The newest jazz piano chords pdf that I recently made available features those piano chords and voicings that I used during an eight bar segment of a piano video tutorial I created which focuses on the classic Harold Arlen tune Paper Moon. This pdf serves as a compliment to a free lesson that I created emphasizing the rewards of smooth voice leading.
How To Use This Jazz Piano Chords Pdf
Firstly, the free lesson including the chord pdf can be found here. A suggested use of this chart is to focus on one chord voicing at a time, enjoying the process of transposing it to several different keys (all 12 preferably!). The value in learning a chord, voicing, pattern, or any musical concept in a variety of keys is tremendous. The majority of people simply do not take the time to do this. It’s one of those things that seems to “separate the men from the boys” in terms of creative piano players.
This particular chord voicing chart illustrates the chords and voicings being used in the sequence they are being played in the corresponding video. It would be of exceptional value to the individual who actually has some fun with transposing the actual chord progression into several keys and, of course, implementing the appropriate chords and voicings. It’s one thing to transpose the individual chord structures… it’s quite another to utilize them in the context of the chord progression in a variety of keys. To some, this can seem like a tedious process. However, it’s where the real gold exists.
One More Jazz Piano Chords Pdf
Another jazz piano chords pdf that you will want to take advantage of is that which includes a chart of the 1-7-3-5-9 chord voicing demonstrated in Lesson #1 of ProProach. This voicing is valuable to master, as it can be used easily and practically in the context of your favorite standard ballads. However, the value goes far beyond that You see, within this voicing are others as well (you have the 7-3-5-9 when being played without the root, as might be used in a group scenario in which the bass player plays the root). In addition, a more creative way of utilizing this chord voicing structure may be explored in a special piano video tutorial I created entitled Cocktail Piano Secrets #1.
I hope the lesson referred to above proves to be of some value to you. As with any learning tool, the real benefits manifest when used with some diligence in conjunction with an attitude of optimism and playfulness.
When it comes to playing certain jazz piano voicings, we want to give fair consideration to how and when to utilize these voicings. In addition, as you will see in this video demonstration, in an effort to maintain nice, smooth voice leading, it is something preferred to play these voicings in conjunction with chords that are more of the “plain” variety (chords not necessarily thought of as jazz piano voicings). You see, it’s important to realize where the priority is at any given time. Let’s say that you are playing left hand chords/voicings over an eight bar section of a tune. When choosing which chord structures will be played with the left hand, what would you consider to be more relevant:
Playing fancy jazz piano voicings just for the sake of “sounding jazzy” or playing structures that are conducive to a nice smooth, coherent sound?
Well, we can achieve some of both by interspersing voicings with regular “textbook-type” chords.
In this excerpt of a video presentation that is available which focuses on Harold Arlen’s Paper Moon, the priority was to to maintain smooth voice leading from one left hand chord or voicing to another. As you will see, mixing it up between voicings and basic chords makes this very easy to do:
You can access a free chord voicing chart which illustrates each left hand chord structure as it is being played in the video in the exact sequence that it occurs here
You will notice that minimal hand movement is necessary in order to play through this chord progression as demonstrated, which naturally occurs when utilizing smooth voice leading much as it is easier for a vocalist to progress from one note to another that is close by than it is to make huge leaps.
Keep in mind that musicality takes precedence over the actual content of what is being played at a given time. Naturally, learning great sounding jazz piano voicings is fun and rewarding for obvious reasons. That said, it is not necessary to know a lot in order to sound “pro” any more than it is necessary to have a huge English vocabulary in order to verbally present an idea in an effective manner. As a matter of fact, as ProProach members hear time and time again, often is the case where less is more. This should serve as encouragement to the beginner who is just starting to build a chord voicing “vocabulary.” Concepts such as smooth voice leading and dynamics play important roles as well when it comes to a musician expressing himself or herself effectively.
My Adventure With Jazz Piano Chord Voicings Was Born
I was taking a saxophone lesson in my basement. Yes, I was really fortunate to have the great pleasure of knowing someone who was an outstanding jazz performer, a super sax teacher who actually made house calls, and a great guy (who later became world renowned) who visited me once a week to give me lessons. But they weren’t just “run of the mill” music lessons. He was a genuine inspiration to me and still is to this day.
A typical lesson would consist of his sitting down at my Wurlitzer electronic piano as he accompanied me as I played through chord
progressions that he had just previously written down. The idea was to get me to improvise over those chord progressions repeatedly to the point of my eventually feeling comfortable doing so.
Now, to put this in perspective, I was about 14 years old at the time and my experience on piano had already included about 9 years training. So, here he was, comping on the piano while I was pursuing a newer passion of learning to play and improvise on the tenor sax. But it was this experience that really served as a milestone for me. You see, as I was jamming over those chord changes, my eyes would be diverting their attention, back and forth, from the written page to what his fingers were playing on the keys.
Over the course of those previous 9 years, I had come to be quite confident with playing chords on the piano. I knew all of them. At least I thought I did… until I witnessed what he was playing. This guy was playing chord structures that I hadn’t even been remotely familiar with. I mean, I knew my triads, including major, minor, augmented, and diminished. I was also familiar with just about any 7th chord one could come up with. In addition, I was confident with playing any of these chords in any key. But when this dude started comping for me the very first time, I suddently realized that what I knew was very little.
