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piano voicings

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Howard K, Dec 12, 2003.

  1. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Right, I've got a desire write music away from my bass and to become more familiar with another instrument, namely keyboard.

    Please can we avoid all the lectures about getting a teacher etc, I'm aware that in the long term I will need to take lessons, but at this point I just want to be able to feel my way around a keyboard a little...

    Anyway, my question is about chord voicings for piano.

    I bought a basic chord book that shows all the triads an 7th chords for left hand... fine, lots & lots to do, but fine.

    Now, I could just spend hours experimenting with duplicating certain chord notes on the right hand, but...

    What I want to know is, is there any formula, or formulae for creating richer piano voicings of basic diatonic chords with left and right hands? Is there a typical way of approaching this or is it just a case of anything goes?

    Any advice whatsoever is very welcome?

  2. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    I'm not a pianist by any stretch of the imagination but I have been playing around on my keyboard recently, mainly while writing arrangements for the music group at church. That's included a few carols and it's been instructive working through the music seeing how different voicings and passing notes are used and actually playing it out on the keyboard.

    The basic way of doing it seems to be taking the notes from the chord and just mixing it up. Often, good ideas can come from thinking about the chord sequence - how the different 'voices' move up and down. For example, if you're going from D to A7, you could approach it like this:

    Left: D A
    Right: F# A

    Left: C# A
    Right: G A

    (so, actually D A7/C#).

    That's very minimal movement but it creates the necessary differentiation between the two chords.

    You can also play several different combinations of notes against one chord. Another example I came across the other day that sounded good was to play root and third on one hand and root and fifth on the other and then to swap round (so DF# DA then DA DF#). Lots of fun, but requiring a different approach to bass as you've got a much wider range of 'mixtures' that are feasible but only one location in which you can play each individual note.

  3. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Thanks wulf... I've been thinking about this all day and come to the conclusion that there must be a zillion ways ot play the same chord on a piano. I just kinda wondered if there were any standard patterns, as per your root+3rd and root+5th idea.

    It's interesting because the book I bought has all the voicings for triads with the 5th played lower than the root, then when the 7th is added it instructs you to play the triad, then add the 7th a semi-tone or tone below, between the 5th and root.

    I guess it depends on the melody as to what you play where.
  4. My jazz piano book starts with a:
    L 1-7
    R 3-5
    voicing. practive these diatonically up all keys, major, minor, through the modes and you already have a nice vocabulary. no voice leading, but it's still a place to start.
  5. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    I think there's a lot of freedom ... but we need a proper pianist to chime in. I'd love to get some more insight on it as well.

    One thing that does carry over from bass playing is that the lower you go, the more muddy close combinations of notes sound (since that's as much to do with acoustics as with anything specific to bass playing). Above middle C, you can play two or three adjacent notes and it sounds fine (well... the right notes sound fine ;) ) but when you get an octave or two below a fifth or higher sounds better than seconds and thirds.

  6. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    That is helpful thanks! ...and intersting that you use the 7th in the left hand, lower pitch, etc. I'm just after ideas I guess. ta

    Thanks I'll do that tonight ;)

    No offence, and I do appreciate your input, very much so, but why do people feel the need to add the "practice in all twleve keys" every time someone asks a question on this board?!!

    I KNOW (only too well!) that I'll need to do that if I want to actually play piano, but I dont, I just want to use it to write on!!! I'm genuinely not getting at you personally, it just so doesnt need to be said in this case!

    We all know that you dont need to know diddly squat about an instrument to write a decent piece of music and you certainly dont have to know how to play in all 12 keys!!!

    I do appreciate your replying tho lowendgruv - and i'll be trying out some of the chords with root+7th on left over the weekend :)

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