• Who Else Is Interested In Learning Creative Fourth Voicings For Both Hands?

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,Piano,Theory

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    In today’s lesson, we’ll be looking at creative fourth voicings for both hands.

    This lesson is for anyone who wants to go beyond chord formation using third intervals to the use of fourth voicings for both hands. I’ll be sharing these fourth voicings with you to take you a step ahead of the traditional principles of chord formation using third intervals.

    Before we go any further, let’s lay the foundation of this study by taking a look at what fourth voicings are.

    “What Are Fourth Voicings?”

    We’ll be defining the term fourth voicing by breaking it down into two words – fourth and voicing.

    “What Is A Fourth?”

    The term ‘fourth’ is used by music scholars to describe the size, width or height of interval or a chord that encompasses four tones of any given scale or four letter names.

    The interval C-F:

    …is considered as a fourth because it encompasses four degrees of the C major scale:

    …from C to F:
    …and also because it encompasses four letter names from C to F (C-D-E-F.)

    “Let Me Repeat…”

    The term fourth is used to describe an interval or chord that encompasses four scale tones/letter names.

    “Just Before We’ll Talk About Voicing…”

    There are various classes of fourth intervals.

    Although most fourth intervals on the keyboard, like…

    A-D:

    B-E:

    C-F:

    D-G:

    E-A:

    …are perfect intervals, there are other qualities of fourth intervals like the augmented fourth and the diminished fourth intervals. For example, the distance between C and F#:

    …is an augmented fourth because it is larger than C-F:

    …a perfect fourth interval.

    Also, the distance between C and Fb:

    …is a diminished fourth interval, and is smaller than C-F:
    …a perfect fourth interval.

    In this lesson, we’ll be focusing on the augmented fourth and perfect fourth intervals and how they can be used in chord formation.

    But before that, let’s take a look at the second key word ‘voicing’ in the term fourth voicing.

    “What Is Voicing?”

    Voicing is a concept in music that has to do with the consideration of the notes of a chord as voices or voice parts (like soprano, alto, tenor, and bass), and also the re-arrangement of these voice parts.

    “Fourth Voicing Concept In A Nutshell…”

    The fourth voicing concept focuses on the re-arrangement of the notes of a chord in such a way that the distance (aka – “interval”) between successive chord tones are fourth intervals and you’ll be learning witty, intelligent, and mind-blowing ways of changing the structure of chords from third to fourth intervals.

    The Pentatonic Scale

    The pentatonic scale is basically a five-tone scale.

    In the word pentatonic, penta means five, while tonic means notes. Although there are various pentatonic scales, we’ll be focusing on the major pentatonic scale in this lesson.

    Suggested reading: Scale-Formation: Casting Out The Devil In Music.

    One of the easiest known ways to form the major pentatonic scale is by removing the fourth and seventh tones of the natural major scale.

    The C major pentatonic scale can be formed by removing the fourth (F):

    …and seventh (B):

    …tones of the C natural major scale:

    Check out the C major pentatonic scale:

    One of the characteristics of the major pentatonic scale is that it is a gapped scale. The gap here is caused by the absence of the fourth:

    …and seventh tones:

    …of the major scale:

    In between the third and the fifth tones:

    …of the major pentatonic scale:

    …is a gap of three half steps (aka – “sesquitone“), which is also between the sixth and the first tones (which are A:

    …and C:

    …respectively.)

    Chord Formation Using The Major Pentatonic Scale

    Using the natural major scale or any other traditional scale, chords can be formed using the pick-skip technique.

    “Here’s How It Works…”

    Using the C natural major scale:

    …we can form a chord on C by picking C:

    …skipping D and picking E:

    …skipping F and picking G:

    …skipping A and picking B:

    Altogether, that’s the C major seventh chord:

    Most tertian chords are formed by using the pick-skip technique on traditional scales.

    Using the pick-skip technique on the major pentatonic scale creates fourth voicings, and that’s what we’ll be exploring in this lesson.

    Attention: Our reference is the C major pentatonic scale:

    …and we’ll be creating three note chord voicings for the six degrees of the major pentatonic scale.

    Fourth Voicing #1

    Starting from C:

    …(which is the first tone), pick C:

    …skip D and pick E:

    … skip G and pick A (there’s no F):

    …and altogether that’s the first voicing:

    Fourth Voicing #2

    Starting from D:

    …the second tone.

    Pick D:

    …skip E and pick G:

    …skip A and pick C:

    …and altogether, that’s the second voicing:

    Fourth Voicing #3

    Starting from E:

    ..the third tone.

    Pick E:

    …skip G and pick A:

    …skip C and pick D:

    Altogether, that’s the third voicing:

    Fourth Voicing #4

    From G:

    …which is the fourth tone of the C major pentatonic scale:

    Pick G:

    …skip A and pick C:

    …skip D and pick E:

    …to form the fourth voicing:

    Fourth Voicing #5

    The next fourth voicing starts from A:

    …the fifth tone of the C major pentatonic scale.

    Pick A:

    …skip C and pick D:

    …skip E and pick G:

    …to form the fifth voicing:

    “In A Nutshell…”

    We’ve formed six chords using the C major pentatonic scale. From the first inversion of  A minor triad:

    …to the D7sus4 chord:

    …to the E7sus4 chord:

    …to the second inversion of the C major triad:

    …and finally to the A7sus4 chord:

    We’ve formed a variety of fourth voicings (aka – “quartal chords”) using the major pentatonic scale. Let’s proceed into learning creative ways these voicings can be used in the formation of bigger chord voicings.

    Creative Fourth Voicings For Both Hands

    The voicings we learned can be combined to form bigger quartal chords. For example, a combination of the first voicing (the first inversion of the A minor triad):

    …and the second voicing, (which is the D7sus4):

    …produces a bigger chord voicing for both hands.

    Playing the first voicing:

    …on the left hand, and the second voicing:

    …on the right hand, produces the C6add9 chord:

    “We Can Also Form Another Voicing By Stacking The Second And The Third Voicings Together…”

    The second voicing is the D7sus4:

    …and the third voicing is the E7sus4:

    …altogether, the D9sus4:

    The third voicing is a product of the third voicing (the E7sus4):

    …and the fourth voicing (the second inversion of the C major triad):

    …on the right hand. Altogether, that’s the Amin11 chord:

    “Following the same procedure, we can form bigger chord voicings for every degree of the major pentatonic scale…”

    Voicing one and two:
    …produces the C6add9 chord, which can be played as chord 1 and 4 in the key of C.

    Voicing two and three:

    …produces the D9sus4 chord, which can be played as chord 2 and 6 in the key of C.

    Voicing three and four:

    …produces the C6add9 chord, which can be played as chord 1 and 4 in the key of C.

    Voicing four and five:

    …produces the C6add9 chord, which can be played as chord 1 and 6 in the key of C.

    Finally, voicing five and one:
    …produces the Amin11 chord, which can be played as chord 4 and 6 in the key of C.

    Final Words

    Making it to this point, lets me know that you’re serious about learning how to voice quartal chords using the pentatonic scale, however, this is just the beginning of this discussion.

    In a subsequent post, we’ll be exploring creative ways to voice dominant chords and eventually, how these fourth voicings can be applied to regular chord progressions.

    See you then!

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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 the head of education, music consultant, and chief content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with hundreds of thousands of musicians across the world.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.




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