“What are you playing?” I asked with both curiosity and excitement.
“Voicings,” he replied.
When he uttered that word, it instantly became apparent to me that there was a whole world of knowledge that I was about to explore that would serve as both inspiration and satisfaction. When I heard it, it was like a light bulb went on that exclaimed, “You are being introduced to a whole different world!”
Was I ever. It was at this point that I had learned what a jazz piano voicing was. He would play three simple notes with his right hand while his left hand played something similar to what a bass player would be playing. Those three notes looked nothing like what I had recognized as a chord of any kind up to that point.
Here is an example of one of those common jazz piano chord voicings he was playing:
Again, the note in the bass area (the root), he would play with his left hand. The upper three notes were played with the right hand.
I looked at him and asked him for further clarification. As he continued to comp this particular voicing, he responded, “C minor.”
I was not only confused but stunned by the fact that I didn’t have a clue what he meant. I had only been familiar with a C minor chord to look something like this (in this case, Cmin7):
He followed it up with other structures as he played over the chord progression that had me bewildered.
So, as I mentioned, I was being introduced to the unknown. Here was a guy playing chord structures I had never played or even seen before, and he called them “voicings,” a musical term I had had no clue about. Furthermore, he wasn’t even a piano player… and I was! Geeesh!
Hence, my journey of exploring jazz piano voicings and jazz piano chord progressions began.
It’s pretty accurate to say that he served as my inspiration to explore the art of jazz piano, an adventure that I have been so grateful for ever since.
After that, I grabbed whatever information I could in the form of books on the subject. I would open up a book, gaze at an example, read the explanation that accompanied it, play it on the piano, and often amaze myself. Truly, it was mind boggling for me to realize that I had endured almost ten years of piano study with people who actually were oriented with pop music and improvising without ever having been exposed to what a voicing was. I eventually came to terms with the fact that this area was simply not something any of those previous piano teachers were familiar with. Certainly, I couldn’t blame them for that. I was, however, thankful for everything they were able to share with me, which was quite a bit.
So, for about four years after those sax lessons, I was did a lot of “self-teaching” on the topic of jazz piano chord voicings and
progressions. I acquainted myself with many of the common jazz chords on piano, including 9th chords, 11th chords, and 13th chords. Learning these extensions was one thing… it was quite another to see how these jazz piano chords could be turned into jazz piano voicings that looked almost nothing like their original structures. It was a wonderful world of confusion, curiosity, excitement, and joy all at once!
It became very clear right away… jazz piano was my thing. I
absolutely loved this whole world of learning how to improvise,
discovering and playing jazz chord voicings, increasing my jazz tune repertoire, and further developing my personal piano playing style more and more.
Brief excerpt from ProProach
jazz piano chord voicings program
This has been a passion of mine since those days of being a teenager. It’s a passion that has extended itself to my falling in love with the idea of helping others who share similar interests. Whenever I encounter another individual, whether in person or in “cyberspace,” I get those inner “butteflies” that go hand in hand with helping others to learn about a subject that I have always been fascinated with.
I Would Like To Share The Common Jazz Chords Played On Piano… And More
Many people in different parts of the world have come to know me as the creator of ProProach, which is an online learning program that was born out of my love for sharing what I know in the area of jazz piano chord voicings. When it comes to learning jazz piano chords for beginners, it’s terrific. The program consists of weekly lessons (over the course of 24 weeks) that shares many of the common jazz chords for piano played by the pros. Not only do I have a real passion for sharing this knowledge in a fashion that is easy for people to understand but I have to say that I really feel for the individual who is learning this material for the first time. I remember coming home for school, eating a snack around 3:00pm, going down to the basement, putting on a jazz record, and going to sleep while listening to jazz pianist like Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans as I wondered, “What in the world are those voicings they are playing?!” At least I had
learned to call them “voicings” by that time. It’s that sense of curiosity… that need to know…say it however you like… but it gave more and more life to my thirst for knowledge.
The exploration of jazz piano chord voicings continues to be a thrill
for me, as you never really “know them all.” After all, there is always
a variation of a chord voicing that’s possible… and a variation of
that… etc. Yes, I have only touched the surface when it comes to
explaining the kind of passion I have for this art.
If this art form is somewhat new to you, perhaps you can take part in
this passion with me simply by taking a look at that jazz piano voicing shown in the illustration above and exploring it further. Those three notes in the chord represent the 1, 11, and 7 of the chord of Cmin7 (the 4th is referred to as the 11 since it is the same note an octave higher). Thus, what you are actually playing is a Cmin11 chord voicing. How about taking that voicing and transposing it to the other keys? For starters, simply play all the chord tones one half step higher, which leads you to Dbmin11. Then play everything up another half step. There you have Dmin11. Then play Ebmin11… continue through all the keys!
This is how I recommend students approach the lessons in ProProach. All too often, people are in a hurry for the next lesson. But if you’re not spending a good week making the most of a lesson, you’re not gaining the maximum benefit from it. That’s the reason I designed the program to be spread out over a duration of 24 weeks. After you go through the entire course one time, you have indefinite access to all those lessons anyhow, so you can take yourself through the program again and again. Ahhhhh, the rewards for doing so! I really can’t describe in words the value of actually doing that.
