Fun With Quartal Voicings

Cocktail Piano Lessons: Quartal VoicingsAs a creative cocktail piano, the use of quartal voicings in your playing is a technique you’ll want to have available “on command” at any given time. When used intermittently, they really add flavor to those standards. Even to listeners who may not be aware of how one piano chord concept differs from another theoretically, hearing the use of them as they are”sprinkled” throughout a performance seems to imply some special know-how on behalf of the cocktail player.

If you have not used quartal voicings up to this point, may I entice you to become familiar with them? As you become more and more in tune with their use, chances are your appreciation for them is likely to become enhanced.

Often when the very concept of quartal voicings is presented, the playing of the legendary jazz pianist McCoy Tyner comes to mind, as his prominent use of them paved the way for so many players to become more and more curious about incorporating them into their playing.

Occasionally decorating a rendition of a standard with these chord structures will add a sense of contemporary flair to your presentation. It’s my hope that you will allow your interest in using them to become nurtured over time.

Sometimes, the very use of this kind of voicing at the beginning of a standard tune has a way of grabbing the listener’s ear in a fashion that causes that individual to look over to you with curiosity as if to say, “Already this is interesting!”

Quartal Voicings: An Excerpt From ProProach

In the short clip below, which is an excerpt from ProProach, a very popular use of this voicing is explained and demonstrated within the context of the standard song I Left My Heart In San Francisco (music by George Cory and lyrics by Douglass Cross). We apply the use of perfect 4th intervals to harmonize the Bbmaj7 chord in the first measure following the pickup notes. Prior to this, we illustrate the voicing over a Gmaj7:

I would like to encourage you to transpose this quartal voicing to several keys so that you really increase the confidence factor when it comes to having it available at your fingertips whenever you like! Start going through some of those standard tunes when a major 7th chord is being used when the melody note is the 5th of the chord. For example, the first measure (after the pickup notes) of the very well known Rogers & Hart standard I Could Write A Book is a place where this works well. There are so many more. Look for them and use what you know. The very act of doing an exercise like this regularly will make you a more spontaneously creative player.