Piano chords basics – make your progressions flow

Chords
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Playing piano chords effectively in comps and improvisations is all about choosing the right inversions and voicings to make progressions flow smoothly. The most important technique I look at here is choosing chord inversions and voicings on the piano keyboard that help your progressions flow naturally.When you first start learning chords, it’s very easy and tempting to play them all in root position. Root position is when note the chord is named after is played as the lowest note of the chord; for example a C major chord with C as the bottom note. The problem with doing this is that you can end up with jumpy, disjointed sounds. 

In styles of music such as 12-bar blues this is less of a problem, because jumping around between chords is a recognised style in that genre of music. However, with other styles such as modern pop ballads, you really do need to try to make your progression as smooth as possible.

By using different inversions of chords you should be able to keep the different chords of your sequence closer together on the piano keyboard, which in turn will make your progression smoother. This should also make the chords easier to play because your hand stays in a relatively fixed position.

Whenever you learn a new chord on the piano, try to play it in as many different inversions and voicings as you can. It’s really important to get to grips with inversions, particularly if you’re interested in jamming, comping or songwriting.

If you’d like to know more about jazz, blues, or pop piano, go ahead and take a look through my earlier videos. If you liked this video you might also be interested in my book, How to Really Play the Piano, which is full of tips and guides on chords, harmony and improvisation.

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