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

12 Bar Blues Piano: Easy Left Hand Technique

12-Bar-Blues-PianoWe have already touched upon playing 12 bar blues piano as we focused on scale options for improvising. Here, we will acknowledge an easy way to accompany your right hand lines.

We are already familiar with the three essential chords in the basic blues which are the I7, IV7, and V7 chords. In the key of C, these are:

C7

F7

G7

Let’s look at these chords spelled out:

C7 = C  E  G  Bb

F7 = F  A  C  Eb

G7 = G  B  D  F

Playing these chords in this fashion is certainly okay. However, we can actually play them in a way that is more conducive to a “bluesy”
kind of sound. Let’s see how this works as we have fun playing 12 bar blues piano in a manner that’s relatively simple and yet sounds good…

Let’s take a look at each of these chords above and, as we do, focus on the 3 and 7 of each of these chords…

For C7, the 3 and 7 are:

E and Bb

For F7, the 3 and 7 are:

A and Eb

For G7, the 3 and 7 are:

B and F

Now, let’s take a closer look at these combinations as they are played below middle C on the piano. Play the E and Bb (for C7) just below middle C (the E is below the Bb). Next, although the 3 and 7 of F7 are A and Eb, respectively, let’s invert those so that the Eb (the 7) is played lower than the A (the 3). Doing this keeps the 3 and 7 of C7 and the 7 and 3 of F7 one half step away from each other. This is smooth voice leading. Next, play the 7 and 3 of G7, respectively, so that they are only one whole step from the 7 and 3 of F7. This all looks like this on the staff:

12-Bar-Blues-Piano

So, you see, all three positions of these combinations are very close to each other. Again, it’s smooth voice leading and it sounds good!

Begin by practicing at a slow tempo through the 12 bar blues form as you move from one chord to another, playing only the 3 and 7 of each chord. Not only does this sound good but it’s also a great way to practice because your focus can be placed more on that right hand as you have fun creating some improvisations. The left hand is playing with minimal effort yet what it is playing is quite effective.

So, by playing less, we actually  attain more of the kind of sound we want with that left hand. The chord voicings are thin and tasteful. Once you gain confidence with playing these combinations for the I, IV, and V in the key or C, have fun exploring them in other keys as you make playing the blues a part of your daily routine!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

Jazz Piano Chords: Tritone Substitution

Jazz-Piano-ChordsAs our exploration of jazz piano chords continues, it’s a good time to acknowledge that tritone substitution principle that is so often used by the pros. There are variations on this concept but the most popular one is what we will be looking at here.

Specifically, we are looking at tritone substitution as it applies to dominant 7th chords. Your perspective of jazz piano chords will expand as you become more and more familiar with this strategy. Let’s see how this works. We’ll start by looking at a G7 chord in its basic root position here:

B  D  F
3   5  7

You’ll notice that we have highlighted the 3 and 7 of the chord in red. You’ll see why in a moment.

Let’s give attention to the root of this chord, the G. What is the note that exists a tritone away from G? (A tritone is an interval of three whole steps)

Whether you count three whole steps to the left or to the right, you arrive at Db, since a tritone divides an octave exactly in half. Now, let’s create another dominant 7th chord with Db as the root. This results, of course, in a Db7 chord:

Db  F  Ab  Cb
1       5     7

Pay special attention to that highlighted 3 and 7 of this chord. What do you notice?

Look again at the G7 and then at this Db7. You’ll notice that the 3 and 7 of each chord are the same! That’s right. The 3 of the G7 chord is the 7 of the Db. Likewise, the 7 of the G7 is the 3 of the Db.

The 3 and 7 are the most important notes in a 7th chord. These are the notes that one could say define the chord. Since this is so, a very interesting possibility makes itself evident. Because the 3 and 7 of each of these chords coincides and these are the essential chord tones (more important than the 5), we can use one of these chords as a substitute for the other!

So, yes, if your tune calls for a G7 chord, you can consider playing a Db7 in its place… and vice versa. Essentially, the only thing that is changing is the root. This can quite a very tasteful option, depending on what the melody note is and the context of the chord itself. Also, your personal taste comes into play here as to which you prefer.

There is much more than can be said of this concept of tritone substitution but, for now, you are highly encouraged to become curious and explore your tunes by looking for those dominant 7th chords and considering substituting the dominant 7th chord whose root is a tritone away, as we have done above.

Your eyes and ears are about to open! Take your time with this and notice places where you prefer the substitute chord and where you prefer the original one. It’s your exercise of this privilege of choice that contributes to your own personal playing style!

