Tag Archives: cocktail piano chords

ProProach: Exploring Piano Chord Voicings

Jazz Piano Chord Voicings & More

A Message Of Gratitude

Jazz Piano Chord VoicingsI would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the many recent positive comments I have been receiving from participants of this popular piano chord voicings program. I often reflect on the moments of creation of ProProach and, whenever I do, I experience great feelings, as the energy that went into it was a manifestation of a desire to convey to others a simple, step-by-step procedure for others to enjoy many of the “tricks of the trade” in a fashion that was not only easy to understand but easy to implement. I’m so happy to continue to be able to report that people worldwide are enjoying its benefits.

Another thing I would like to express gratitude for is the devotion to those who have subscribed to the concept of learning and digesting one lesson at a time. Yes, I do completely understand the initial inclination to want to have all the lessons at once. But, time and time again, people who take advantage of this chord voicings program and use it in the manner in which it was originally intended are realizing the true value of following along this way. To those who have yet to enroll in ProProach, please know that, upon completion of the 25 lessons, you will indeed have access to all the lessons from one place because it is my desire that you continuously put into practice these lessons again and again. Individuals who take themselves through the 25 lessons more than once always experience benefits well beyond those gained from just one time. This continues to be confirmed by actual members who do so.

To those considering enrolling in the program, I would like to offer the suggestion that you use Lesson #1 and Lesson #2 in conjunction with each other, as they are very much related. Spend at least a week with these lessons and apply them to the various keys (Cmaj9, Fmaj9, Bbmaj9, Dmin9, Gmin9, Amin9, etc). The satisfaction gained by doing so is huge, not to mention the confidence that you’ll begin to enjoy.

In addition, I would encourage you to enjoy these lessons with an attitude of curiosity. Have fun with them as a child might have fun with a set of finger paints. The many “colors” that you are capable of creating are unlimited and, as you continue to experience one lesson after another, you’ll see this for yourself. Furthermore, if you decide to enroll in Pro Piano Chord Bytes (also a 24-week program) at the same time, you’ll experience something rather unique, as the two programs are extremely compatible with each other. ProProach does include a complimentary video with each lesson; for reasons aligned with taking personal creative initiative, Pro Piano Chord Bytes does not. In short, enroll and implement the strategies of both programs with enthusiasm and curiosity, and your results will be nothing short of astounding.

Cocktail Piano Chords: Opening Up Those Triads

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsWhen it comes to playing cocktail piano chords that are the among the easiest to play while being extremely effective, what we’ll be looking at here will rate high on the list. If you know how to play some simple triads (three-note chords), this will come easy to you. In addition, you’ll discover for yourself that, even if you don’t have a specific tune in mind, you can compliment a nice ambience with these cocktail piano chords when played subtlety and legato.

Again, we’re using simple triads here. For our example, we will look at the C Major triad in Root Position, 1st Inversion, and 2nd Inversion  in their closed postions:

Cocktail-Piano-Chords

By simply opening up these triads and playing them in their open positions, we arrive at some very nice textures. When supported with the use of the sustain pedal, sometimes played as we see below and other times played in a arpeggiated fashion, you can easily grab a listener’s ear with very sparse playing…

Cocktail-Piano-Chords

If the concept of “opening” a chord is new to you, we are simply taking the middle chord tone of each position in our first illustration above and playing it one octave higher. Yes, two hands will be used, and this particular example that we just illustrated can be easily fingered with the right hand by simply fingering a Cmaj in 1st inversion (while allowing the left hand to take care of everything else). Doing so places your right hand fingers within easy grasp of E, G and C as they are played subsequently, as shown above.

Once you are comfortable with playing our example above in open positions, consider playing through a chord progression using these open positions. Doing so will accomplish at least two things: 1) Your confidence with playing triads in open positions will rise tremendously; 2) You’ll be playing something that sounds quite nice when taking those open positions through, say, a I – vii – ii – V chord progression like Cmaj – Amin – Dmin – Gmaj.

Please consider putting the above suggestion to use in addition to understanding it intellectually. Actually take yourself through the three positions over each chord in that chord progressions. You’ll automatically have, at your fingertips, twelve interesting chord textures you can feel good about adding to that “piano playing toolbox” of yours.

