Category Archives: Jazz Piano Chords

Piano Chord Voicings Explored

ProProach Piano Chord Voicings Program: What Makes It So Effective?

Popular Chord Voicings ProgramChord voicings is the name of the game with ProProach. Now, in this message, I would like to acknowledge  a question received a number of times regarding how this popular piano chord program is presented. Here it is:

“Can I receive all the lessons in ProProach at one time?”

The perceived “benefit” of having all the lessons at one’s fingertips from the perspective of the person asking the question is understandable. It’s human nature to want to “browse” and “pick and choose” certain favorite chord voicings to play with and experience instantly.

Is there anything wrong with that? Of course not. However, it ought to be pointed out that much of the true effectiveness of ProProach can be credited to the gradual implementation of new voicings as they are learned. Actually, the very same individuals who ask the question above are the folks who, upon exposing themselves to the program, are kind enough to write me and let me know that it is this very approach to learning which is responsible for the gained confidence they enjoy as growing piano stylists.

That said, the truth is that you actually do get to have the entire collection of lessons and video demonstrations at your fingertips once you’ve taken yourself through the program. Time and time again, members have notified me that this has become especially invaluable to the even more so because they followed the program as suggested.  The reason? Well, once ProProach has been enjoyed the way it’s been intended, going through the program offers a different perspective each time. Truly, this is a piano chord voicings program that you can grow with.

Even the very first lesson of the program (which is currently being offered for free on the main site) can be taken to many different levels. My video session in Cocktail Piano Secrets #1 helps one do just that. If you’d like to get a handle on a nice way to create some tasteful harmonic piano fills, that program is one I hope you will consider.

I am always happy to communicate with people who have taken the leap and taken advantage of this program, as the fun I had in creating it is matched only by the satisfaction I personally get when a ProProach member emails me with a message similar to the many testimonials you will find on the site. I am inspired by your progress!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

Great Sound Piano Chords: Your Very Own?

Great-Sounding-Piano-ChordsWhen you hear the same tune being played by a number of different players, it’s pretty easy to determine which of those players have a real handle on what they are doing in terms of harmony. It doesn’t take much effort to recognize when great sounding piano chords are being played.

But what do we mean by great sounding piano chords?

Some beginning players who have a handle on those basic chords, including triads and 7th chords, might be thinking, “But I learned all these chords. If I know them all, isn’t this all there is to know?” Often, it’s these same individuals who will put on a recording of a pianist like Bill Evans and, after listening to just a few measures of a song they are familiar with, will admit that there’s some kind of “magic” going on that they can’t seem to put their finger on.

So, what’s the secret to playing great sounding piano chords?

Voicings.

That’s right. An understanding of piano voicings is what “separates the men from the boys” when it comes to piano styling. It’s one thing to know what a G7 chord is and playing it is not really a challenge. But when you play it in the basic manner that most initially learn it, that “magic” doesn’t seem to manifest.

However, an understanding of the many ways that G7 chord can be voiced leads you down a different road – a path worth exploring. The good news is you don’t have to know everything about piano voicings to gain benefit from them. Actually, you can start enjoying benefits as soon as you learn one or two and decide to implement them by incorporating them in your favorite songs.

Two programs that are highly recommended (if you truly want to start having fun with piano voicings) are ProProach and Pro Piano Chord Bytes. The first is a 24-week program in which a new lesson is sent to your email box each week. Basically how this works is you learn one new voicing and use it to the point of being confident with it in the context of your favorite songs… then you learn a new one, and the process of development continues. Once you accumulate all the lessons, you can continue enjoying them indefinitely. Actually, some of the major benefits gained are reported from users of ProProach who have taken themselves through the program more than once (this one’s unique, folks). The lessons consist of textual explanations and videos that support the content. A great feature of this one is that you not only learn how to play those special chord sounds of the pros but you also learn how to apply them in your favorite tunes.

Pro Piano Chord Bytes is another weekly program that is also delivered to your email box. This one does not consist of videos. Rather it provides you with one approach to voicing a chord per week and also consist of commentary that leads you to think for yourself so that you are encouraged to create your very own chord voicings.

What happens when you combine these programs as part of a “balanced diet of musical nutrition?” In short, your confidence when it comes to playing those “chord sounds of the pros” soars like never before.

