Learn It & Use It!
When it comes to learning piano chord voicings, there is certainly no shortage of books on the subject. Sure, I understand the value of having a bunch of new ideas at your fingertips. To the enthusiast, it’s much like a little kid opening a chest full of toys. It’s exciting!
Upon opening that toy chest, a child might reach in and take them out, one at a time, until they’re spread all over the floor. Once accomplished, he or she still has the task at hand of choosing one to play with while gazing at the display of indecision on the floor that was was just created. However, another child might just take one out, use it, play with it, really get to know its possibilities, and stick with it a while (more rare, I believe).
I’m encouraging you to be a little more like that second child above as you explore your chord voicings. When introduced to a new one, get it under your fingertips, play it, really get to know some of its possibilities, and continue doing this for a while. The result is that you will, in fact, really make that voicing your own.
Take, for example, the voicing presented in Lesson #1 of ProProach. We have a voicing for a major 9th chord with the 9th at the top of the structure. So, for Cmaj9, we have:
Right Hand E G D
Left Hand C B
If this is this first time you’ve been exposed to the voicing, get that voicing under your fingers and play it. Start to feel comfortable with it.
Next, learn this voicing in at least couple of different keys as well… perhaps Fmaj9 and Gmaj9.
Play all the chord tones at once. Then play them separately, one at a time, as if you were playing an arpeggio. Really listen and become acquainted with it.
Once you’ve had some fun doing this, go through some of your favorite tunes and “play detective.” Look for places where you have a major 7th chord symbol where the melody note is the 9th. Remember, also, that it could also be another type of 7th chord such as a minor 7th or dominant 7th (simply adjust the 3rd and/or 7th accordingly). An example of this would be the very first measure of When Sunny Gets Blue (Marvin Fisher & Jack Segal)…
The very first note in the first measure of the chorus is an “A” while the chord is Gmin7. This melody note actually turns this minor 7th chord into a minor 9th automatically. So, we could apply this voicing like this:
This way, you are actually incorporating that voicing in the context of an authentic playing situation. There’s no better way to master a voicing!
Once you’re feeling confident with such an example, then transpose that segment of the tune to another key and apply the voicing in the same fashion. Transposing anything you learn into other keys is an act that is irreplaceable for your musical growth.
Find more opportunities to incorporate your newly learned chord voicing in actual songs. Make this a habit and you’ll amaze yourself at how your confidence with playing piano chord voicings soars!
Play With Passion!