Jazz Piano Chord Voicings PDF
I created a jazz piano voicings pdf that you can actually download for free. Many people have requested a jazz piano chords chart but I created this one to be consistent with how I recommend you learn all the voicings covered in ProProach… learn each one in all the keys… and have fun doing it! So, it’s a pdf file that consists of the very first chord voicing demonstrated in ProProach shown in all the keys. I highly recommend that you make it a point to spend a couple of weeks with Lesson #1 and Lesson #2, as they are closely related. Play those voicings in all the keys. Also, incorporate them into favorite tunes of yours. Actually see how the voicing can be used in the context of your playing. I have been told time and time again by ProProach members that it is in this area that this program is in a category of its own. You see, it’s one thing to learn how to play a certain chord structure of jazz piano chord voicings… it’s quite another to incorporate it into your songs. Yes, you’ve got to use what you are learning. This is emphasized throughout the entire program, and I show you ways to do that, of course. I have no problem with a traditional jazz piano chords chart. However, I will say that once a person becomes accustomed to learning a particular chord voicing as encouraged throughout ProProach, more can be gained from such a chart as a result. To get this jazz piano voicings pdf, simply fill out the form below and you’ll be sent a link via email that will take you to the appropriate page to download your copy:
That jazz piano chords pdf illustrates that one voicing in all the keys. I’ve offered this in an effort to emphasize the value of learning voicings in all keys. That said, more value will be gained by taking voicings you learn in the future and transposing them yourself. There is so much more long term benefit by actually taking yourself through the process than by referring to a chord chart. Remember, the person who created the chord chart knew that voicing in all the keys and that should be your goal, too!By the way, after you request that chord voicings pdf, you will not
only receive the link to access it but I will also follow up with three
free lessons that I created on the subject of jazz piano chord
voicings. You’ll want to take advantage of those lessons. The first
will provide you with a basic way to voice chords that will serve as a
building block for so much more. Also, we will take a look at right
hand piano chord playing as well as a jazz piano chord voicing strategy that you absolutely must become familiar with it (it’s a gem that the masters use time and time again!).
I would like to encourage you to use those lessons in a manner
consistent with getting the most from them. They each consist of
textual explanations and graphics (ProProach actually utilizes both plus a complimentary video with each lesson). To maximize your benefit from those three lessons, read the text thoroughly while the graphics illustrate what is being discussed. Actually play the chord voicing examples you see those examples. Once you are able to do that with confidence, take the concept and apply it to at least one other tune that you know. I would really like to see you take the lessons beyond the scope of just what you see there. This will lead to your not only having some great jazz chord voicing strategies in your piano playing “toolbox” but your confidence will already start soaring. Also, keep it fun. Enjoy those lessons at your own pace. They will presented to you over the course of about a week or so but follow them as convenient for you.
Jazz Piano Chord Progressions
I would like to share with you a few of the most common jazz piano chords progressions that you will come across as you familiarize yourself with many standard tunes.
The II – V is the most common jazz piano chords progression that you will come across. Roman numerals are generally used when referring to chord functionality. Therefore, the II (2) and V (5) of the key of C Major are: D and G. The II is a minor chord and is often designated like this: ii (lower case representing minor). The V is a major chord, specifically the dominant chord of the key. Thus, we have the II chord being Dmin7 and the V chord being G7. Often, we see it like this: II-7 V7.
The dominant 7th chord (V7) has the strong tendency to resolve to the I chord. As a result, we often see this very common jazz chord
II – V – I
In the key of C Major, this would usually represent Dmin7 – G7 – Cmaj7 (sometimes Cmaj6)
The I – VI – II – V jazz chord progression is also very common…
In the key of C Major, this represents Cmaj7 – Amin7 – Dmin7 – G7
Of course, there are many more. Familiarity with these jazz chord
progressions in all the keys is highly suggested. It’s well worth your
time and effort! The program mentioned above will have you becoming more comfortable actually playing this progressions in a manner that a jazz piano stylist would.
Remember, there is always more to learn… and that’s something to be thankful for. You’ll never get bored with the world of jazz piano chord voicings!
Jazz Piano Chord Tutorials
The Piano Amore store has so many jazz piano chord tutorials (way too many to mention here). In short, if you like the idea of “looking of a pro’s shoulders” and having him actually explain what he is doing as he plays, then you’ve just got to check things out there. Among the many tools that will get you mastering jazz piano chords and voicings you will find there, the Sneak Peeks series is so very popular. but don’t stop there. You see, out of my passion for sharing this information with those who share enthusiasm for unlocking the secrets to jazz piano chord voicings, I created a number of video sessions devoted to doing just that. So take your time investigating what’s there. Here is a short video excerpt that demonstrates, among other ideas, a way to voice the minor 9th chord:
Sometimes Less Is More
I want to make a point of mentioning that, when it comes to sounding good, it’s not necessary to be able to play complex ideas. It’s common for beginners engaging in the world of playing jazz piano to have the tendency to play everything they know in a given song. This often results in the music sounding like a collage of exercises. For example, once a student jazz piano learns the blues scale, he or she will have the inclination to play up and down that scale all over the keyboard. Rather than sounding musical, it often sounds like a practice session. This is not to say that I discourage this type of exploring. I am merely saying that, when performing a tune, it’s not necessary to play everything in your piano playing “toolbox” to sound professional. Small ideas played in an economical fashion, complimented by simple chord voicings, can really be conducive to a pleasant, coherent performance. Actually, you’ll catch on this this priinciple as you explore these lessons of mine. To confirm the validity of this, just listen to recordings of your favorite pro pianists and you’ll discover that they really have a knack for conveying simple musical ideas in a very tasteful, musical fashion.
