Simple & Powerful Piano Chord Voicing Strategy
Easy Yet Awesome Way To Create Great Sounding Piano Chord Voicings
When it comes to creating great sounding chord voicings on the piano for those favorite standard tunes, players often think of “how to add more.” Sure, adding more to a basic chord like a triad or 7th chords makes sense if you’re looking for some “fluff.” However, it’s not always about adding more. Actually, this simple process of “playing less” is pretty much guaranteed to lead you to many new super sounding chord sounds you may not have arrived at up to now.
Less Is More
Sure, we’ve heard that time and time again. Well, it is especially applicable in this area of harmonizing our standard songs. The approach we are taking today is actually a process of elimination that will open your mind and your ears to many terrific chord voicing options.
Let’s take a look at the first measure of Erroll Garner’s Misty (in the key of Eb). After the pickup notes, we have a D in the melody with an Ebmaj7 chord.
Consider The Chord Scale Relationship
If you were to improvise over this chord, one option would be the Eb Major Scale. Another might be the Eb Lydian Scale.
Using the each of these options, let’s simply play the remainder of the entire scale below that melody note D (which is in the scale as well since it is the Major 7th). Double that melody note one octave below as well.
The two results look like what you see here (the only difference in the 2nd illustration is the A rather than the Ab):
Play both of these examples in the context of the melody. Yes, play the pickup notes followed by the full scale scale as illustrated all at the same time.
My guess is that if I were observing 10 people playing this, I would likely witness 10 different reactions. Also, the reaction of each player might be different depending on the mood of that person at the particular time.
Time To Start The Reduction Process
Okay, from this point on, it’s all up to you to create the magic. You won’t need any further illustrations. Here is what you do:
Randomly eliminate one chosen note at a time from that scale, playing the remaining scale tones at the same time. Of course, play the resulting chord voicing in the context of the melody (starting with the pickup notes). Next, choose a different note to eliminate. Play. Listen. Then choose another… then another… yes, another…
Listen to all the different resulting chord textures you are experiencing.
Okay, now eliminate two of the scale tones and play the remainder. Listen. Eliminate another two… etc. Listen, listen, listen!
Then eliminate three scale tones… then four… you get the idea!
You’ve got a gold mine here. Your fingers are in touch with a whole array of possible voicings.
Perhaps it’s worth noting that eliminating the 4th scale tone more quickly leads to sounds that are somewhat more compatible to some ears (but you be the judge!). However, don’t place any restrictions on how you approach this fun, ear-opening exercise.
When playing in the context of the melody, you will notice that the dynamic level at which you play the resulting voicing(s) will absolutely have an impact on the musical effect. For example, play the pickup notes at a normal volume level (mf) and, upon playing one of the thicker voicings (with lots of scale tones), immediately drop the volume (pp) and listen. Ohhhhhh yes… the contrast!
You have enough here to keep you busy for quite a while as you explore different melody notes and corresponding chords. There is no limit as to how you can proceed with this. Just make it a point to enjoy each and every moment of the process. A small area of that piano keyboard has suddenly turned into a finger painting canvas!