Get involved with making an exploration of piano voicings an important part of your musical journey and you’ll soon wonder where the time has gone and why you didn’t know this stuff before. But don’t fret. There’s no time like the present. Give yourself the opportunity to explore your musical potential with piano voicings and remember…

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

Jazz Piano Chords: Quartal Voicings

Jazz-Piano-ChordsYour repertoire of jazz piano chords will undoubtedly include the exploration of quartal voicings if you are sincere in your interest in this art form. There is much to share when it comes to quartal voicings and we do acknowledge them in ProProach, too. Here we will look at one voicing in particular…
Quartal voicings are chord structures that are built using perfect 4th intervals. Let’s look at a quartal voicing that can be used for both major and minor chords. Suppose we had a melody note of C that was to be harmonized with with a C Major 7th or Major 6th chord.
Well if we start from that melody note and work our way down in perfect 4ths, we would have this:

C  G  D  A  E

Notice that there is a perfect 4th interval between each of the subsequent notes in this chord voicing. In relation to C Major chord, we have, from bottom to top this time:

E  A  D  G  C
3  6   9   5  1

Notice that we have no 7th chord in this chord voicing. However, it can often be used even when a Major 7th chord is called for. The 6 and 9 of this chord add nice flavor. In addition, the fact that the voicing consists of perfect 4ths makes for a more contemporary sound.

Now, let’s suppose that, with the same melody note (C), the chord asked for is an Amin7. Well, this voicing can still work. Yes, this is one of those jazz piano chords that has versatility! In relation to A minor, we have from bottom to top:

5  1  11  7  3 (the 11 is also the 4th)

Go ahead and play each of these voicings and, just before you play each, play the root in the bass area with the sustain pedal followed by the voicing. Do this with the C in the bass and then with the A and listen.

Is it necessary to play that root in the bass area with these voicings? No, but doing so will give you that extra substance or “bottom” when you’re looking for it, especially when playing those ballads as a soloist.

Since this chord voicing is built simply using perfect 4ths, it will be relatively easy to transpose this one to other keys. You are highly encouraged to do this.

Are you seeing how learning voicings of various textures is really conducive to your being a more mature stylist at those ivories? The more textures you learn , the more diversity you have.

Have fun with quartal voicings!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

Cocktail Piano Chords: Open Voicing and Then Some…

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsOur focus on cocktail piano chords has included some attention on open chord voicings. As a review, let’s consider one way we can open up a chord like a Major 7th. We’ll use Fmaj7 for our example. This chord, in its most basic form (root position) is spelled like this:

F  A  C  E
1  3  5  7

This chord is considered to be in “closed” position since the chord tones are as close to each other as they can possibly be. In other words, there are no chord tones between the F and A, the A and C, or the C an E.

Well, we can open this chord by playing a 1-5-7-3 voicing, which looks like this:

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsPlay this chord voicing as it illustrated above and listen. Just the way it is here, we have one of the most popular cocktail piano chords played by the pros. You’ll notice that the chord has all four of the basic chord tones, so it is complete as it is. That said, let’s make it a little “fuller” by doubling the root and playing it in between the 3 and 7. We will leave the 1 and 5 “open”. Our result looks like this:

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsPlay this new chord voicing as we have illustrated it and listen. Then compare the one preceding it by playing them both back and forth. It’s interesting how making one simple modification can change the texture of the voicing we are playing.

How could we use this? Well, to illustrate, we will use an excerpt from the very popular Pro Piano Chord Bytes (a 24 week online subscription that can change the way you think about playing chords). Let’s say that we are playing the beginning of Hoagy Carmichael’s and Mitchell Parish’s Stardust. If you look at the melody, you’ll notice that it is the 6th of the chord. Well, a very tasteful way of filling this up would be to use the Major 7th voicing that we just took a look at. The entire voicing may be played below that melody note.

Here is the excerpt from Pro Piano Chord Bytes that illustrates doing exactly that:

Cocktail-Piano-Chords

Play this chord voicing in the context of this melody and notice the richness that results!

