The Magic Of Piano Chord Voicings

Piano Chord Voicings: The Secret Ingredient

Secrets To Creating Chord Voicing MagicIf you have had the pleasure of watching the all time classic The Wizard of Oz, you will likely recall the beginning of that movie being presented in black and white and, as Dorothy’s dream began, the screen suddenly turned to color.

Piano Chord Voicings: The Facelift Your Songs Are Asking For

That transition from black and white to color brought the movie to life in a way that immediately captured the viewer’s attention. If you were watching, you would have experienced an emotional uplift.
That transition from black and white to color might very well describe the difference between playing basic piano chords and piano chord voicings.
Upon hearing a standard tune performed twice, the first time with basic piano chords & the second with lush chord voicings, the listener might  describe it as a “still picture coming to life.”

Understanding Chord Voicings Is Within Your Reach

If you have a handle on playing basic 7th chords and have little or no familiarity with piano chord voicings, you need not worry. You see, you already have the foundation needed to explore this wonderful world of chord voicings.
You are already holding a “painter’s palette,” per se, consisting of the primary colors red, yellow, and blue. Now, imagine that palette consisting of three basic paint colors magically turning into a pallet consisting of hundreds of colors.
That said, don’t think for a moment that you need to know hundreds of voicings in order to put your standard songs across in a much more colorful way. If I had the privilege of sitting by your side I could show you how knowing just two or three voicings could have you performing your standard tunes in a much more professional sounding way. This should serve as encouragement if voicings are new to you.

A Very Tasteful Cocktail Piano Voicing

Let’s take a look at the first chord voicing shared in ProProach. This voicing works great for cocktail ballads. However, it is not way limited to such use.
Our focus here will be on Major Seventh chords…
A Major Seventh chord can be represented by any one of these chord symbols:
Cmaj7, CM7, CMA7, or C△
Here is a Cmaj7 chord in it’s most basic, root positions form:
Cmaj7 Chord
Playing the chord in this way sounds just fine and is often the choice when playing pop tunes. That said, when it comes to playing standard tunes, a jazz player or cocktail pianist will likely opt for a variation of this chord in the form of a chord voicing.
Now, for starters, what is a chord voicing? Well, we can think of a voicing as a chord structure that maintains the essential function of a basic chord that results from manipulating the chord tones in any one or more of a variety of ways.
This could include rearranging the chord tones, doubling one or more of them, eliminating one or more of them, adding more tones, or a combination of any of these.
Okay, let’s take this basic Cmaj7 chord structure and create a voicing:
Cmaj9 Piano Chord Voicing
Notice that, for this voicing, we have taken the middle two chord tones – the E and G – and placed them one octave higher. In addition, we have added a tone not included in the basic chord, the D, as the highest note in the voicing. Since the D is the 9, we have here a Cmaj9 chord voicing. We can think of the D as a “color tone” since it really does add some flavor to the basic chord.
Take a moment to play the basic Cmaj7 chord. Then play our Cmaj9 chord voicing. How would you describe the difference? Of course, the way you describe the difference is not nearly as significant as what you experience when you hear it.

Your Approach To Learning Piano Chord Voicings Makes A Difference

When initially learning chord voicings, some individuals simply like to learn a bunch of them and start using them without much consideration. However, a more intuitive learner will compare sounds as we did a moment ago and really consider what contributes to the particular texture of a certain chord voicing.
For example, when we removed the middle two voices (the E and G) and placed them an octave higher, we essentially “opened” the basic chord by leaving a wide interval between the Root (C) and the 7 (B). Spreading the chord tones in this manner makes for a more “open” sound. Adding the 9 (the D) above not only adds color but the fact that this pitch is more than two octaves higher than the Root contributes the this voicing’s “openness.”
Honestly, with all my exposure to materials (books and other), none of them had really described this perspective on chord voicings in any detail. Since I believe that observing voicings this way is conducive to becoming a more creative player, I decided to create such a tool…
Pro Piano Chord Bytes: Secrets To Creating Chord Voicing Magic not only introduces the reader to tasty piano chord voicings but it provides the kind of commentary that leads one to developing a discerning musical ear and discriminating palate when it comes to playing voicings. Even if one doesn’t read music, diagrams are provided. You will actually be encouraged and inspired to create your own voicings rather than relying on others’ suggestions.
To me, it makes sense to learn about chords with this kind of a mind set. After all, a truly creative pianist will choose such chord voicings based on the texture that they provide. It seems only right that they should be approached that way from the very beginning.

