Tag Archives: chord voicings

Jazz Piano Chords: Less Is More?

Jazz-Piano-ChordsWhen it comes to jazz piano chords, less really can mean more when it comes to sound and texture. You probably already realize that it doesn’t take a lot of notes to create some really interesting harmony. Actually, this is very true. Let’s consider one example of this concept in action below.

Let’s take a look at a Cmaj7 chord (of course, you are encouraged to apply this in all keys for maximum benefit and appreciation!). Here is a Cmaj7 chord in its basic form:

C  E  G  B

Naturally, this chord structure gives us a nice sound in its own right. But when it comes to playing jazz piano chords, players use these basic positions less often. Now, by making a couple of very easy adjustments, we can come up with a voicing that is much more contemporary sounding. So that this is easy to transpose in other keys easily, let’s acknowledge the chord tones in terms of degrees of the major scale:

C = 1

E = 3

G = 5

B = 7

Okay, now here is where the “less is more” comes into play. Rather than using all four of these chord tones for the piano chord voicing that we are going to be playing, we will use only three of them. Specifically, we will include the 1, 3, and 7 in our voicing. However, we will make a simple modification, as follows…

Instead of playing the chord with the C furthest to the left of the voicing (C, E, B), we will begin with the B furthest to the left. Use the B next to middle C. Then play the C and E to the right of it. So, our voicing looks like this:

B  C  E

We are playing a 7-1-3 chord voicing. This will make it easy when playing this structure in other keys.

Play this jazz piano voicing and listen!

You’ll notice a bit of dissonance when playing it. This is especially due to the half step that is created between the 7 and 1 of the voicing. Also, within this chord structure, there is a perfect 4th interval between the 7 and 3. This also lends itself to that more contemporary sound. It’s interesting that the major 3rd interval between the 1 and 3 sets it off a bit since it is a consonant interval. Seeing jazz piano chord voicings in this manner will lead to a better understanding of how different textures are created.

This Major 7th chord voicing is one you’ll want to add to your “piano playing toolbox” for sure. By doing so, you’ll be joining the likes of pianists like Bill Evans who was well noted for playing such contemporary chord voicings!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

 

Piano Chord Progressions: This One’s Easy And Fun

Piano-Chord-ProgressionsAs you have fun with different piano chord progressions, one that is easy and yet conducive to achieving some interesting sounds on those keys is shown here:

I-II-III-II-I

We are looking at the first three diatonic chords of a key. Let’s use the key of C Major for our purposes here. In this case, we will be playing:

Cmaj7 – Dmin7 – Emin7 – Dmin7 – Cmaj7

So, we are climbing up to that III chord and back down to the I chord in a stepwise fashion. Now, this is one of those piano chord progressions that you can have a lot of fun improvising with. Actually, if you’re sitting in the corner of a restaurant or club with the lights dim and want to compliment the ambience with something delicate and tasteful, you can really make this sound like something.

The chords in their basic root positions are:

Cmaj7 = C  E  G  B

Dmin7 = D  F A  C

Emin7 = E  G  B  D

However, let’s apply that 1-7-3-5 piano chord voicing to this progression. So, what we will be playing is as follows:

(The Root and 7 of each of these chords are played with the left hand and the 3 and 5 are played with the right hand. Begin with the C below middle C as the first root and simply climb up in steps)

C  B  – E  G  (Cmaj7)

D  C – F  A   (Dmin7)

E  D – E  G   (Emin7)

Begin by playing up and down as you play all the chord tones of each chord at the same time. Then play the 1 and 7 of each chord together while you play the corresponding 3 and 5 in a melodic fashion, playing each note separately. As you do this and become more and more comfortable with it, you’ll begin to see that you can really get a nice cocktail piano sound climbing up and down this progression.

Play through this progression delicately and, as you do so, create some simple improvised melodies with the 3 and 5 of each chord. You’ll become more creative with this. Also, consider playing everything up one octave. Then come back down to the original octave. Then play the voicings in a “rolled” fashion, playing from the bottom chord tone (Root) to the top (5th), too!

Naturally, this chord voicing structure works well in your tunes. However, just using it as you play through this progression really lends itself to complimenting a quiet setting. In addition, just by playing these three chords, you can explore your potential improvising with just these few notes. Experiment with your dynamics as well, using crescendos and decrescendos.

As you really set the scene with this simple yet great sounding combination of chords, remember…

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

Cocktail Piano Chords: Open Voicings

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsAs you explore your world of cocktail piano chords and voicings, you will undoubtedly find yourself investigating open voicings if you haven’t already. In this message, I would like to suggest a concept that is so very easy to get a handle on yet is very effective at the same time.

Consider applying this to any 7th chords you are already familiar with. Simply play any 7th chord in its most basic position. For now, let’s use G7:

G  B  D  F

Here we have a G dominant 7th chord in root position. With your left hand, you would most likely finger this chord with your pinky, middle finger, index finger, and thumb.

Well, perhaps you have often heard the expression “less is more.” A perfect example of this can be realized by doing the following: simply leave out the middle two chord tones and play only the G and F (the Root and 7 of the chord) aith your pinky and thumb. This is often referred to as a “shell.” If you think about an oyster, you can imagine the two shells with the oyster inside. You can think of that 3 and 5 (B and D) as the “oyster” or middle and the 1 and 7 as the outer shell.

Becoming familiar with playing your 7th chords in this fashion will open you up to many possibilities when it comes to cocktail piano chords. For one, playing just the shell voicing (the root and 7) works well on its own without adding anything else to it. Go ahead and do this. Play through a favorite song of yours using only the 1 and 7 of those 7th chords with your left hand and playing the melody with your right and listen to the very open sound that results. You’ll learn to love these shell voicings before long.

In addition, becoming acquainted with these shells and implementing them will lead to your being able to extend the idea to playing other piano chord voicings. One example would be playing the shell with the left hand and playing that 3 and 5 that you left out an octave higher. That’s a nice chord voicing that I’ve often referred to as the “oyster voicing” (it’s just a name I attached to it). So, if you are playing that G7, one way to approach it would be:

G and F with your left hand

B and D with your right hand

The D would be the highest chord tone. Now, if that happens to be your melody note, this works nicely. If your melody note is higher, then you could play this voicing under it, thus creating a 5-note voicing.

Focus on creating shells for a while and you’ll appreciate more and more the “thin” or “open” sound they create. Then you can expand on them, too. As you have fun with them, 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