You are highly encouraged to transpose this voicing into other keys. Doing so will have you feeling so much more confident when you’re looking to get a nice full sound on those major chords. Of course, you will gain more value by actually incorporating the voicing in favorite standard songs of yours!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

Jazz Piano Chords: Upper Structure Triads

Jazz-Piano-ChordsOur journey with jazz piano chords continues as we take a look at upper structure triads. There are several of these and, here, will take a look at one.

First, what is an upper structure triad? Well, as the name implies, a triad is certainly involved. “Upper” refers to where we play the triad in a given chord structure – yes, at the top. When we think in terms of upper structures, we are more easily able to visualize jazz piano chords of certain qualities. Lets see why…

The chord we will be using is a dominant 7th chord that has a b9 and 13 added for color. A basic C7 chord is spelled as follows:

C  E  G  Bb

The two most important notes of this chord (outside of the root, which is sometimes played by the bass player) are the 3 and 7 of the chord, so let’s begin with those:

Jazz-Piano-ChordsWe mentioned that the b9 and 13 will be added. Although we can identify the b9 as the Db and the 13 as the A with some thought, playing this chord becomes “easy as pie” when we think in terms of a triad. Think “A major” and play it over that 3 and 7, which looks like this:

Jazz-Piano-Chords

Play this chord voicing and listen. Notice that the A Major triad, which is our “upper structure” (at the top) includes the A, which is the 13, and the C# (or Db), which is the b9, of C7.

So, if we are playing a dominant 7th chord, we can play the major triad whose root starts on the 6th in relation to the chord we are playing. In other words, we wanted a C7(b9)(13) chord, so we started with the 3 and 7 at the bottom and played the triad whose root is A (6 away from C).

You’ll notice that the A Major triad also contains the E, which is the 3 of the chord. You could, of course, eliminate it if you choose.

After you have played this chord voicing as illustrated above, have some fun playing that upper structure (the triad) in its different positions. We used the root position already. Play it with the 1st inversion of A Major and then with the 2nd inversion of A Major. Listen and compare.

Question: What inversion of A Major would you want to harmonize a melody note of E? Of C#? Of A? Since each inversion of the upper structure triad results in a different note at the top, we can change its position to accommodate that melody, which we usually want to be at the top.

Transpose this chord voicing to other keys to boost your confidence. You’re going to learn to love upper structure voicings!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

Cocktail Piano Chords: The Drop 3 Voicing

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsThe drop 3 voicing is one of those piano chords that can be endlessly explored… and well worth the time and effort, too! Adding this concept to your cocktail piano playing will most surely add more interest to those standard songs.

The drop 3 voicing can be applied to any four-note chord structure. It is most tasteful in solo playing so, as a cocktail pianist, this is one you will capitalize on. Let’s see how this voicing can easily be approached. For our example below, we will use a basic Fmaj7 chord in root position to start with:Cocktail-Piano-ChordsOkay, now take a look at the 3rd note from the top. In this case, we are referring to the A in this chord. To create the drop 3 chord voicing, we will simply take this A out of this original position and move it down one octave, the result being this:

Cocktail-Piano-Chords

Be sure to play the original Fmaj7 formation above and then follow it with this drop 3 voicing and listen closely. What an amazing difference can be made by making a slight variation like this! I think you will agree that your repertoire of cocktail piano chords must include the use of this very popular voicing among the pros.

Naturally, this chord voicing is not limited to solo playing, as it is quite effect when comping for another soloist as well. As a cocktail pianist playing solo, however, you will really have a fun time applying this drop 3 in so many of your ballads.

How about choosing a favorite standard song right now and putting this voicing to use? Let’s consider the very beginning of Arlen and Harburg’s Over The Rainbow in Eb, in which the first chord might be played as an Eb6. The first melody note is an Eb. Therefore, the right hand might play both the melody and the chord using the 1st inversion of this chord (playing this inversion keeps the melody at the top):

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsOkay, let’s turn this into a drop 3. Again, we will take that 3rd note from the top (in this case, the Bb) and move it one octave below:

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsAgain, compare the original structure with this drop 3 voicing. Learn to really appreciate the differences in sound achieved by even little variations like this. You’ve got a whole world of sound to explore!