Incorporating Jazz Piano Voicings, Fills, & Other Ideas Gradually
When it comes to building your confidence with piano styling, it can be a real confidence booster if you learn one idea at a time and incorporate itt into your playing. Really focus on that piano chord voicing, for example, to a point where you can use it with confidence. Perhaps you are comfortable playing a favorite standard song that you have been playing for quite some time. Chances are that you’ve become accustomed to playing that tune in a particular way. Well, pick one new voicing that you want to make yours and use it in that song wherever you feel it is suitable. Just by doing this, you have taken your piano playing creativity to another level. Pat yourself on the back for doing so! I mean that. You really have to give credit to yourself with each and every accomplishment. Remember this: your state of mind comes through in your playing. I cannot emphasize that enough. If you feel confident, you will play that way. Likewise, if you have reservations about your ability to put a song across in a confident way, that is likely going to be observable to the listener, at least at some level.
So take one song and take it to many levels. One example of this can be observed and taken advantage of in this particular program which consists of four modules. Each subsequent video session builds upon the previous. You will also get a handle on creating your own arrangement of a song. The particular chord changes of the song used in those sessions (for which a lead sheet is provided) are based on Harold Arlen’s OverThe Rainbow (the lyrics were written by E.Y. Harburg). That’s a set of videos toget your piano playing creativity to develop up a few notches. Taking gradual, small steps toward betterment, spending quality time on each of those steps, works like magic. Here is a video excerpt of this very popular collection:
Jazz Piano Chord Voicings “Hidden Secret”
There is another jazz piano chord voicings program that I would like to introduce you to. I’ll share with you why I refer to it as a “hidden secret.” You see, it’s no secret that it’s available. But the real secret exists in the fact that the value of it escapes so many people out there…. yes, I am referring to people who actually find the promotion and go so far as viewing the first lesson. Why is this so? Because, today, when people don’t see a video, they automatically lose interest right away. They don’t even look into the “gold” something may offer them because they have been trained to “need to see a video” on the topic. But I will let you in on something. When I created this program, entitled Pro Piano Chord Bytes, I designed it in a fashion that requires an individual taking personalself-initiative. Each lesson offers an example of a piano chord voicing, using graphics to illustrate how to play it (along with explanation). In addition, I offer commentary that provides specific suggestions for making the most of that particular lesson. The idea is fo have you creating voicings of your own, using the example as a starting point. It’s a bit ironic when you think about it… the very idea in creating this program was to get an individual to enjoy being creative. Creativity involves self-initiative! Yet, they still want to “see it done for them.” Do you think most people are interested in reading text these days? Well, a select few are, and if you have stayed with me up to this point, perhaps you will be one of the few who would be willing to take advantage of that program in the fashion it was meant to be used. The first lesson is actually free and can be found here. If you are able to see where I’m coming from, you may want to continue with the entire 24 weeks (one lesson is delivered weekly). You can look into this chord voicing program here. If you involve yourself with those lessons in the manner they were meant to be used, there is no limit as to the results you will enjoy. I had a lot of fun (to say the least) creating both programs I’ve mentioned on this page.
An Easy, Creative Way To Have Fun Voicing Chords On The Piano
Okay, I would like to introduce you to a fun way to create your very own piano chord voicings, even if you have no experience whatsover! Ready? Great… take a look at this very basic chord structure for the Cmaj7 chord:
Play that chord with either your left hand or right hand. Now, without even seeing an illustration, simply take one of those chord tones and play it in another octave on the piano keyboard instead of where it is (one octave lower or one octave higher). So, if it was the G you chose, the order of the notes you’ll be playing with either be G C E B or C E B G. Wahlah! You are playing a chord voicing! Yes, you will have a larger span to cover with your fingers so split up the voicing between both hands. One way to do this would be to play the lower two keys with your left hand and the upper two keys with your right hand. Play both voicings, one after the other, and listen! Hold each voicing down as you allow yourself to really hear and appreciate the difference between the two. This is a form of ear training. Just by doing this, you are well on your way to expanding your mind, exploring your creative juices, and developing your musical ears! Follow up by going back to the original basic chord shown above and choosing a different chord tone to play elsewhere. Continue this with all the chord tones. You are doing great!
A Most Powerful Chord Voicing Technique For Explosive Growth
In my opinion, the practicing approach I am about to describe is, by far, the single most powerfully effective strategy that one can adopt when it comes to actually creating confidence with learning and incorporating voicings into songs. It is equally effective when it comes to piano fills and any improvisational technique that you want to build confidence with. I actually based an entire collection of piano video tutorials on this special approach to mastering certain aspects of your playing. I sometimes refer to it as “looping.” By taking a very small segment of a tune, like four measures, and playing those same four measures over and over again while incorporating different ideas each time, you soon find yourself experiencing a level of mastery otherwise unattainable. This type of concentration on just a few bars of a tune and repeating them while giving yourself the luxury of approaching them from several different angles is conducive to your reaching heights of creativity that can really amaze you. My Sneak Peeks series of video sessions encourages just that. We take four measures of a song like My Romance and consider different ways of playing voicings, fills, and other ideas each time we play through it. Exposure to this type of “looking over my shoulder” learning session over and over again will have you looking at a song like you never did before. Any given session of Sneak Peeks is not designed to have you learning that song but, instead, getting you to train yourself to think and play creatively. This will have an absolute impact on whatever tunes you choose to play on your own.
