and propel the progression back to the beginning. But while 7 chords are strident, 9 chords are more diffident and melancholy.

For example, he used F9 at the chord progression in the verses of How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore?:

HowComeUDont


Call Me Progression

And a D9 the end of the little cadence leading into The Most Beautiful Girl in the World:

TheMostBeautiful


The Most Beautiful Progression

But the best use of them ever has to be in Purple Rain. In that song he used 9 chords at the start and end of the progression:

PurpleRain


Purple Progression

As always with chord progressions, if you hear something you like feel free to steal it and make it your own. You wouldn’t be the first to do it with this tune. Take the F chord out and you have Mayonaise by Smashing Pumpkins:

Mayonaise


Mayonaise Progression

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12 Comments

  1. Gina Millis April 28th, 2016 1:07 pm

    Love it – so pretty, you know we want the whole purple rain song, right? :-)

  2. Yukon April 28th, 2016 10:15 pm

    Seconded.

  3. Woodshed April 29th, 2016 7:19 am

    Gina and Yukon: You shouldn’t have much trouble finding the chords online.

  4. Lorraine May 10th, 2016 12:44 pm

    Out of interest, why not play E9 as 1222?

  5. Woodshed May 10th, 2016 2:04 pm

    Lorraine: You definitely could. I prefer the higher pitched one as it feels a bit more faithful to the original.

  6. Patrick May 10th, 2016 8:34 pm

    YES! Love this and YES, PLEASE give us the whole Purple Rain song!!! Love your chord and key choices, can’t wait to play and sing it this way.

  7. Rudy Ramirez May 10th, 2016 9:41 pm

    I’ve been a long time Prince fan since I was 9 years old and I’m 40 now and Prince’s death was heartbreaking for me. Thank you so much for posting all these riffs and tricks Prince used. And thanks for How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore? Its hard finding good Prince chords online, so I’ve been trying to figure out a bunch. I started a Facebook page for Ukulele Video Tutorials and Lessons: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1693910197516211/

    Feel free to post there all you want. Take care and thanks again.

  8. Woodshed May 11th, 2016 6:54 am

    Patrick: Okay, I’ll put it on the list.

    Rudy: Thanks! I don’t use Facebook, I’m afraid.

  9. Z Pianoman February 10th, 2017 5:46 am

    What were the chords for Prince unreleased “I Can’t Love You Anymore”? Thanks

  10. Rudy Ramirez February 10th, 2017 5:47 pm

    That’s a tall order Pianoman, pretty obsure and rare song there, good luck with finding chords. You may find it here: http://prince.forum9.biz/

    You just have to create an account, but they got lots of Prince tabs and chords there, even unreleased stuff. Always nice to see a fellow Prince fan.

  11. Kevin Darling April 30th, 2017 2:09 am

    I’m sure I’m just weak on my theory, but the E9 doesn’t show up in my chord tools with that fingering or notes and the fingering as shown comes up as E7sus2. Looking into it on piano, I see that E9 chord uses E G# D B F# and so it looks like for ukulele we have to pick one to leave out. So, how does one choose? Is it by feel, or is there a rule?

  12. Woodshed April 30th, 2017 10:28 pm

    Kevin: Yes, you need to leave one note out. So if you leave the third out of E9 it would be the same as E7sus2. Usually the best note to leave out would be the fifth since that adds least to the flavour of the chord. But it’s not a fast rule. I just go with what seems best in the situation.

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