JAZZ PIANO VOICINGS | a simple trick to play chords and melody together at the piano

Jazz Piano
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When playing solo piano and reading through a jazz lead sheet, I’m looking at 2 things:
– Chord type (maj 7, min 7, dom 7)
– Melody note.

Once I’ve clocked these 2 things, I’ll look through my memory bank of chord voicings for a voicing which 1. fits the appropriate chord type, and 2. just happens to have the melody note as its top note.

This way, I’m able to play both chord and melody with one carefully chosen voicing, which distributes the notes nicely and sounds good played on its own. And the melody note is not just some extra note I have to add to an unrelated voicing – it already is part of the voicing.

So to be confident and prepared for anything, I need at least 7 major 7 voicings – one with the root as its top note, another with the 9th as its top note, another with the 3rd as its top note – and so on (C D E F# G A B).
Then I need 7 voicings for the minor 7 chord, and another 7 voicings for the dominant 7 chord. Once I have this, I am prepared for any likely scenario that could come up in a chord sheet.

But I also want to play a bassline. In my bassline I’d like to sustain the root of each chord. Luckily, many of the voicings I use already have the chord’s root as their lowest note, which means that when I play these voicings, I’m in fact playing the melody (top note), the chord voicing (middle notes), and the bassline (bottom note), all at once.

But for the voicings which don’t have the root as their lowest note, I can just hold down the chord’s root with the pedal, and then jump up to play the voicing and melody note.

So this method makes a lot of sense when choosing which chord voicings to use in your solo piano arrangement – it allows you to play melody, chord and bassline every time.

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