• Week 1: The Polychord Voicing Technique

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,Piano,Playing songs,Theory

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    Our focus on this first week is on the polychord voicing technique.

    A lot of top players in gospel and jazz music use this technique in the rearrangement of chords — especially seventh and extended chords.

    The regular A minor ninth chord:

    …can be rearranged and played thus:

    …using the polychord voicing technique and that makes the chord to sound a lot better.

    I guarantee you that investing the next 20 minutes or so in learning how the polychord voicing technique is applied would pay off.

    The Polychord Voicing Technique — Explained

    Voicing is the consideration of the notes of a chord as voices and the rearrangement of chord tones using vocing techniques.

    The Polychord Voicing Technique — Defined

    Our focus is on the polychord voicing technique which is a product of the superimposition of two or more chords to form a bigger chord — which is usually referred to as a polychord.

    For example, the superimposition of the E minor triad (in second inversion):

    …over the C major triad (in root position):

    …produces a polychord — the C major seventh chord:

    The regular C major seventh chord:

    …consists of four notes (C, E, G, and B), while the polychord voicing of the same C major seventh chord consists of two triads (the C major triad and the E minor triad.)

    A Short Note On The Concept Of Embedded Chords

    The reason why the C major and E minor triads are superimposed to produce the C major seventh chord is because both chords are embedded in the C major seventh chord.

    The first three notes of the C major seventh chord (which are C, E, and G) :

    …are identical with the notes of the C major triad, while the last three notes (which are E, G, and B):

    …are identical with the notes of the E minor triad.

    How To Determine Embedded Chords

    Anyone who wants to know the right chords to superimpose to form a polychord must start by determining the embedded chords in any given polychord.

    Although the embedded chords in a given chord can be extended chords as well, embedded chords are either triads or seventh chords most of the time.

    How To Determine Embedded Triads

    Given the Eb major ninth chord:

    …its embedded chords can be determined by identifying the triads in the Eb major ninth chord.

    The first three notes  (which are Eb, G, and Bb):

    …gives us the first embedded triad — the Eb major triad.

    The next set of three notes  (which are G, Bb, and D):

    …gives us the second embedded triad — the G minor triad.

    The last set of three notes  (which are Bb, D,and F):

    …gives us the third (and last) embedded triad — the Bb major triad.

    Superimposing the following embedded triads in the Eb major ninth chord:

    Eb major triad

    G minor triad

    Bb major triad

    …would produce its polychord voicing.

    How To Determine Embedded Seventh Chords

    Given the Eb major ninth chord:

    …its embedded chords can be determined by identifying the seventh chords in the Eb major ninth chord.

    The first four notes  (which are Eb, G, Bb, and D):

    …gives us the first embedded seventh chord — the Eb major seventh chord.

    The next set of four notes  (which are G, Bb, D, and F):

    …gives us the second embedded triad — the G minor seventh chord.

    Superimposing the following embedded seventh chords in the Eb major ninth chord:

    Eb major seventh

    G minor seventh

    …would produce its polychord voicing.

    Formation Of Polychords

    In the formation of polychords, two things matter:

    Determining the embedded chords

    Superimposing them the right way

    For example, superimposing the G minor seventh chord:

    …over the Eb major seventh chord:

    …produces the polychord voicing of the Eb major ninth chord:

    While superimposing the Eb major seventh chord:

    …over the G minor seventh chord:

    …creates an entirely different polychord (Gm/EbM7):

    …which may have the same notes like the Eb major ninth chord but differ in structure and function.

    So, in the formation of polychords, the superimposition of chords must be done with the overall chord in mind.

    For example, the polychord voicing of the Eb major ninth chord must be structurally and functionally identical  with the regular Eb major ninth chord.

    Application Of The Polychord Voicing Technique In Chord Progressions

    Let’s go ahead and check out how the polychord voicing technique can be applied in chord progressions. Although it can be applied in a variety of chord progressions, we’ll be focusing on these chord progressions:

    The 1-4 chord progression

    The 2-5-1 chord progression

    The 7-3-6 chord progression

    Attention: All the examples in this segment would be given in the key of C major.

    Check them out!

    The 1-4 Chord Progression

    The 1-4 chord progression consists of a root progression from the first tone to the fourth tone of the C major scale:

    …which is from C:

    …to F:

    Using the C major ninth chord:

    …and the F major seventh chord:

    …we can derive the following polychords:

    The polychord voicing of the C major ninth chord

    The polychord voicing of the F major seventh chord

    “Which Can Be Put Together In A 1-4 Chord Progression…”

    Chord 1:

    Chord 4:

    The 2-5-1 Chord Progression

    The 2-5-1 chord progression consists of a root progression to the first tone through the second and fifth tones of the C major scale:

    From D (which is the second tone):

    …to G (which is the fifth tone):

    …then to C  (which is the first tone):

    Using the D minor ninth chord:

    …the G dominant ninth chord:

    …and the C major ninth chord:

    …we can derive the following polychords:

    The polychord voicing of the D minor ninth chord

    The polychord voicing of the G dominant ninth chord

    The polychord voicing of the C major ninth chord

    “Check Them Out…”

    Chord 2:

    Chord 5:

    Chord 1:

    The 7-3-6 Chord Progression

    In the 7-3-6 chord progression in the key of C major:

    …the root moves from the seventh tone (which is B):

    …to the third tone (which is E):

    …then to the sixth tone (which is A):

    Using the B half-diminished seventh chord:

    …the E dominant seventh [flat ninth] chord:

    …and the A minor ninth chord:

    …we can derive the following polychords:

    The polychord voicing of the B half-diminished seventh chord

    The polychord voicing of the E dominant seventh [flat ninth] chord

    The polychord voicing of the A minor ninth chord

    “Check Them Out…”

    Chord 7:

    Chord 3:

    Chord 6:

    Application Of The Polychord Voicing Technique In Songs

    In addition to the application of polychords we learned in the previous segment, let’s breakdown a few songs like:

    Oh how I love Jesus

    Thank You, Lord

    …and how they can be played with polychords.

    Example #1 – Oh How I Love Jesus

    Oh (chord 1):

    …how I love  (chord 3):

    …Je-sus (chord 6):

    Oh (chord 2):

    …how I love (chord 5):

    …Je (chord 1):

    …sus (chord 5):

    Oh (chord 1):

    …how I love (chord 3):

    …Je-sus be (chord 6):

    …cau-ause he (chord 2):

    …first loved (chord 5):

    …me (chord 1):

    Example #2 – Thank You, Lord

    Thank (chord 1):

    …you (chord 3):

    …Lord (chord 6):

    Thank you (chord 2):

    …Lord (chord 5):

    Thank (chord 1):

    …you (chord 3):

    …Lord (chord 6):

    I just want to (chord 2):

    …thank you (chord 5):

    …Lord (chord 1):

    Final Words

    Using the concept of embedded chords, you can rearrange any seventh or extended chord to become a  polychord; achieving a fuller sound.

    Go ahead and practice the songs and chord progressions learned in all twelve keys.

    See you in the next lesson, next week!

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as a music consultant and content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with thousands of musicians across the world.

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