Let’s Continue Our Chord Voicing Adventure!
If you decide to take advantage of ProProach, please know that I will consider it a personal pleasure and privilege.It doesn’t end there, however. I see every request for that program come through. It is my hope that you will send me a note every once in a while, letting me know how things are going for you. It thrills me to no end to learn how people’s eyes (and ears) open as they become engaged in this popular program. I never get tired of those emails! Truly, I want you to enjoy your journey as you proceed. I feel as though we are already kindred souls taking part in an adventure that, time and time again, proves to be both exciting and rewarding!
Chord voicings are the name of the game when it comes to turning those favorite standard songs of yours into rich, juicy, tasty, full-bodied masterpieces that, upon being heard by others in a room, turn heads. You don’t have to possess awesome, digital improvising “chops” to put a song across with confidence and a sense of authority. When you have a reasonable command of supporting those melodies with lush harmonies, you are interpreted as a pianist who has command of his or her instrument. Why? Because you are!
An absolute first strategy that will be more than just remotely helpful on this journey will be to familiarize yourself with the more common jazz piano voicings used by professional piano playing giants who have already gained the respect of their audience.
Listen To Recordings Of The Jazz Greats
Listening to the great recording is perhaps the most tremendous strategy you can adopt. Learn to fully appreciate the harmonic sounds of those piano giants. It’s not so important that you know what they are playing. Rather, it’s valuable to listen to great players simply to be in touch with the fact that, at this point in time, they know what you do not. Listen to a recording Bill Evans, for example, as he performs a version of Waltz For Debby and remain curious about those piano voicings he is using. Listening again and again is likely to lead you to discovering exactly what is being played in certain areas of a tune. But even if you aren’t able to quickly reproduce what you are hearing, you are still nurturing your musical ears.
A Dual Approach To Mastering Common Chord Voicings
As you expose yourself to learning tools, you will learn that many of the chord sounds you were hearing from the likes of a Bill Evans have become common jazz piano chord voicings being used again and again by those who have invested their time in exploring as we are suggesting here. It becomes a remarkable moment when you listen to such a recording repeatedly over time and, upon actually seeing a particular voicing explained and demonstrated as in a program like ProProach, the light bulb goes on… “Wow! That’s what I was listening to and that’s how to play it!”
Integrating a combination of listening to recordings and participating in a program like ProProach will soon lead to your making connections between what you have been listening to and what you find yourself actually playing! Those “Ahaaa!” moments are irreplaceable.
Incorporate What You Learn Into Your Tunes
As I mentioned over and over again, it’s crucial to incorporate what you learn into your own tunes. It’s much like learning a language like English. A certain word is of little use to you unless you make a habit of incorporating that word into phrases and sentences until you eventually feel absolutely confident with using it whenever you like. That’s how it works when it comes to learning those common jazz piano voicings.
Create Your Very Own Jazz Piano Voicings
You will find that, once the more common voicings are mastered, you’ll be inspired to even create your very own chord voicing sounds. Pro Piano Chord Bytes offers plenty of suggestions in the commentary section of each of those weekly lessons. A chief aim of that program is to get you thinking creatively so that you have more and more fun expressing yourself in your own unique way.
Put Your Progress “On Steroids”
Let’s not forget a most important requisite to all this. Keep it fun. While those “mystery” chord voicing sounds you hear the pros playing should serve as encouragement and inspiration, do not place your focus the fact that you do not know how to play those sounds yet. Instead, place your focus on what you have learned and make the most of that, keeping your vision open to discovering the unknown. Adopt this approach as a habit and you’ll wake up one day and it will seem as though you have suddenly become a pianist who is in the driver’s seat when it comes to putting a song across in a fashion that spells greatness!
Let’s Have Fun With The Drop 2 Piano Chord Voicing
A favorite among pro piano stylists is the Drop 2 piano chord voicing. It is a very easy voicing to understand and implement. That said, in order to maximize the benefit from learning it, like any voicing, using it over and over again will lead to possibilities not otherwise imagined.
Let’s take at a simply basic chord like Cmaj7 in its basic, closed position:
Look at the 2nd member from the top. In this case, it happens to be G. Move the G one octave lower, which results in it being the lowest member of the voicing:
It becomes a two-hand piano chord voicing. Since we are taking the 2nd voice from the top and moving it down an octave, we call it “Drop 2.” You can either play the lowest two members with the left and upper two members with the right of you can modify that according to your preference and, of course, how the chord voicing is used in context.
Compare the original Cma7 basic chord structure with this Drop 2 chord voicing and listen! Since we now have an open voicing, the resulting sound is more “open” to our ears as well.
The Drop 2 piano chord voicing will become your friend very quickly if you just give yourself a fair amount of time acquainting yourself with it. On its own, it offers a nice variation of the basic chord. However, when used in conjunction with other Drop 2 positions, it really sounds rather impressive. For example, play the Cma7 in its four closed positions, namely Root Position, 1st Inversion, 2nd Inversion, and 3rd Inversion, respectively. Then turn these chord positions into Drop 2 chord voicings and listen to what you get. Do the same in reverse, started with the 3rd Inversion moving toward the Root Position. It sounds great!
