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…
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!