Remember…

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

 

Jazz Piano Chords: 13th Voicing

Jazz-Piano-ChordsHere we will illustrate one of the most popular jazz piano chords of all time from the perspective of the pros. Yes, it’s another one of those “stock” voicings that you just have to be familiar with. Also, you’ll want to learn this one in all the keys. Not only will you want to but you’ll find it to be one of the easiest jazz piano voicings to execute as well

Specifically, we will be playing a voicing for the dominant 7th chord. Let’s use the G dominant 7th chord for our example. The symbol you’ll see in sheet music and fake books for this chord is G7. Here is the spelling of the G7 chord in its most basic root position chord:

G  B  D  F

Relating this to a corresponding scale (the mixolydian scale), we see that the chord consists of the 1, 3, 5, and 7:

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

We are illustrating the scale in two octaves so that it becomes evident that, when we continue building in 3rd intervals above the 7th, we eventually come to that E, which would be designated as the 13th degree. You’ll also notice that the 13 and 6 are the same pitch name. When we are referring to dominant chords and use the 6th, we opt to call it the 13th.

So, let’s take a look at this voicing. Again, when it comes to jazz piano chords, you’ll want to use this one over and over again…

Jazz-Piano-ChordsFrom bottom to top, we have F, B, E. In terms of scale degrees, these are the 7, 3, 13. Play this voicing and listen! Then play the G7 in its basic form above. Go back and forth and compare the sounds of the two. You’re likely to notice that the G13 voicing is quite contemporary in nature. This is due to the fact that it includes a tritone (F to B), a perfect fourth interval (B to E), and a Major 7th interval (F to E). So, there’s quite a bit of dissonance within this chord voicing! (Note that we do not use the 5 in this voicing)

Again this is a popular one among the pros. When a G7 is called for in a tune, a jazz pianist will often consider this G13 voicing as an option as long as the melody warrants. If the melody was an Eb, for example, that would generally be considered to be too clashing with that E. So, instead of playing the E in the voicing, you could, of course, change it to an Eb, giving you a G7b13 voicing!

You are highly encouraged to look for dominant 7th chords in your music and consider trying this voicing. Transpose it in the other keys so that you will have it readily available whenever you want it.

Remember, this is a rootless voicing. The G is not in the voicing above. When playing with a bass player, this works out great for a couple of reasons: 1) The bass player will play the root of the chord, which makes for a nice “sharing” of the chord with the piano player, where each is taking a different role; 2) the bass player and the piano player are not coinciding on the same note, which eliminates the possibility of obvious intonation problems.

Of course, if you are playing as a soloist, you can play that G in the bass before or after playing the chord to give it more substance! Experiment with this.

Okay, have at it! Play this voicing using the 7-3-13 formula on all those roots to satisfy all the keys. As you gain more and more mastery with this voicing, remember…

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

 

Cocktail Piano Chords: A Richer Sound

As our investigation of cocktail piano chords continues, let’s take a look at a jazz piano chord voicing that you may already be familiar with, the 1-5-3-7 voicing. We can see what this chord voicing looks like here on the piano keyboard

Notice how this chord voicing accommodates that first melody note of Erroll Garner’s Misty in the key of C. Played just as you see it there, it is obvious that this voicing works well just as it is. That spacing within the voicing is certainly conducive to a nice open sound. Also, as in that example, you’ll notice upon playing it that, while played in the lower register of the piano keyboard, this voicing really has some substance.

We can made this voicing sound even a bit more substantial if we simply add a couple of scale tones to it. Specifically, we are referring to the 5 and the 6 of the C major scale. Now, again, it is not necessary to add these scale tones but, by doing so, we gain a little added richness. When it comes to cocktail piano chords, we are always open to more richness in some places and less in others.

Here is the voicing that results when we add that 6 and 7 from the C Major scale:

Cocktail-Piano-Chords

Technically, what we are playing here is a Cmaj7 (add6) chord and it sounds quite rich. By adding that 6 and 7 to the voicing, we are forming what is known as a cluster at the top of the voicing. It’s interesting to note that all those notes being played with the right hand (the E, G, A, and B) comprise 2nd intervals and 3rd intervals. This contrasts quite a bit with the interval of a fifth between the C and G.

An appreciation of this contrast of intervals is certainly conducive to your coming up with some pretty interesting chord voicings of your own, especially if you are to implement the techniques and strategies you’ll be exposed to when getting involved with Pro Piano Chord Bytes. You see, it’s one thing to learn how to play some really tasteful voicings just by copying what you learn from other resources but it’s quite another when you can be the creator.

