Tag Archives: 7th chords

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

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

Play Cocktail Piano From Scratch

Play-Cocktail-PianoTime and time again, I have received emails from members of Piano Amore (www.PianoAmore.net) asking how someone at a beginner level can learn how to play cocktail piano from scratch, while having very little or no experience at all. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate those emails because when I read them, the enthusiasm of the person writing is always quite evident. So, if you’re one of those people who inquired, let me thank you because it’s people like you who inspire me to create ways of helping cocktail piano enthusiasts in any way I can.

Okay, so when I receive an email like that, it immediately causes me to reflect on a video session that I created (as a result of similar emails, of course!) that acknowledges what I feel to be of utmost importance to the person who aspires to play cocktail piano and doesn’t have a lot of tools to begin with. The name of that session is entitled How To Play Standard Songs With Confidence #1 and I would like to encourage you to take advantage of that one because, in that session, I demonstrate what I feel should be your primary focus.

One of the points we acknowledge in that video session is the importance of learning the melody of the song you are playing. I don’t just mean play through it once. Rather, I mean learn it so well that there’s no question about how to play it confidently from your perspective. You see, once you know that melody so well (yes, like the back of your hand), less attention is needed on it and this gives you the freedom you need to focus on beautifying that melody with a harmonic approach. In simple terms, when you right hand is “feeling confident,” your left hand can get the attention it deserves and you can learn to accompany that melody with some simple yet very effective techniques… yes, even to the point where the person in the next room over notices : )

Also, I would like to mention that my series entitled 1-2-3 Cocktail Piano makes a wonderful compliment to your experience with that session mentioned above. Actually, if you really want to begin having some fun with the basics of cocktail piano and are willing to take things a step at a time while having something “on the shelf” for your future investigation, you can take advantage  of both How To Play Standard Songs With Confidence #1 and 1-2-3 Cocktail Piano #1 and, in addition, you’ll get two very popular editions of my Sneak Peeks series in my Cocktail Piano Starter Pack (you’ll also get my online program that focuses on an easy approach to playing those 7th chords). By the way, all of these sessions are available via instant download online so you can begin right away.

As you consider getting started with those cocktail piano learning tools, pick a favorite song of yours today and take a close look at that melody and being playing it. Rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 as to how confident you are feeling with it. You want it to be a 10! So, really get involved in learning and enjoying that melody. The first video session above will inspire you to do this. Okay, as your journey along this exciting avenue begins, remember…

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

Cocktail Piano Chords: Inversions

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsAn exploration of cocktail piano chords really ought to include an eventual thorough understanding of chord inversions. Mastery of your inversions is most certainly conducive to increased confidence when it comes to adding some style to those favorite songs of yours.

Whether your focus on chords up to this point has been on only triads or you also have a handle on some of those 7th chords, the basic concept is the same. In addition, even when playing just triads, a familiarity with the inversions can really make those songs have more flair. This adds a whole new dimension to your collection of cocktail piano chords since you are making more out of even those simple ones that you already know.

You are highly encouraged to learn the chords you are already feeling confident with in their different inversions, using both hands. For now, let’s concentrate on the value of learning them with your right hand.

We will use the C Major triad as we use a few illustrations from the popular Right Hand Chord Piano Made Easy program which, by the way, is a great method to ease your way into this right hand chord piano approach (sometimes referred to as chord melody)…

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsCocktail-Piano-ChordsCocktail-Piano-Chords

Notice that each position of the C Major chord has a different note on the top (furthest to the right). If we agree that each of these notes can be melody notes in a given song, then we can easily see how playing these chord positions with the right hand takes care of two roles: 1) The melody  2) The chords

Playing both the melody and chords with the right hand frees up your left hand to have its own role, such as playing the roots in the bass area to add more substance to your playing. This really adds more dimension to your piano playing for sure!

For starters, look for melody notes in a favorite tune of yours and see where the corresponding chords contain those melody notes. For example, if your melody is A and the chord is F Major, ask yourself “what inversion of the F Major chord keeps the A on top? That is the inversion to play.

This is just the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to this right hand chord piano concept and there is more to say. You are encouraged to consider taking advantage of the program mentioned above. It uses only basic triads so all beginners can benefit from it but, once you understand and get used to implementing the technique, then you’ll feel more confident when it comes to applying it to 7th chords as well. Whatever level your are at, this is a technique you want to have fun exploring!

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

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