Furthermore, when you play a chord progression utilizing the Drop 2, you get more impressive results. Explore this piano chord voicing over a I – VI – II – V chord progression, for example. Once you really familiarize yourself with this voicing through continued application, you know you’ve got something!
Okay, now that we have applied the Drop 2 technique to a basic chord, we can also apply it to any four-note positions that are closed. As an example, let’s say that you are playing a voicing for F9:
Again, the 2nd chord tone from the top is the one we will move to a position one octave lower. In this case, that note is an A. Here is the Drop 2 voicing:
As with other voicings, play the original voicing and the Drop 2 in various keys to really gain confidence.!
Okay, go ahead and find a favorite standard tune of yours and find places where you can apply the Drop 2 voicing for added dimension. Keep in mind that when the top note of the voicing is the melody note, you have a perfect match! Explore, experiment, and have a ball with it all! As you gain more and more mastery at that piano or keyboard of yours, remember…
It gives me great pleasure to focus some time on a jazz piano voicing that has certainly stood the test of time and one that, if you’re not currently incorporating it into your playing, it’s likely you’re missing out on something. Today, it is considered to be a rather common jazz piano voicing among jazz pianists. You will want to learn about it. You’ll also want to master it. I am referring to the So What jazz piano voicing.
It is referred to by this name due to the fact that it became popular ever since jazz pianist Bill Evans played this particular voicing repeatedly throughout the form of Miles Davis’ standard tune So What on his Kind of Blue album, which was recorded in 1959. Let’s give a listen to this original recording:
Listening to just a few moments will have you hearing Bill Evans playing this voicing. This is what it looks like:
As you listen, you will notice that the voicing moves down a whole step:
To play the voicing, use the left hand 1 and 4 fingers (ring finger and thumb) to play the lower two notes and the right hand 1, 3, and 5 (thumb, middle finger, and pinkie) to play the upper three. Of course, you have your options, though this is a very practical way to perform it.
It may be interesting to recognize that the notes of the So What voicing coincide with the lower five strings of a guitar.
This voicing is often used as an alternative to quartal voicings which generally consist of fourth intervals exclusively. Taking a close look at the So What voicing leads you to seeing that its lower four notes actually constitute a quartal voicing. We have three Perfect 4th intervals; however, further interest is added when a Major 3rd “tops the cake.” This combination of intervals creates a unique sound and its identity in recording will soon be instantly recognized by you as you listen more and more.
The tune is based on the Dorian mode. If you play the C Major scale on D (instead of C) and continue to the D one octave higher, you’ll be playing the Dorian mode, which looks like this:
It easily becomes apparent that if you were to play and hold down the members of both voicings illustrated above (or even just the lower four members), you will see that you are playing all the tones of the D Dorian mode.
It will be valuable to play this scale slowly and listen to it. Then play the C Major scale. Go back and forth. Don’t hurry the process. Simply allow your ears to hear and appreciate the distinctive sound of the Dorian mode. The tune So What is based on this scale. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that these two voicings, which constitute this mode when combined, work very well when used to comp while playing within it. Because the tune is based on this mode, it is often referred to as a modal tune.
I personally had a lot of fun creating a video session that focuses on the So What voicing. If you are interested in exploring it, please click here and accept my gratitude for taking advantage of it.
Practicing Piano Chord Voicings
As with learning any voicing, here are three approaches that will serve you well when it comes to mastering this piano chord voicing:
Start by playing one of the voicings. Then transpose the voicing up one half step. This can be easily achieved by “sliding” each finger that is playing the original voicing up by “feeling up” one half step. Continue up in half steps up the piano keyboard. until you have played through an entire octave, thus having played the voicing in all the keys. After you ascend, descend down in half steps. This is perhaps the easiest way to play through a voicing through all the keys. After a while, you will simply be able to play them “on demand.”
Play one of the voicings and transpose the voicing around the circle of fifths. “Jumping” from one voicing to the next, rather than having the luxury of “feeling up the keys” more or less “forces” you to see the chord ahead of time. Of course, you can “jump” using various intervals and I certainly encourage that. This is a real confidence builder!
Incorporate the voicing in tunes! Yes, use what you learn, as I always encourage. Comp over the form of the tune So What using the voicings. How appropriate! Then play the song in another key, using the appropriate voicings. Play in other keys!
Modal Playing: Ahhh The Flexibility!
I would like to touch upon something interesting. This is one reason this jazz piano voicing lends itself to being so popular. The two voicings illustrated above can be thought of as an E Minor chord and an D Minor chord, respectively. More accurately, we have “minor 11th” chords here: specifically, we have Emin11 and Dmin11 (or E-11 and D-11). Listening to the tune So What, you hear the E-11 being played first as it resolves to the D-11, which corresponds to the D Dorian mode, on which the tune is based. However, you could actually play the E-11 for an even longer duration and have it sound good. That’s an interesting characteristic of modal playing. When you are playing within a mode, there is so much flexibility. As long as you are tones withing the scale, you are said to be playing within mode. So even while you are playing that E-11 voicing, you can be said to be playing “in D Dorian.”
