Category Archives: Jazz Piano Chords

Jazz Piano Chords: The Very Minimum

Jazz-Piano-ChordsIf you are just beginning to learn jazz piano chords and have a decent familiarization with 7th chords, it will likely serve you well to begin harmonizing some of those tunes you are familiar with in a fashion that is both easy and conducive to getting a decent sound out of those keys.

Here is one such way to begin your venture with jazz piano chords:

1) Identify the 3 and 7 of each of these chords

2) Harmonize the melody with just that 3 and 7 with your right hand while playing the root of the chord with your left hand

Let’s say, for example that you are harmonizing Richard Rogers’
My Romance (lyrics were written by Lorenz Hart) in the key of C. After the pickup notes, the melody note is a G and the chord in that first measure is a Cmaj7. Here is the basic construction of the chord:

C  E  G  B
1   3  5  7

The C is the root, so you can play this note in the bass area with your left hand.

Notice that the melody note is the G, which is the 5th of the chord. Below this melody note, play the 3 and 7 with your right hand as well. So, you are playing (in this order) B, E, and G,  the 7, 3, 5 respectively (we are not concerned with including that 5th unless we are playing a form of a diminished chord). By doing this, you are playing the minimum chord tones necessary to complete the functionality of the chord. However, what you are also achieving here is a nice thin sound. This is an excellent cocktail piano approach when playing those ballads, though it is certainly not limited to slow tunes.

Play through an entire tune using this strategy. Remember, the 3 and 7 of the chord are always included. Now, in many cases, that melody note will be either the 3 or the 7. This means that you can simply add the one missing below that melody note while playing that root with the left hand. An example would be the first measure of Jerome Kern’s All The Things You Are (lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II) in the key of Ab. That first melody note in the first measure is an Ab and the chord is Fmin7. Notice that the Ab is the 3rd of the chord. Therefore, simply play the 7th (Eb) below that Ab while playing the root (F) with the left hand. This tune is excellent for this since you’ll see that there are many melody notes that will be harmonized in this manner.

By taking on this strategy, you are not only obtaining a good sound that works, but you are also confirming your understanding of the important notes of these chords. Thus, you are setting up a nice foundation to make more of these chords later, since you can add extensions, like 9ths, 11ths, 13ths, etc.

Do this with several tunes in your repertoire and you’ll begin to see and hear the benefits for yourself! As you become more and more confident with this very important and effective first step toward gaining a more thorough understanding of jazz piano chords, remember…

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

A Jazz Chord Voicing You’ve Just Got To Know

Jazz-Chord-VoicingOne jazz chord voicing you’ve just got to know as a cocktail piano player involves taking a simply 7th chord and making one simply modification to it. Specifically, I am referring to the 1-5-7-3 chord voicing.

Here’s how to play it…

Let’s use an Fmaj7 chord to illustrate. This chord in its most basic form is spelled out like this:

F A C E

Again, this is a 7th chord in root position. In addition, as you take a look at the chord tones, they are as close to each other as they can possibly be. In other words, there are no chord tone in between those chord tones that are already there. Therefore, this chord is said to be in closed position.

Okay, let’s take that 3rd of the chord, which is the A. If we don’t play that A where it is within the structure and, instead, play it one octave higher, the order of our chord tones from left to right looks like this:

F C E A

This is a very commonly used jazz chord voicing and one you’ll definitely want to have a handle on. You’ll want to apply this 1-5-7-3 structure to all the 7th chords that you learn eventually. Doing so will really add dimension to your playing!

Now, go ahead and play those two lower chord tones (the F and C) with your left hand and play the two upper chord tones (the E and A) with your right hand. Listen!

It sounds more “open,” would you agree? Actually, we call this an “open voicing” because we have actually opened up the chord by taking one of the inner chord tones and moving up an octave. You see, we really do have a chord tone that is not being played in between two of the other chord tones at this point (in between the F and C, there is that A which is not being played).

If you were playing a song in which the melody note was A and the chord was Fmaj7, this is a very appropriate jazz chord voicing to play since the A is at the top of the structure (furthest to the right). You are highly encouraged to apply this 1-5-7-3 to other 7th chords that you either already know or will learn in the future. It will work for all of them and, by doing so, you’ll really be adding to that “piano playing toolbox” of yours.

This is a jazz chord voicing you’ll want play again and again. Look for opportunities to use it in your favorite songs. Simply look for melody notes that are the 3rd of the 7th chord that you will be playing and use this voicing to turn what would otherwise be and “okay” sound into one that spells professionalism in the ears of your listeners!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

Jazz Piano Chords

Jazz-Piano-ChordsThe exploration of jazz piano chords is an important part of your journey toward more creative cocktail piano playing. Of course, the benefits go beyond the scope of playing cocktail piano. In short, the more you learn about jazz piano chords, the more interesting your playing becomes from a harmonic standpoint.

It’s one thing to learn how to play cocktail piano in a confident fashion using basic chords like triads and 7th chords (and, as I have emphasized time and time again, much satisfaction can be gained by playing in this fashion). It’s quite another when you begin incorporating some of those tasteful jazz piano chords into those standard tunes of yours.

For the most part, when the topic of jazz piano chords is brought up, the discussion inevitably must lead to the subject of chord voicings. You see, when it comes to playing chords on the piano in their most basic positions, jazz players will often opt out and, instead, pursue more creative ways of getting that harmony across. This is true more often than not. Let’s consider an example:

Let’s say that you are playing Erroll Garner’s Misty in the key of Eb. After the pickup notes, the first melody note in the first measure is a D and the chord is Ebmaj7. That chord in its most basic form looks like this:

Eb G Bb D

Now, this works just fine. However, a creative cocktail pianist or jazz player may opt for something with a little more substance. Also, I would like to mention here that playing a chord that sounds more substantial does not necessarily mean playing more notes. As an example, one tasteful way to approach this chord with this melody note might look like this:

D    (right hand)
G
____

Bb    (left hand)
Eb

Here is an example of a chord voicing that utilized the exact same notes as the basic chord does. However, you’ll notice that they are arranged differently. Go ahead and play that Eb and Bb with the left hand and, above that, play the G and D with the right hand. Here we have what is referred to as an open voicing. You can see that the melody note is actually the top note of this chord voicing. Surely, you can hear a significant difference when playing the basic chord and then playing this voicing for Ebmaj7!

This is just one example of how to enhance your cocktail piano playing by incorporating more spicy ways to play those chords. As you make it part of your routine to learn more and more about jazz piano chords and voicings, you will find that there’s no turning back… you’ll just want to engage yourself deeper and deeper into this art form. Now, that’s a sign of artistry in the making!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com