Solo Piano Voicings

Most Important Notes are the 3rd and 7th

These two notes (also called guide tones) define the quality of a chord.

Cmaj7: Major Third | Major Seventh. C EGB

C7: Major Third | Dominant (minor) Seventh. C E G Bb

Cmin7: Minor Third | Dominant (minor) Seventh C Eb G Bb

Cmin7(b5) Minor Third | Dominant (minor) Seventh C Eb Gb Bb

Cdim7 Minor Third | Diminished Seventh C Eb Gb A

Practice identifying thirds and sevenths of chords. Pick a random song in a fakebook and see if you can
quickly name the third and seventh of each chord.

General Rules for Constructing Solo Piano Voicings

– Keep the melody note at the top of the voicing. You don't want to bury the melody in the middle
of a voicing or it will get lost.
– Keep the tonic at the bottom of the voicing. The tonic is simply the note named in the chord. For
example: D in a D7, G in a Gmaj7, C in a C7(#9 b5).
– The left hand will most often use Root and Seventh or Root and Fifth. Because we are lower
on the keyboard, we need to keep our intervals spaced out so as to avoid a muddy sound. You
will occasionally use Root and Third or Third and Seventh.
– The chords are most often played on beat one, or on beats one and three.
– Aim for four note voicings using root, third, fifth, seventh. Remember the third and seventh are
still the most important. Notes may be doubled to add color.

let your ear be your guide! Major Seven (Cmaj7): 9 – This is a safe note to add for many different voicings #11 – This comes from the lydian mode. The color notes you add are determined by the chord quality. Then we take that note (D) and build a major triad from there. 11 – This comes from the dorian mode and is a great note to add. Often you'll see printed alterations in dominant chords caused by melody notes.) Tip: Usually many of these alterations are used together to create a dissonant sound to the liking of the pianist. We often talk about how major seven chords (like Cmaj7) are interchangable with sixth chords (like C6) because of their function. add a triad built from a whole step above the root. 9 – Adds more color #9 / b9 – Alterting the nine can give you a ton of color and disonnace very quickly 11 – This turns the chord into a sus chord. Most often you will change combinations of the 5th and 9th to get a sound you like. fifth. Let's focus on the three main chord types. we go a whole step above the root of the chord (which is a C). Above all. You'll see that written as C7sus. #11 – You'll notice that #11 and b5 are the same note. we are adding D F# A to get a final chord of C13(#11).Adding Color to Your Voicings Once you've mastered four-note voicings using the root. we get a very rich #11 sound. #5 / b5 – These usually replace the normal fifth. #11 is simply another way to think about it. when we raise the usual note a half-step. This is one of the least disonnant alterations you can make. However. 13 – Adds more color (and is a standard addition to our four note rootless voicings. . Dominant Seven (C7): Dominant chords provide the most opportunity for color. 13 – A good note to add in minor voicings. Tip: To get an instant 13(#11) sound on a major chord. They are often used in transition and contain the most dissonance in a chord progression. A normal 11th (or 4th) would clash with the major seventh sound as it's an avoid note. So if we have a Cmaj7 chord (C E G B). it's time to explore adding additional color tones. Minor Seven (Cmin7): 9 – Still a safe note to add. Ragtime/Blues/Dixieland/Old Showtunes are less accepting of altered color notes as compared with more modern tunes. and seventh. Now in addition to C E G B. 13 – The 13th (or 6th) won't add very much color to a major seven chord because the function it provides is the same as the normal major seventh. third.