You are highly encouraged to transpose this chord voicing to other keys, as it is voicing that you will certainly want to keep handy in that “piano playing toolbox” of yours.

Again, we are playing the Root, 5th, 3rd, 5th, 6th, and 7th of the major scale, respectively. Yes, we are doubling that Root. Although it’s certainly not necessary to do so, adding it simply makes that voicing sound a whole lot more full. As a cocktail piano player, we are always looking for ways to create more textures!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cocktail Piano Chords: 9th Voicing

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsDuring one of lessons that focused on cocktail piano chords, we introduced the 1-7-3-5 chord voicing. We arrived at this voicing by simply starting out with a 7th chord in its basic root position like this:

Cmaj7 = C  E  G  B

and then taking the two middle chord tones (the 3 and 5) and moving them an octave higher, resulting in this voicing:

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsThis is one of those cocktail piano chords that sounds great when climbing up the diatonic scale, as it sounds great over all the chord qualities, including but not limited to minor 7ths, dominant 7ths, diminished 7ths, and half-diminished chords.

Now, let’s take this jazz piano chord voicing a step further by adding the 9 at the top. Here is what this looks like when we apply it to the same chord (the Cmaj7):Cocktail-Piano-ChordsAs the chord symbol states, we are now playing a 9th chord, specifically Cmaj9.

If you are playing a song that calls for a Cmaj7 chord and the melody happens to be the 9, how appropriate! However, take notice of the space between the 5 and 9 of this chord voicing. There are three notes being skipped (the 6, 7, and 1). When using this chord voicing, you have a nice compliment to any melody note that happens to be one of these tones as well.

Consider this: we have only applied this 1-7-3-5-9 chord voicing to a Major 7th chord. In addition to playing this voicing for the eleven other Major 7th chords, you will find great pleasure and satisfaction in applying this voicing formula to other chord qualities.

This chord voicing works great when you are accompanying a singer or instrumentalist, too, so you’ll want to keep this one at the top of that “piano playing toolbox” of yours for sure.

It’s interesting, too, that simply playing this voicing over a few chords really projects nicely when you are wanting to compliment a quiet ambience. Consider “rolling” them as well (playing the voicing one note at a time from bottom to top and/or top to bottom).

We acknowledge this chord voicing in ProProach as a beginning to a journey that’s full of musical goodies. We explore lots of interesting chord structures in that popular chord voicing program that is being enjoyed worldwide. A great feature of that program is that, once you get a handle on a particular chord voicing, you are shown how to actually apply it in your favorite tunes, which is really conducive to confidence!

Remember…

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

 

 

Cocktail Piano Chords: Diatonic 7ths

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsYour exploration of cocktail piano chords must include the eventual understanding and implementation of diatonic 7th chords. In essence, within a given key, the diatonic system represents the “skeleton” of that key that you are playing in.

What do we mean by “diatonic?” Let’s take a look at the scale of C Major:

C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C

Now, if we build chord structures using 3rd intervals (in other words, playing every other note from left to right) beginning on any given degree of this scale, this will result in playing a 7th chord. For example, starting on C, we would have:

C  E  G  B  (Cmaj7)

Keep in mind that we are adhering to the members of the scale (we are not playing any sharps or flats since the scale of C Major contains none).

As we do the same using D as the root of the chord, we arrive at:

D  F  A  C  (Dmin7)

Again, notice that we have built our chord using 3rd intervals while adhering to the members of the C Major scale.

When we adhere to the members of a given scale as we are doing here, we are playing diatonic chords. These are cocktail piano chords that you will want to have mastery over!

Here are all seven diatonic 7th chords in the key of C Major:

C  E  G  B  (Cmaj7)

D  F  A  C  (Dmin7)

E  G  B  D  (Emin7)

F  A  C  E  (Fmaj7)

G  B  D  F  (G7)

A  C  E  G  (Amin7)

B  D  F  A  (Bmin7b5)

So, you see, we have constructed every possible chord in this fashion within the key of C Major. As you play your favorite standard songs, you will want to take note of the key you are in and pay attention to which of the chords are diatonic.

In order to become more proficient at recognizing these chords within a song, you will want to gain familiarity with each of the scales and the chords that are constructed using the members of these scales.

