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.
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?