Okay, we just applied this to one melody note. You are highly encouraged to go through an entire tune and use the drop 3 often, even more than you are likely to normally use it in performance. By doing this, you’ll eventually learn to play it on command. Have tons of fun with the drop 3  voicing!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

Jazz Piano Chords: II-V-I Progression

Jazz-Piano-ChordsDuring our last lesson that focused on jazz piano chords, we took a look at a very popular way to voice that II-V chord progression among the pros. It’s interesting to note that this II-V chord progression is the most common chord progression in all of jazz and pop harmony. Well, let’s take a look at an extension of this progression…

The II-V chord progression often resolves to the I chord of the key. Actually, you might even say that these three chords played in succession define the key that you are in. Let’s explore the diatonic 7th chords in the key of C Major:

The II chord is Dmin7

The V chord is G7

The I chord is Cmaj7

This is how we voiced the II-V chord progression in our last lesson:

Jazz-Piano-Chords

Before we resolve this progression to the Imaj7 chord, let’s take a look at the spelling of the Cmaj7 chord in its basic form:

C  E  G  B

In relation to the corresponding C Major scale, these chord tones represent the 1, 3, 5, and 7, respectively.

C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C  D  etc…
1  2   3   4  5  6  7   8   9   etc…

Above, we can see that, if we extend the scale beyond an octave and continue building in thirds, we arrive at the 9 (which is the same letter name as the 2):

C  E  G  B  D

Now, remaining consistent with our progression of rootless voicings, we can create a Cmaj9 chord voicing by playing the upper four tones, which are E, G, B, and D. Looking at our illustration below, we can see (and hear) how nicely this progression resolves with smooth voice leading using this voicing:
Jazz-Piano-Chords
Within this II-V-I chord progression, we have three of the most commonly played jazz piano chords or voicings played among the pros. If you make it a point to eventually learn these voicings in all the keys, imagine the confidence you will have gained with three of the most important chord qualities in music!

It would be a good time to browse through some of those favorite standard songs of yours and see how often you see both the II-V and II-V-I chord progressions occur. The very doing of this will increase your awareness of songs are put together since, again, it is the most often used progression that exists, especially in jazz standards.

You are on your way to really enhancing your understanding of music. In addition, as you actually commit to playing these examples in different keys, your cocktail piano playing confidence will soar like it never did before!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

 

 

Jazz Piano Chords: II-V Progression

Jazz-Piano-ChordsAs our fun with jazz piano chords continues, here we will make reference to a previous lesson that focused on turning a minor 7th chord into a minor 9th chord. Specifically, we will use the same Dmin9 chord voicing for our purpose. You will see that lesson here.

From that position, we can easily progress to a V chord, using a very tasteful voicing… and it’s “easy as pie” to achieve this!

Simply play that Dmin9 voicing and then take that 7 of the chord (in this case, the C) and lower it one half step. The resulting voicing combination looks like this:

Jazz-Piano-ChordsThese are two of the most popularly played jazz piano chords of all time. Again, it’s that one little “switch” that turns the Dmin9 into a G13 chord.

Let’s just back up a little and look at a basic G7 chord here:

G  B  D  F

If we relate this chord to its corresponding Mixolydian scale, we see that it consists of the 1, 3, 5, and 7 of this scale:

G  A  B  C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C  D  E
1   2  3   4  5   6  7  8   9……………. 13

Extending the scale beyond an octave shows that the 13 is the same as the 6. When we play dominant 7th chords, we refer to that 6 as the 13. Hence, our symbol for this chord is G13.

What we are playing is a II-V chord progression. This works great as a left hand chord voicing combination when playing with a bass player since he or she will be playing the root of the chord. However, if you are playing cocktail piano, you are performing as a soloist. Often, you will want to compliment these chord voicings by either preceding them or following them with their corresponding roots ( in other words, Root > Voicing > Root > Voicing or Voicing > Root > Voicing Root)

Is it necessary to always accompany these voicings with their corresponding roots? Not really. Actually, often is the case when a jazz pianist, even when playing solo, will simply play the voicings with the left hand while playing the melody or improvising with the right hand. It’s interesting because this actually sounds good when you do so. You see, it’s the nature of that 3 and 7 of each chord that really defines each of them. Adding the roots certainly adds significant “bottom” or substance to these chords.