Take note of the following:

The I chord is a maj7 chord

The II chord is a min7 chord

The III chord is a min7 chord

The IV chord is a maj7 chord

The V chord is a dominant 7 chord

The VI chord is a min7 chord

The VII chord is a min7b5 chord

Since the musical system is mathematically perfect, the same will be true for all the major keys. Although the roots and chords will vary, the qualities of these chords will always remain the same (The I chord will always be a maj7 chord, the II chord will always be a min7 chords, the III chord will always be a min7 chord, etc)

You will want to become familiar with the diatonic 7th chords in all the keys. Not only will this enhance your understanding as to how music is put together, but you will also be able to more efficiently improvise your own musical ideas as you become more and more comfortable with the diatonic system. As a cocktail piano player, this will be conducive to your coming up with some pretty interesting improvisations of your own!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

Cocktail Piano Chords: Parallel Chord Voicings

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsThe cocktail piano chords being presented here, when used sparingly and in the right places, really serve as a tasteful addition to your “piano playing toolbox” if you haven’t been using them already.

Specifically, we are referring to the concept of parallelism. Let’s take a look at the beginning of a well known melody for our purpose. Bart Howard’s Fly Me To The Moon is a great example to illustrate this cocktail piano technique. In the key of C, the first measure of this melody (into the second measure) proceeds down five notes of the C Major scale. When a melody moves in a stepwise fashion like this, it’s a terrific opportunity to utilize this strategy, though it is not limited to such scenarios.

We are maintaining the melody notes as the top notes of the chord voicings we are playing. For now, look at the first melody note C. You’ll notice that the note being played below that C is an Ab, which is a Major 3rd below that melody note. Building downwards, we have and Eb, which is a perfect 4th below that… then a Bb, which is another perfect 4th below that… and we do that one more time with an F, which is a perfect 4th below that.

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsOkay, as we proceed with the melody, notice that we utilize the same exact construction below each melody note. So, again, from top to bottom, it’s:

Major 3rd

Perfect 4th

Perfect 4th

Perfect 4th

Listen to the result here!

One common way to play these voicings is to use the right hand for the top three voices and the left hand for the bottom two.

We are leaving the harmony normally used for this segment of the song. Normally, an Amin7 is played. However, using concept of parallelism is a nice way to put a “twist” on a tune. When used briefly and then followed by proceeding with the standard chord progression, the contrast achieved is nothing less than amazing!

Parallelism can be used with many different chord structures than what we see here. The fourths really are especially effective when played in this manner.

You are highly encourage to choose segments of your favorite songs and incorporate parallelism into your playing. When preceded and followed by your usual way of playing through the tune, this technique really creates a nice element of “surprise” in your music.

The more you apply parallelism, the more you are likely to fall in love with it. As you explore your potential with this one, remember…

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

12 Bar Blues Piano: The Mixolydian Scale

12-Bar-Blues-PianoAs a follow-up to our recent introduction to 12 bar blues piano, let’s take a look at another scale that you will want to be familiar with. We already mentioned one, which is the blues scale. The other scale that you will want to have a handle on when it comes to improvising over those dominant 7th chords is the Mixolydian scale.

Now, we acknowledged that when playing 12 bar blues piano that the key that you are in determines what blues scale you play. In other words, if you are playing the blues in the key of C, then the C blues scale will work well throughout the entire form. This means that the C blues scale will sound good over the C7, F7, and G7. That’s right. You don’t have to play the F blues scale for the F7 or the G blues scale for the G7. This is one of the interesting things about the blues scale. You see, each tone of the C blues scale has a different relationship with each of the other chords. For example, when you play the C, that tone is the 1 of the C7. However, when you play it over the the F7, it becomes the 5. Over the G7, it is the 4. Some of these relationships sound more consonant than others. Some sound dissonant. Since music really involves “tension and release,” this blues scale really serves us well! Explore the other tones of the C blues scale and see how they relate to each of these three chords. Of course, play and listen!

As mentioned above, another scale you will want to become confident playing is the Mixolydian scale. You’ll want to know this scale for each of the 7th chords you are playing, including the:

C Mixolydian scale C7

F Mixolydian scale for F7

G7 Mixolydian scale for G7

To arrive at any of these, simply play the major scale that corresponds to each root and then lower the 7th of the scale one half step. That gives you the Mixolydian scale for each of the 7th chords:

C7 = C  D  E  F  G  A  Bb  C

F7 = F  G  A  Bb  C  D  Eb  F

G7 = G  A  B  C  D  E  F  G

Using this scale in conjunction with that blues scale really adds lots of interest to your soloing. You are highly encouraged to explore your potential creating ideas using all four of these scales, and as you do so, remember…

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

 

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