The flexibility goes wll beyond this when it comes to playing chord voicings like this one. Here is what I mean…
Abracadabra! One Becomes…
Take a look once again at the chord voicing for D-11 above. Do you notice that the members of this voicing are also members of other chords? As an example, a Bb6/9 chord contains the same chord tones! A G-11 chord also shares these chord tones! An F6/9 chord does, too! It can actually go much further than this. Suddenly, what was considered to be a very common jazz piano voicing becomes one that isn’t so common!
So, you see, my friend, learning just one voicing, such as this one, in only one position results in your having learned so many more! This is one of those beautiful things about music. Literally, you could spend hours looking into one voicing, exploring the many different which in which it can be used!
Now, hold on a second here. I can almost hear some readers saying, “But that’s overwhelming! How am I going to learn and remember all the possibilities even for just one voicing?!”
This is important to acknowledge. Your awareness of the various chords that one voicing can be used for will expand with experience. You can count on that. However, if you make it a point right now to master playing that chord structure, playing it will be no challenge for you as that awareness unfolds. You will, little by little, begin to see that voicing in different ways. Isn’t it great that you’ve got the technical challenge out of the way as you discover more and more of these possibilities so you can just play them instantly whenever you like? You bet!
Another way of putting it? Suppose you made a point of saving up $5000 in cash. Finally, you have accumulated that money. What are the different ways you can apply that $5000 to? I think you would agree that there are countless ways in which you could enjoy that money. However, was it necessary to be aware of all of them in order to accumulate that amount of money? Of course not. Simply having it on hand made all those ways of using it possible!
Adopting that mind set is something that I hope all those who become involved with ProProach make a point of doing. This will have a magnificent impact on what is experienced during those 24 weeks. Furthermore, as the program is followed again and again, your eyes will open more and more… and so will your ears!
One more thing I would like to point out here. Earlier, we took a look at how the the So What contains within it a quartal voicing, looking at the lower four members. By simply leaving off that top note, we still have a D Minor voicing , just without the 5th of the chord (if we are thinking in terms of D Minor, of course!). What do you have if you just play the lower three members of this voicing? You still have yet another voicing for Dmin11!
Yes, learning even one new voicing is like striking gold. That’s the way I see it. Having a passion for the world of jazz piano voicings will lead you to more and more (and more) discoveries. You see, it never gets stale. Isn’t that great? The “colors” of this “prism” are endless!
So, let me ask you… how will you be spending your next 30 minutes at that piano or keyboard of yours? When will that be? What will you do today that will make a positive difference for your tomorrow?
Although its use is certainly not limited to ballads by any means, it’s a terrific jazz piano voicing that can really beautify those favorite ballads of yours. I say this because it is has such a such a substantial sound that resounds prominently when played with melody notes of long duration. I sometimes refer to these as “resting points” because these notes are the target notes that give a phrase its feeling of resolution.
Let me give you an example:
Erroll Garner’s Misty (for which Johnny Burke later wrote the words) has always been a favorite ballad of mine. Let’s take a peek at the first measure. It has two pickup notes that lead to a melody note of a longer duration (3 beats). The chord is a Cmaj7:
How would you play a Cmaj7 chord with that B in the melody?
There are a number of ways to do it. A beginning player who is familiar with 7th chords might play the Cmaj7 like this:
Above we have the Cmaj7 chord illustrated in its basic, root position. Now, there wouldn’t be anything wrong with playing this chord in that manner. Actually it sounds good when played in the area an octave below the melody. If you haven’t played this before, I certainly encourage you to do so for a couple of reasons:
You’ll want to gain familiarity with all of your 7th chords in all positions and this is one of them
You are likely going to want to use this particular version of the Cmaj7 when playing ballads. Playing it this way when interspersed with tasteful piano chord voicings, such as the one we are about to explore, can really add some nice variety to your playing
Okay, as we take a look at that Cmaj7 chord structure above and relate it to the C Major scale (C D E F G A B C), we have the 1,3,5,7 of the scale, respectively.
Sidebar: When people refer to the “1 of the chord” or “3 of the chord” or “5th of the chord,” etc., they are actually referring to the degrees of a corresponding scale.
If we play a little game with those chord tones by rearranging them a bit, we can arrive at a jazz piano chord voicing that looks like this:
Here we have a wonderful stock voicing used by the pros time and time again. We refer to it as a “stock” voicing because it’s one that is known by every competent jazz pianist and is used quite often.
This is one of the more basic type of voicings due to the fact that it includes the very same amount of notes as the original example above and exactly the same chord tones. The only difference, in terms of playing it, is that we have moved two of the chord tones, the 1 and 5 of the chord, down one octave. But what a difference when it comes to how it sounds!
What we are playing here is known as an open chord voicing because we have taken notes from the chord and created space. In other words, looking at the first illustration above, that Cmaj7 chord has tones that are as close as they can possibly be to each other. Therefore, we refer to this as a closed position chord. But you’ll notice that, upon playing our new voicing, that those notes are not as close to each other as they could be. There are actually chord tones (that we are not playing) in between the notes we are playing.
Go ahead and play the basic position of Cmaj7 above and then play this voicing. Compare how they sound to you. Go back and forth between the two. Listen… listen… listen. Really learn to love listening to the distinctive sounds of the various positions and voicings of chords. This is key to becoming a tasteful player.