Next, take yourself through an entire favorite song of yours and simply play the chords in their open position inversions as if you were accompanying yourself while singing the melody. Experiment with different inversions as you play through the chord changes of the song again and again. Watch your confidence with playing cocktail piano chords grow!

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

Cocktail Piano Chords: Open Position Triads

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsWhen it comes to cocktail piano chords that you’ll use often, this one must be mentioned. It is one of the easiest to understand. That said, if your left hand is not used to playing 10th intervals, it may take a little getting used to. However, any effort put into this is well worth it.

We will use a simple triad (three-note chord) for this. Specifically, the chord here is C Major. In the first measure below, you will see this chord in its basic root position:

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsIn the second measure above, you will see that we are playing the C and G of this chord one octave lower. The E is played where it was originally on the piano keyboard (it’s just written in bass clef to be consistent with the lower two chord tones and to put everything in the context of the left hand). So, you see, we have taken the middle note (in this case, the E) and moved it an octave higher. This is often referred to as “opening up the chord.” The distance now between the C and E is  now a 10th interval instead of a 3rd interval.

Okay, now we will play these chord tones one at a time, as in the third measure. We are starting on the low C, proceeding to G (playing these as eighth notes), and then finally arriving at the E just above middle C, which can be held for the duration of the measure. Typically, the left hand fingers used are the pinky, index finger, and thumb, respectively. Now, if you have small hands, do not be concerned because you do not need to leave your pinky on the lowest note (the root) as you proceed to the other chord tones. The pedal will do the work of sustaining these, resulting in a very nice effect.

This is a left hand pattern that you will want to not only familiarize yourself with but it’s one of those cocktail piano chords (played a note at a time) that you will use again and again, so put some time into this one. Of course, you will want to become comfortable with playing this with the other triads as well.

I would like you to see this left hand accompaniment technique demonstrated. If you will simply visit here, you will see a video excerpt from the first in my Cocktail Piano 1-2-3 series. Right at the very beginning of that video, you will notice this left hand accompaniment being played using the C Major chord just as we have mentioned here. You will notice that it is being played in conjunction with a “root-chord” accompaniment, which results in some nice variety!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

 

Cocktail Piano Chords: The Drop 3 Voicing

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsThe drop 3 voicing is one of those piano chords that can be endlessly explored… and well worth the time and effort, too! Adding this concept to your cocktail piano playing will most surely add more interest to those standard songs.

The drop 3 voicing can be applied to any four-note chord structure. It is most tasteful in solo playing so, as a cocktail pianist, this is one you will capitalize on. Let’s see how this voicing can easily be approached. For our example below, we will use a basic Fmaj7 chord in root position to start with:Cocktail-Piano-ChordsOkay, now take a look at the 3rd note from the top. In this case, we are referring to the A in this chord. To create the drop 3 chord voicing, we will simply take this A out of this original position and move it down one octave, the result being this:

Cocktail-Piano-Chords

Be sure to play the original Fmaj7 formation above and then follow it with this drop 3 voicing and listen closely. What an amazing difference can be made by making a slight variation like this! I think you will agree that your repertoire of cocktail piano chords must include the use of this very popular voicing among the pros.

Naturally, this chord voicing is not limited to solo playing, as it is quite effect when comping for another soloist as well. As a cocktail pianist playing solo, however, you will really have a fun time applying this drop 3 in so many of your ballads.

How about choosing a favorite standard song right now and putting this voicing to use? Let’s consider the very beginning of Arlen and Harburg’s Over The Rainbow in Eb, in which the first chord might be played as an Eb6. The first melody note is an Eb. Therefore, the right hand might play both the melody and the chord using the 1st inversion of this chord (playing this inversion keeps the melody at the top):

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsOkay, let’s turn this into a drop 3. Again, we will take that 3rd note from the top (in this case, the Bb) and move it one octave below:

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsAgain, compare the original structure with this drop 3 voicing. Learn to really appreciate the differences in sound achieved by even little variations like this. You’ve got a whole world of sound to explore!

Okay, we just applied this to one melody note. You are highly encouraged to go through an entire tune and use the drop 3 often, even more than you are likely to normally use it in performance. By doing this, you’ll eventually learn to play it on command. Have tons of fun with the drop 3  voicing!

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: 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

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