Splashing More Color Into A Simple Chord Voicing

colorful piano chordsPreviously, we acknowledged that playing less really can be more by simply playing the root, 3, and 7. Using the same example shown in that video excerpt of ProProach, harmonizing the first note of Erroll Garner’s Misty could look like this:

1-3-7 chord voicing

In this case, the melody note is D. That D also happens to be the 7th of the chord we are playing, Ebmaj7. Since that D is the 3rd of the chord, the only necessary chord tone missing would be the 3rd, which is the G, which we have added. This is a simple yet very effective way of harmonizing the melody.

On its own, this chord voicing sounds more than adequate and it often a choice of mine when I’m looking to create a thin but deep texture. That said, there are those times when you might be looking for a little more, especially since this melody is heard three times in just one chorus of this song.

Voicing In A Purposeful Manner

This is where starting out playing in an economical way like we have done can serve as a basis for adding more color. Consider maintaining that same voicing while simply adding the 9 of the chord, which is F:

chord voicing for Ebmaj9

Play that voicing and listen to the added richness. It’s a terrific chord voicing to use when looking for a texture that’s not too thick but certainly rich enough.

You see, this is a significant benefit of starting out with just the 3 and 7. Your act of voicing a chord becomes purposeful in a very specific way. In other words, you know that the voicing you initially were playing (without the 9) was great in its own right. Splashing just a little more color with that 9 changes the overall effect in a big way.

I would like to encourage you to approach your favorite standard tunes with an eye open for specific points in the melody where the melody note is a 3 or a 7 and you have a 7th chord. It could be a major 7 chord, a minor 7 chord, dominant 7 chord, etc. Experiment by playing the 1-3-7 or 1-7-3 voicing on its own. Then add the 9 and observe the difference.

In this tiny excerpt from Sneak Peeks #1 (currently free as a bonus with ProProach), you’ll see this 9th chord voicing used when the melody is C:


Bart Howard’s Fly Me To The Moon is an excellent vehicle in which to apply this technique. The first five measures alone can serve as an exercise for you to become more confident with this voicing strategy. Bill Evans’ Waltz For Debby is another. There are so many more, as you will see for yourself.

As with each and every new concept you learn, have fun with it and use it over and over again to the point where you are confident applying it on command. Your chord confidence is becoming greater and greater by the minute!