Now, let’s take another look at the segment of the melody for Misty shown above. Notice that the melody note that we want to harmonize and the top note of the chord voicing we arrived at are the same note. Please go to your piano or keyboard and play that melody while complimenting that B (for 3 beats) with that voicing. Listen!
Isn’t it nice and full? It sounds nice and rich. Would you agree? The first time I had heard someone play that jazz piano voicing, he was, in fact, playing Misty. I just had to run over to the piano and ask him what he was playing. Like most jazz pianists, he showed me without reservation. Wow! I had a new sound that I could play whenever I wanted to. I soon made it a point of incorporating this voicing in both tunes that I had already known as well as new ones.
It is my hope for you, friend, that you develop the same “child like” enthusiasm that I had (and still have) whenever a new chord sound is discovered.
Play that jazz piano chord voicing in more keys:
C F Bb Eb Ab Db Gb B E A D G
It would be great to learn that voicing in all those keys. At the very least, learn a few of them and used them in songs that you know. Then learn the others. Use what you learn. This is important!
By the way, the example above was excerpted from a popular jazz piano voicings program of mine entitled Pro Piano Chord Bytes. You will find it in Lesson #1, which is offered free as you will see once you follow that link. Upon getting involved with that program, you will receive a new lesson each week for 24 weeks. Each consists of examples both illustrated on the staff and on the keyboard (so even if you don’t read music yet, you can simply play what you see on the keyboard illustration). In addition, the added commentary will lead you to more and more chord voicing creativity if you will follow its suggestions, which I hope you will have fun doing.
Okay, let’s do a little something to this voicing that will give us another texture. Play the exact same chord voicing while leaving out the 5 of the chord. So, the result will be that you will be playing the C in the bass area of the piano keyboard with the left hand and the E and B above with right hand. Again, play and listen. Do you notice that the chord still sounds fantastic, only with a bit of a “thinner” quality? This is a perfect example of how making ever so slight changes to our voicings can result in different “colors!” I would like to show you a demonstration of this chord voicing being used in Misty, this time in the key or Eb. This is a short excerpt one of the lessons in ProProach. In that program, we actually learn how to incorporate what we learn into actual tunes, which is a very popular feature with members. Let’s give a look and listen:
Here is a fun, simple exercise that I would like you have some more fun with: If you have sheet music, pick a few songs that you like and browse through the music. As you do so, look for Major 7th chords. At the same time, see if you can locate melody notes that are actually the 7th of the chord. Go ahead and play the voicing above (both with and without the 5 of the chord) to compliment that melody note. Put it in context of the melody before and after. Although this chord voicing really “rings” nicely for notes of a longer duration, don’t limit yourself to using it in other areas of the melody. For now, wherever you have a Major 7th chord that coincides with a melody note that is the 7th, play it and put it in context! As you gain more and more experience, you won’t be playing a voicing like that everywhere you possibly could, of course, but you do want to be able to! Really get to know that voicing! Sure, you are already acquainted with it. But you know that you know it when you can use it “on demand.” This is what I want for you, friend. I want you to make a habit of really using what you learn, as I mentioned earlier. Your confidence is really going to escalate!
As you explore this voicing further and master it to the point of it being at your fingertips whenever you choose, remember…
Abracadabra! Alakazoo! Who’s on the way to
piano chord mastery? That person is YOU!
How To Arrive At Some Basic Jazz Piano Voicings Right Away
Would you like a super easy way to be playing some pretty cool sounding jazz piano voicings? Here is a little something you can have fun with right now…
This is a fun way to experiment with chords on the piano even if you
don’t have much experience at all. What you need to know are two things:
1) The C Major Scale C D E F G A B C
2) The C Major Triad C E G
Playing through this exercise will result in some very interesting sounds and insights!
Here is what to do:
1) Simply play the C Major triad with your right hand
If you need help with triads, a good learning tool, which includes a video and guidebook is here (This is available via instant download). For now, here is how to play a C Major chord:
2) At the same time, play the C Major scale, one note at a time,
and LISTEN to the results!
For example, play the C Major triad with your right hand
(C E G… play the chord using “middle C”) while playing the “C” one octave below “middle C” with your left hand…
Doing this, you are simply playing a C major chord…
NEXT, while playing the same C Major chord with your right hand,
play the “D” with your left hand and LISTEN… you are now playing something quite different! You’re actually playing a chord voicing a Pro would use. It’s actually a piano chord voicing for a D-11 chord!
NEXT, change that left hand note to the E (you’ll be playing a slash chord – C/E)
Then… F… Then G… Then A… Then B…
Here is what you’ve done:
With C at the bottom, you’ve got a Cmaj chord
With D at the bottom, you’ve got a D-11 chord (or Dmin11)
With E at the bottom, you’ve got a C/E chord
With F at the bottom, you’ve got an Fmaj9 chord
With G at the bottom, you’ve got C/G
With A at the bottom, you’ve got an A-7 chord (or Amin7)
With B at the bottom, you’ve got a Cmaj7/B chord
For extra fun, play inversions of the C major with the right hand!
Can you do this with the other scales? Like a G major chord with the right hand playing a G Major scale with the left hand? You bet you can!
This is a fantastic jazz piano voicing primer that can have you experiencing some chord sounds you may never have before. Of course, if you experiment with the various keys, taking this fun exercise beyond the scope of this lesson, you will be taking your chord confidence to higher levels!