An Enhancement Of Your Vocabulary

Treat your approach to learning piano chord voicings like adding to your personal vocabulary. Learn one voicing. Then find places in your songs where you can it. It’s just like adding a fancy word to your current vocabulary. You may need to transpose that voicing. For example, we just learned a voicing for Cmaj9. However, you will likely find an Fmaj7 chord in a tune that you want to spice up. Simply transpose this chord to an Fmaj9. The more you transpose, the more command you will have!

One Piano Chord Voicing Can Really Be Several

A special lesson of ProProach is devoted to this, but we can touch upon it here. Let’s take another look at the Cmaj9 piano chord voicing above. Now, suppose you are playing a solo rendition of I Could Write A Book by Richard Rogers & Lorenz Hart. That first melody note (after the pickup notes) is a G. This is the 5th of the chord Cmaj7.

Since we want our melody note to stand out, our objective is to keep it at the top of our chord voicing:

Piano Chord Voicing Technique

If we simply leave off the 9 of our Cmaj9 voicing above, we are left with a very tasteful way of voicing this melody note! Here it is:

Piano Chord Voicing Strategy

We can take this a step further by still colorizing this chord voicing with that 9 by simply placing it below the 3 of the chord, like this:

Piano Chord Voicings Strategies

Play this and listen!


So, now you have a piano chord voicing that will accommodate a melody note when that note is the 5th of the chord being played. You see, one voicing can take you a long way!

Take It In Stride & Soak Up The Rewards

The real key is to take your time, learn a voicing, and use it. As I always say to my ProProach members, “Overuse it!”

Focus on quality rather than quantity. Your piano chord voicing vocabulary will grow fast enough. Remember, you never had to rush your vocabulary while you were an infant. Little by little, it just happened for you. You are already speaking by playing your favorite tunes. The enhancement of those tunes will happen one voicing at a time!

Enjoy the process : )






Dave's Signature



Jazz Piano Voicings Program

Voicings? Huh?

Jazz Piano VoicingsJazz piano voicings have intrigued me ever since I became aware of their existence. I was about 14 years of age when I first learned what a voicing was.

By that time, I had developed quite the affinity for playing saxophone. I would still go to the piano regularly but I had these images in my mind of wanting to be a star sax player. I was lucky enough to have a sax teacher who made house calls. His ability to improvise literally blew me away. 

The lessons would take place in our nearly finished basement. I had my Wurlitzer electronic piano set up, turned on,  and ready to play for each lesson. Greg (my teacher) would usually sit at it and comp for me as I would play my way through a time he had written out the previous week.

During one of those episodes while playing, I glanced over the neck of my tenor and noticed that he was playing some really cool chord sounds that I had never seen executed. I had already been playing piano for approximately seven years and I thought I had mastered everything I needed to know about piano chords. But during that session, I learned that my piano chord knowledge was very limited, to put it mildly.

“What are those chords you were just playing?” I asked in amazement, realizing that I was about to be turned on to something quite new.

“Voicings,” he replied.

I had never heard the word used before. a can of worms was just opened. That lesson represented the beginning of a lifelong journey in the area of piano chord voicings. My way of looking at and playing harmony had been completely restructured and redirected.

What Are Chord Voicings?

So,  what is a chord voicing? To put it simply, you can think of a voicing as a chord whose chord tones that have been rearranged and/or manipulated into a structure that results in a very unique sound texture. This could involve doing things like doubling certain chord tones, eliminating some of them, spacing them out, and even supplementing them with other tones not usually found in the chord.

The possibilities are limitless.

During those few moments, Greg was comping over a Cmin7 chord. But he wasn’t playing the chord with a C, Eb, G, Bb the way I knew it. He was playing structures like C, F, Bb and G, C, F.

I was baffled. Neither of those two structures looked like a Cmin7 chord the way I knew it. However, they sounded awesome!

That was it. I just had to learn about voicings. By the way, they are often referred to in one of many ways: voicings, chord voicings, piano voicings, piano chord voicings, jazz piano voicings, jazz voicings, jazz piano chord voicings… they all mean the same thing.

So, I would by books and books on the subject of voicings. I loved jazz piano. I soon learned, though, that you don’t need to be a jazz player to have a reason to explore chord voicings. They can be used to enhance virtually any style of playing.

Later, I started taking jazz piano lessons from a guy that Greg referred me to. This totally opened me up to learning that I knew very little in this area of voicings. Needless to say, the experience was super rewarding, to say the least.