By all means, explore these two popular jazz piano voicings in other keys. You’re on your way toward chord mastery!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

 

 

 

Jazz Piano Chords: A Popular Ending

Jazz-Piano-ChordsLet’s take a look at a couple of jazz piano chords that, when played one after the other, make for one of the most popular endings of all time. We will relate this to the key of C Major for our illustration. Of course, as always, you are highly encouraged to transpose what you learn to other keys.

The two chords that will be playing are basically Db7 and Cmaj6. In their most basic forms, they are spelled out like this:

Db7 = Db  F  Ab  Cb

Cmaj6 = C  E  G  A

We will be voicing these two chords in a fashion that sounds full as well as tasty. First, we will be adding some color to each of these chords…

To the Db7, we will add the 9, which is Eb. To the Cmaj6, will add the 9 as well, which is D. Spelled out in order, we have:

Db  F  Ab  Cb  Eb  for Db7, which is now Db9.

C  E  G  A  D  for Cmaj6, which is now Cmaj6/9.

Played in that order, we can hear that these chords sound more “juicy” than the original ones above. However, when we voice the chords as we are doing below, we have something quite appealing.

We are going to voice them as follows:

1 – 5 – 3 – 7 – 9  for Db9

1 – 5 – 3 – 6 – 9 for Cmaj6/9 (sometimes called C6/9)

Once you are comfortable playing each of these chord voicings, play the Db9 and follow it with the C6/9 and you just might recognize that popular song ending we were mentioning. This works especially well when we are playing in a swing style.

Let’s take a look at what these jazz piano chords look like on the staff:

Jazz-Piano-ChordsMost of the time, the Db9 is played on the 2nd beat following a rest and leads into the C6/9 a half beat later as illustrated above.

This chord progression could be analyzed as bII9 – I6/9 for the purpose of transposing to other keys.

These chord voicings sound quite rich and really lend themselves to creating an ending that ends with authority. The perfect 5th intervals at the bottom of the voicings together with the perfect 4th intervals at the top of the voicing really contribute to the flair that this mini chord progression creates.

Again, transposing this chord progression to other keys will increase your confidence because, whenever you are playing a swing tune and want to achieve this effect, you’ll have it available on command. Have lots of fun with this one!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

Jazz Piano Chords: Minor 9th Chord Voicing

Jazz-Piano-ChordsAny discussion of jazz piano chords much acknowledge this popular chord voicing among the pros. It’s a stock voicing that you’ve got to know. It’s another one of what we call rootless voicings. Many times when a min7 chord is called for, this is one that is used…

Let’s play a Dmin7 chord in its basic root position, which is spelled out like this:

D  F  A  C

Now, if we related this chord to a corresponding scale, we see that the 1, 3, 5, and 7 comprise this chord:

D  E  F  G  A  B  C  D  E  etc.
1  2  3   4  5   6   7  8  9  …

We have stretched a little beyond an octave to illustrate that, if we continue building in thirds beyond that 7 of the chord, the 9 is next in line. Well, lets add that to our original Dmin7 chord:

D  F  A  C  E

This results in a Dmin9 chord. To a jazz or cocktail pianist this is one of those jazz piano chords that is often played when the 7th chord is asked for. So, the music doesn’t have to call for a 9th in order to play it. It is often automatically considered for extra color.

Well, if we take away that root of the chord, what we have left is:

F  A  C  E

So, we have the 3-5-7-9 chord voicing. Again, this is a rootless voicing. So, does that mean the root never gets played? Well, not exactly. If you are playing with a bass player, he or she will be playing that root. If you are playing solo piano, you can certainly play that root in the bass area before or after playing the voicing for added fullness. Perhaps the root in the bass area can be played on beat one and the voicing above can be played on beat 2 (or vice versa). Maybe each is played for 2 beats, which works nicely for ballads.

In addition, if you are playing as an accompanist for a singer or other instrumentalist, you might play that root in the bass area with the left hand while playing the voicing with the right.

This min9 voicing is one that you will want to learn in all the keys so that you can play it anytime on command. It’s a good idea to practice voicings around the circle of fifths. You can also play them chromatically up and down, raising each chord tone up or down a half step as you change keys, which makes it easier to find them.

As you play toward mastery over this popular voicing, remember…

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.com
www.ProProach.com