• How To Play Ninth Chords Using Three-Note Voicings

    in Chords & Progressions,Piano,Theory

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    There’s a way to play ninth chords using three-note voicings.

    If you aren’t sure of what three-note voicings are, don’t worry, after this lesson, if someone walks up to you and asks you what three-note voicings are, you’ll not only tell the person what they are, you’ll also be able to put them to work by playing the three-note voicings of ninth chords.

    Just before we get into learning three note voicings (which is our goal in this lesson), let’s talk about voicing.

    “What Is Voicing?”

    A chord is a collection of related notes. Although these notes can be played on the keyboard, they can also be considered to be voices or voice parts.

    Voicing is the consideration of the notes of a chord as voices or voice parts.

    Chords that can easily be formed on the keyboard are called keyboard style chords. But when we go beyond keyboard style chords to delve into arrangements where the tones of a chord are considered as voices [or voice parts], then we’ve started voicing chords.

    There are four voice parts – soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. Therefore, distributing the notes of the C major seventh chord:

    …between these voice parts from the highest to the lowest voice part, we’ll have B:

    …as the soprano voice, G:

    …as the alto voice, E:

    …as the tenor voice, C:

    …as the bass voice.

    The Skeleton Voicing Technique

    There are so many voicing techniques that chords can be rearranged with, but we are looking at three-note voicing technique in this post, which is a sequel to what we covered previously on the skeleton voicing technique.

    Due to the vitality of the third and seventh tones of a chord, they are referred to as the skeleton (aka – “the skeleton in the chordboard“.)

    The skeleton of a chord to a large extent, determines its quality. For instance, the third and the seventh of the C major seventh chord:

    …which are E and B:

    …respectively, form intervals of a major third and major seventh from the root of the chord. From C to E:

    …is a major third while from C to B:

    …is a major seventh. It is the third and seventh tones of the C major seventh chord:

    Major third

    Major seventh

    …that determines to a large extent, its quality.

    Three Note Voicings – Explained

    Today, we are exploring three note voicings of three [out of the five] common seventh chord qualities. We’ll be looking at three-note voicings of the major ninth, the minor ninth, and the dominant ninth chords.

    The Missing Extension – The Ninth

    Beyond the third and the seventh chord tones lies an extension – the ninth.

    The C major ninth chord:

    …has E – B:

    …as its skeleton voicing.

    It is not possible to voice ninth chords using the skeleton voicing technique because the skeleton voicing technique is basically connected to the third and seventh tones and therefore does not include the ninth tone.

    Voicing a ninth chord with the skeleton voicing technique produces a ninth chord with a missing extension and trust me, that’s no ninth chord at all. ;)

    Adding the extension to the skeleton voicing produces three-note voicings. Let me show you step-by-step, how to voice ninth chords using three notes in subsequent segments.

    Three Note Voicings Of The Major Ninth Chord

    Let’s explore the formation of three note voicings of the major ninth chord using the C major ninth chord:

    …as an example.

    The three note voicing of the C major ninth chord consists of the third and seventh tones of the C major scale, which are E and B:

    …and the ninth tone of the C major scale (which is D):

    Simply put, the skeleton of the C major ninth chord:

    …plus its ninth tone:

    …produces the three note voicing of the C major ninth chord:

    For your reference, here are the three note voicings of the major ninth chord in all twelve keys…

    C major ninth:

    Db major ninth:

    D major ninth:

    Eb major ninth:

    E major ninth:

    F major ninth:

    Gb major ninth:

    G major ninth:

    Ab major ninth:

    A major ninth:

    Bb major ninth:

    B major ninth:

    Three Note Voicing Of The Minor Ninth Chord

    In this segment, we’ll be forming three note voicings of the minor ninth chord using the A minor ninth chord:

    …as an example.

    The three note voicing of the A minor ninth chord consists of the third and seventh tones of the A minor scale, which are C and G:

    …and the ninth tone of the A minor scale (which is B):

    Simply put, the skeleton of the A minor ninth chord:

    …plus its ninth tone:

    …produces the three note voicing of the A minor ninth chord:

    For your reference, here are the three note voicings of the minor ninth chord in all twelve keys…

    C minor ninth:

    C# minor ninth:

    D minor ninth:

    Eb minor ninth:

    E minor ninth:

    F minor ninth:

    F# minor ninth:

    G minor ninth:

    G# minor ninth:

    A minor ninth:

    Bb minor ninth:

    B minor ninth:

    Three Note Voicing Of The Dominant Ninth Chord

    Let’s explore the formation of three note voicings of the major ninth chord using the G dominant ninth chord:

    …as an example.

    The three note voicing of the G dominant ninth chord consists of the third and seventh tones of the G mixolydian scale, which are B and F:

    …and the ninth tone of the G mixolydian scale (which is A):

    Simply put, the skeleton of the G dominant ninth chord:

    …plus its ninth tone:

    …produces the three note voicing of the G dominant ninth chord:

    For your reference, here are the three note voicings of the dominant ninth chord in all twelve keys…

    C dominant ninth:

    C# dominant ninth:

    D dominant ninth:

    Eb dominant ninth:

    E dominant ninth:

    F dominant ninth:

    F# dominant ninth:

    G dominant ninth:

    A dominant ninth:

    A dominant ninth:

    Bb dominant ninth:

    B dominant ninth:

    Final Words

    These three-note voicings of ninth chords can be heard in a variety of music genres – especially jazz and gospel music and this makes them important.

    In subsequent posts, we’ll be putting these three-note voicings to work. One of the variety of ways we can apply three note voicings, is to the 2-5-1 chord progression.

    The 2-5-1 chord progression in the key of C major is between the D minor ninth, G dominant thirteenth and C major ninth chords. Here’s how we can use three-note voicings to play the 2-5-1 chord progression…

    Chord 2 is the three note voicing of the D minor ninth chord:

    Chord 5 is the three note voicing of the G dominant thirteenth chord:

    …arranged in B voicing.

    Chord 1 is the three note voicing of the C major ninth chord:

    Did you noticed the use of the three note voicing of the dominant thirteenth chord as chord five? We’ll explore all that and more in subsequent posts on three note voicings. Until then make the most of your three note voicings.

    All the best!

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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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    { 4 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 mark trop

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    3 emmanuel

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    4 zino

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