A Never-Ending Journey

I believe one of the most intriguing things about the world of chord voicings is that it’s a bottomless cup of flavor always ready to be tasted and savored. You never learn it all. The deeper you go with it, the deeper you want to.

When it comes to basic chord structures, including all those 7th chords, there are numerous chord charts available that can have you playing all of them within a matter of time. But, when it comes to voicings, no chord chart can come close to including all of them.

Yes, there are certain “stock voicings” that exist which most jazz pianists eventually learn as a foundation. These have come to be known as standard voicings that everyone should know. They not only satisfy just about any type of playing situation but also serve as inspiration for the discovery of so many more.

My Passion For Sharing This Information

I feel that every pianist who enjoys being creative at all ought to know these voicings. I have shared my passion for exploring them with many of my private piano students throughout the years. This sharing itself has become a passion in its own right.

I decided that I would take that passion beyond the scope of just the students I come in contact with in a private setting. That desire led to the creation of ProProach. Like many of my private students, a vast number of people who enjoy this program are not just professional players who want to expand their harmonic skills. Many novice players whose playing never leaves their own living room have enjoyed this program to realize their harmonic potential.

It gives me a tremendous amount of satisfaction when I see an adult who has been playing for years who also has always wanted to explore his or her creative potential with chords finally take steps toward realizing some of that potential. I know what it feels like when new creative doors open. Whenever I receive testimonies for this program, I get a really warm feeling inside. It’s not an ego thing in the least but more of a purposeful gratification. It often leads to further correspondence between that person and myself. I really enjoy that.

What This Jazz Piano Voicings Program Consists Of

So, here’s what I did. I created 25 lessons that I became emotionally involved with during their birth. This wasn’t going to to be just another chord voicing program. I wanted people to be inspired to USE what they were learning. This means APPLYING the strategies right away into their own playing.

Each lesson would include a comprehensive textual tutorial with clear and colorful graphics whenever necessary. Each would also be complemented with a video demonstrating the chord voicing techniques and concepts. I wanted to use actual standard songs that people could relate to. The videos are not long because, remember, this program was made to be easy to assimilate. Therefore, we focus on just one concept at a time, show you how to apply it, and then you are encouraged to have fun with the idea on your own.

So, the chord voicing would be introduced along with an explanation of how it was arrived at. Then I would pick a place in a song where it could be actually applied. I received lots of positive feedback from people regarding the fact that the program includes HOW to use what was being learned.

How ProProach Was Intended To Be Used

When ProProach first became available, the lessons were made available one at a time on a weekly basis over the course of six months. It was presented this way for a reason. You see, I really wanted to emphasize to users of the program that at least a week should be utilized to assimilate the lesson and actually apply it. Those who seriously engaged themselves with the program soon understood this method. Some would even send me emails sharing that they supported this approach to proceeding through the program.

Others wanted the lessons all at once to be used at their discretion. Although it wasn’t really how I wanted people to proceed – just browsing through the lessons and picking and choosing – I finally decided to make the program available that way. Now, ProProach is available in eBook form with all the corresponding links to the video demonstrations.

Learn To THINK Like A Jazz Pianist

ProProach is literally a “pro’s approach” to playing piano chords. As you take yourself through the program, you will see for yourself that you will also learn to think like a pro player thinks when it comes to harmonizing favorite melodies. To me, this is really important.

My presentation of the material and demonstrations is very informal. I think this has been appreciated. It’s just me being myself. It’s real.

You Don’t Need To Be A Pro To Sound Like One

Since 2009, when ProProach was born, pianists from all walks of life have enjoyed it from various parts of the globe. That has included cocktail pianists who aspire to enhance their harmonic creativity, professionals like doctors, teachers, writers, nurses, and many others who play piano for a hobby and have always been on the lookout for a program focusing on chord voicings that was easy to follow and effective at the same time.

Most of the ProProach members follow my strong recommendation of taking themselves through the lessons again and again. Further insights are gained each and every time. I have received confirmation of this truth from a number of them.

Please Stay In Touch With Me

By the way, if you decide to take me up on it and get involved with ProProach – and I hope you do – I don’t want your involvement to stop there. I would really like to hear from you as you proceed through the lessons. I love hearing about progress, so I do welcome your communication with open arms.

As I write this, I am recalling a ProProach member who lived in Australia. This gentleman would commute to work on a train every morning. During some of those journeys, he would write to me about a portion of a certain lesson he was enjoying and share his insights. I loved that.

Once you sign up to get started, how about sending me an email to say hi and share a little about yourself and your reasons for joining up with me!