• Eleventh Day Of Christmas: Eleven Left Hand Voicings

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,Piano

    left hand voicings

    One of the challenges intermediate piano players face is the ability to play chords on the left hand.

    No doubt, the left hand of an intermediate piano player can do much more than that of a beginner.

    For example, besides playing bass notes, an intermediate pianist (or keyboardist) might also play intervals like octaves and fifths.

    But when it comes to left hand chord voicings, that’s where the boys and girls are separated from the men and women.

    The importance of playing chords on the left hand cannot be over-emphasized. Let’s look at a few situations where left hand chords can prove helpful.

    Situation #1 – Organ

    Playing the organ can be demanding if the organ has manuals and pedals.

    Manuals are played with the hands while pedals (bass notes) are played with the feet.

    Now, here’s a question for you:

    While supplying bass notes using the pedal, how productive is it to still play bass notes on the left?

    You already know that while playing bass notes on the pedals, the left hand should play chords that will house right hand melodies.

    Considering these things, an organist may be doing any one of the following:

    1st Activity

    Bass notes Feet
    Chords Left Hand
    Melody (licks, riffs, etc) Right Hand


    2nd Activity

    Bass notes Feet
    Chords Left Hand
    Chords Right Hand

    In the 2nd activity, the organist is playing chords on both hands.

    These 2-hand chords are known as polychords, if two different chords are used.

    Situation #2 – Band

    For every serious pianist, a day must surely come when you’ll leave your “morning devotion” zone to a band situation where everyone is assigned a role.

    Below are the individual roles of musicians in a band situation:

    Rhythm: Drums and percussion instruments.

    Melodic bottom: Bass guitar.

    Harmonic structure: Piano, Organ and keyboard instruments (sometimes Guitar).

    Melodic top: Guitar, Saxophone, Vocals.

    Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive (there may be brass instruments, etc), but you get the idea.

    In such band situations, you’ll be trespassing by playing the bass note and there are bass players who find this offensive.

    Unless need arises, the pianist is to stick to his assignment of housing the melody with chords (called “harmonic structures”).

    When I say chords, I’m not just talking about basic chords (like using C major triad as chord 1 in the key of C). I’m talking about things like the E quartal triad:
    left hand voicings
    …over C on the bass:

    left hand voicings
    …to produce:

    C 6/9
    left hand voicings
    …a harmonic infrastructure. Lol!

    If you give me the next 30 seconds, I’ll share my story with you.

    In 2008, I found myself in a band situation.

    I was playing with my right hand alone because my left was just bass notes and intervals.

    I had fantastic worship chords from our classic Gospel Keys 202 dvd course.

    Notwithstanding the chords, my bassist would shake his head in disapproval each time I added my left hand (that functioned, by habit, as a bass player for years).

    I kept struggling with my left hand until 2010, the Black Friday offer of Gospel Keys 600 featuring Jonathan Powell. I bought it and it revolutionized my playing (in one word).

    I benefited immensely from that course. Not just left hand voicings but two-hand voicings that endeared me to my bassist.

    You don’t need to wait until the next Black Friday sale. You will do well to check out Gospel Keys 600.

    The benefits of playing left hand voicings in a band situation are worth the stress of learning left hand voicings. Trust me.

    With chords on the left, the right hand can embellish with chords, riffs, licks etc.

    Who else wants to play left hand chords?

    Now that you’ve realized the importance of not playing bass notes in various situations, let’s take things a step further by revealing eleven left hand voicings you can start using in your playing today.

    I’ll be breaking them down in the key of C.

    Feel free to transpose the chords to all keys using our midi player tool below.

    Left Hand Voicings for the 1-Chord

    This chord can be played on the first degree of the scale.

    I’ll give you two chord qualities in this segment:

    • Major 9th
    • Dominant 13th

    Voicing #1 – C Major 9th

    The regular Cmaj9 chord is played:

    …our left hand voicing of this chord omits its root (C) and pretty much, we are left with the third, fifth, seventh and ninth chord tone (E G B D).

    Our left hand voicing of Cmaj9 pretty much looks like an Emin7 chord.

    However, with C in the bass (handled by a bass player or the foot pedal on organ), it will yield a Cmaj9 overall.

    Voicing #2 – C Dominant 13th

    I’m throwing in a passing chord to the chord 4:

    Dominant seventh and extended chords are what we call tritonic and this chord is no exception.

    Left Hand Voicings for the 2-Chord

    The second degree of the scale is associated with the minor chord quality.

    However, I’ll be giving you another dominant 13th chord.

    Voicing #3 – D Minor 9th

    This left hand voicing of D minor 9th looks like an F major seventh chord.

    However, with D in the bass, it will yield a D minor 9th chord overall.

    Voicing #4 – D Dominant 13th

    Here’s a passing chord (bass is D) that will take you to the 5-chord:

    Left Hand Voicings for the 3-Chord

    We’re on the third degree now.

    Chord formation on the third degree will also produce chords of minor quality.

    In addition to that, you’ll also learn the altered chord that will function as passing chords to chords on the sixth degree of the scale.

    Voicing #5 – E Minor 7th

    This is clearly a G major triad played in second inversion. However, over an E bass note (supplied either by your bass player or organ pedal) this will yield an E minor 7th chord overall.

    Voicing #6 – E Altered

    If you’re looking for another passing chord to the sixth-degree chord of the C major scale (A minor), this will do:

    You can use this altered chord to resolve to the 6-chord I’ll be showing you in the next three segments.

    Left Hand Voicing for the 4-Chord

    Just like the 1-chord, the 4-chord has a major quality.

    In this segment, you’ll learn a different major 9th voicing.

    Voicing #7 – F Major 9th

    The regular Fmaj9 chord is played:

    …using voice leading principles, the left hand voicing of this chord is played in the B voicing style.

    Left Hand Voicings for Chord 5

    We’ll be looking at two chord qualities that are commonly used on the fifth degree:

    • Dominant 13 [b9]
    • Minor 9th

    Voicing #8 – G Dominant 13 [b9]

    This is a left hand voicing is featured a lot in gospel and jazz styles. Functions as a passing chord to the 1-chord.

    Voicing #9 – G minor 9th

    This chord quality is usually used in a 5-1-4 chord progression.

    Connect this with voicing #2 above (C dominant 13th) and end on voicing #7 (F major 9), and you’ve got yourself a left-hand 5-1-4 chord progression:

    Left Hand Voicings for the 6-Chord

    At last, we’re on the sixth degree.

    In this segment, I’ll be showing you these two chord qualities:

    • Minor 9th
    • Dominant 7 [b9]

    Voicing #10 – A Minor 9th

    This voicing is built off the seventh, ninth, third, and fifth of the regular A minor 9th chord:

    Voicing #11 – A Dominant 7[b9]

    Here’s a common passing chord that will take you to the 2-chord:

    Putting It Together

    Here’s a midi file that’ll help you put these all together.

    Until next time.

    The following two tabs change content below.
    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku (aka - "Dr. Pokey") is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.

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


    { 3 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Ogechukwu

    This is wonderful! I have finally found a proper use for my left hand. Thanks


    2 MIKE

    Very Nice and useful Information. You’re truly a blessing Pokey.
    How can I get my hands on those courses you just mentioned. I’m in Nigeria, and Uyo Precisely


    3 zino



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