Piano Chord Voicings: Little Things Mean A Lot
When it comes to harmonizing your melodies in a tasteful fashion, it makes sense to vary the density of the chords and voicings that you use. By doing so, you automatically gain the respect of your listener’s ears. Perhaps you can relate to a beautiful painting that had captured your attention at one time or another. Chances are, the artist made good use of contrast in the intensity of those colors. A nice mix of dark and light colors was likely to gain your respect for the piece as a whole.
Likewise, you will want to create a contrast in the intensity of your chord voicing structures. A great start is to learn to be a “minimalist” with those voicings. You can always build upon them. However, playing the least amount of notes needed is a great way to create a thinner texture when desired.
Less Really Can Be More
A very common pro chord voicing technique is to simply play the 3 and 7 of a chord. As a soloist, one option is to play the root of the chord with the left hand and the 3 and 7 with your right hand.
When your melody note is a 3 or a 7, simply play the other below it. For example, play an Eb in the bass area of the keyboard. Then play a G and D in the middle register. Play it all together and listen! This is an excellent example of how just playing a few notes can create such a beautiful sense of richness. Notice how “open” this voicing sounds as well. Take a look at this video excerpt from ProProach and you’ll see this exact chord voicing being demonstrated. The first melody note after the two pickup notes in Erroll Garner’s Misty is D. This D is the 7 of the Ebmaj7 chord. The G (the 3 of the chord) is simply played below that 7.
Be A Detective
I would like to encourage you to look through your favorite standards. Keep your eyes alert for 7th chords where the melody note is a 3 or a 7. Then apply this strategy. As an artist, you will eventually use your own discretion as to when you use this voicing. However, when learning a new technique or concept, always overuse it so that it becomes natural for you to implement it as you please.
This chord voicing formula can be applied to every 7th chord that you know or will learn. To have more than just a familiarity with it will prove to serve you well when it comes to incorporating color into those favorite songs of yours.