A Piano Chord Voicing Every Jazz Pianist Must Know
One of the first times I had heard an open chord voicing actually being used within the context of a tune was in high school. I was in the music room and the band director was sitting at the piano playing a rendition of Duke Ellington’s Don’t Get Around Much Anymore. I was actually taken a bit by surprise because, although I knew he was classically trained, I had not been aware of the fact that he had any sort of jazz piano background. What he was playing sounded quite good.
The way he was playing the popular chord fill that occurs in the first measure got my attention. Although I had a handle on basic 7th chords at the time, I was on a curious path toward learning about voicings. So, I had to inquire as to what he was playing and he shared it with me without hesitation.
He was actually playing the 1-5-7-3 chord voicing that is considered a “stock” voicing among jazz pianists. Here it is explained:
The fill consists of the following chord progression:
(in the key of C Major)
Cmaj7 Dmin7 D#min7 Emin7
Of course, in their basic root position form, these chords are spelled out as follows:
Cmaj7 = C E G B
Dmin7 = D F A C
D#min7 = D# F# A# C#
Emin7 = E G B D
Naturally, this basic position follows the 1-3-5-7 format. However, if we manipulate these chord tones just a bit by rearranging their order in a 1-5-7-3 syntax, each chord becomes:
Cmaj7 = C G B E
Dmin7 = D A C F
D#min7 = D# A# C# F#
Emin7 = E B D G
The chord tones in green above are meant to be played with the left hand and those in black with the right hand, thus resulting in an open two-hand chord voicing.
Play this chord progression using the basic root position shown above and then play the open chord voicing. What do you notice? How do they differ? Do you hear how the open voicing actually has a more “open” sound? Making such comparisons between different ways of playing chords and voicings is really one of the joys of playing creatively. There are certain times in your playing when you will appreciate one way of playing a chord or voicing than another. Of course, as a creative player, it’s your prerogative to change your mind at any given time! The more chord voicings you learn, the more choices you have. You can equate this to a painter increasing the number of paints on his or her artist’s palette. The more choices you have at your fingertips, the more fun you can have and the more creatively you can play!
By the way, Duke’s Don’t Get Around Much Anymore has always been a favorite of mine ever since a teenager. One day, I suddenly became inspired to create a video session dedicated to demonstrating some piano styling techniques using this classic standard tune as my vehicle. A main focus was on chord voicings. I had a completely open mind once I started the video, with the idea that I would use a few measures of the song to demonstrate. It resulted in my going through the entire 32 bars and because quite a popular learning tool with my visitors (thank you all!). If you would like to learn more about it, please visit here.
This entire site is dedicated to helping aspiring creative players to get a better handle on piano chord voicings. Those who have enjoyed their journey with ProProach have taken themselves through the lessons again and again, each time gaining more insights as they expose themselves to these fun concepts. It is my hope that you will consider getting involved with the program if you haven’t already. I would consider it a personal privilege. Naturally, I want to hear about your progress along the way. Just use the form on this page to stay in touch… I read each and every inquiry!
PLAY WITH PASSION!