Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Jazz Workshop Hints - Voicing Chords - a start!

Jazz Workshop Hints

Starting to 'voice' chords

Butlers Jazz Workshop

What does 'voicing chords' mean?

Unlike classical music, jazz players generally have to have a knowledge of chords so that they can play the chord when playing a piece.

Although this mainly is thought of as a rythmn section thing, ie only for the piano and/or guitar, all players of jazz need to have some understanding of chord structure or voicing of the chord.

If you are a line player, (usually a blower!) you might think that this is a subject that you can ignore - but line players can play chords (with other players) under a soloist adding to the rythmn section chords.

Now, look at a lead sheet, that is music for jazz that only has a melody line and chords (see any of the Real Books or so called 'busker' books) and you will see the player is given under the melody line the associated chord that is played at that point of the melody.

One will see things like Dm7 (D minor seventh) or Cmaj7 (C major seventh). Future post will explain all the more commonly seen chords, as this is a subject can be quite challenging - but fascinating!

From the major scale if you play the 1st 3rd 5th and 7th notes together on a keyboard or guitar, you will get a major seventh chord, in the key of C that will be C E G and B - you will be playing C major 7th chord (Cmaj7)

From the C major scale again, play the 2nd 4th 6th and octave (8th) note and you will be playing
D F A and C, the chord of  D minor seventh  (Dm7) These chords can be repeated in any of the 12 major scales (major keys) but will of course have different names, the bottom note of the basic chord giving it it's name. For example F A C E, the 1st 3rd 5th and 7th note of the F major scale, will be called F major 7th (Fmaj7)

Now play the 5th 7th 9th and 11th of the scale in C it will be G B D and F (the 9th and 11th are above the octave) and you will be playing G dominant 7th, or for short, G7.

Now those chords, if played like that, are quite heavy sounding, so the pianist and/or guitarist generally play chords in a more 'spread out' fashion, that is they 'voice' the chord.

Voicing is an art form in itself, and diffeerent pianists and guitar players will play chords differently, and that give each player their own identity.

Much can be said of voicing chords, but as a start, dont play the whole chord, play the 3rd and seventh of the chord (not the scale) and you will have the essence of that chord - ie in G7 (G B D and F) play the B and the F only. This is the just the beginning of the process of voicing that chord (G7).

It's what other notes you add to that will make the chord sound interesting, great or even fantastic!!

Watch this space!

Peter Willson

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