Any 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…
PLAY WITH PASSION!