• These Shell Voicings Will Transform Your Left Hand

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,Piano

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    In this lesson, I’ll be showing you left hand shell voicings  that will transform your left hand.

    In a band situation, the role of the pianist’s left hand isn’t to provide bass notes. Else, he’ll be clashing with the bass player (who’s assigned with the role of supplying bass notes).

    The left hand of the pianist in a band situation should play chords, voicings, or anything harmonic but definitely not bass notes. The shell voicings you’re about to learn are not chords, however, they are great when played with the left hand.

    Attention: This lesson is for you; even if you’ve not come across the term shell voicing before.

    Thanks for giving me your undivided attention. So, let’s start by breaking down the concept of shell voicing.

    A Short Note On The Concept Of Shell Voicing

    The concept of voicing is concerned as the consideration of the notes of a chord as voices or voice parts. The notes of the C major seventh chord:

    …can be considered as the following voice parts:

    B (is the soprano voice):

    G (is the alto voice):

    E (is the tenor voice):

    C (is the bass voice):

    The rearrangement of these voice parts using voicing techniques produces chord voicings simply called voicings.

    “So, What Is A Shell Voicing?”

    The third and seventh tone of any given chord is known as its shell. Therefore, arranging a chord in such a way that only its third and seventh tones are played produces the shell voicing.

    In the C major seventh chord:

    …the third tone is E:

    …and the seventh tones is B:

    …the shell voicing of the C major seventh chord is produced when E and B:

    …are played or heard together.

    It is important to note that the key difference between a major seventh, minor seventh, and a dominant seventh chord is their skeleton.

    “Check It Out…”

    The skeleton of the C major seventh chord:

    …is E-B:

    The skeleton of the C minor seventh chord:

    …is Eb-Bb:

    The skeleton of the C dominant seventh chord:

    …is E-Bb:

    Using the shell voicing concept, a seventh or extended major, minor, or dominant chord can be played with two notes.

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

    The A & B Voicing Concept

    The placement of the notes in the shell voicing of a chord is important and there are two possible placements:

    Placing the third before the seventh

    Placing the seventh before the third

    …the former is known as the A-voicing while the later is known as the B-voicing.

    The C major seventh chord:

    …can either be played in A-voicing:

    …or B-voicing:

    The use of the A & B voicing concept to rearrange the shell voicing of a chord adds a degree of smoothness to the shell voicing concept and we’ll see that in the next segment.

    Shell Voicings For The Left Hand

    Every tone of the scale is associated with a chord and these chords are described as scale-tone chords. Scale tone chords include the 1-chord, 2-chord, 3-chord, 4-chord, etc.

    Let’s explore left hand shell voicings of these scale tones using the key of C major:

    …as a reference to other keys.

    The 1-chord

    The first tone in the key of C major:

    …is C:

    …and the 1-chord is the C major seventh chord:

    The shell voicing of the C major seventh chord consists of its third and seventh tones which are “E and B”:

    Here’s the shell voicing of the 1-chord:

    …played on the left hand over the C root note:

    Passing Chord To The 4-chord

    The root of C dominant seventh chord:

    …is C (which is the first tone of the C major scale):

    …and the C dominant seventh chord functions as a passing chord to the 4-chord.

    The shell voicing of the C dominant seventh chord consists of its third and seventh tones which are “E and Bb”:

    Here’s the shell voicing of the passing chord to the 4-chord:

    …played on the left hand over the C root note:

    The 2-chord

    The second tone in the key of C major:

    …is D:

    …and the 2-chord is the D minor seventh chord:

    The shell voicing of the D minor seventh chord consists of its third and seventh tones which are “F and C”:

    Here’s the shell voicing of the 2-chord:

    …played on the left hand over the D root note:

    Passing Chord To The 5-chord

    The root of D dominant seventh chord:

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

    …and the D dominant seventh chord functions as a passing chord to the 5-chord.

    The shell voicing of the D dominant seventh chord consists of its third and seventh tones which are “F# and C”:

    Here’s the shell voicing of the passing chord to the 5-chord:

    …played on the left hand over the D root note:

    The 3-chord

    The third tone in the key of C major:

    …is E:

    …and the 3-chord is the E minor seventh chord:

    The shell voicing of the E minor seventh chord consists of its third and seventh tones which are “G and D”:

    Here’s the shell voicing of the 3-chord:

    …played on the left hand over the E root note:

    Passing Chord To The 6-chord

    The root of E dominant seventh chord:

    …is E (which is the third tone of the C major scale):

    …and the E dominant seventh chord functions as a passing chord to the 6-chord.

    The shell voicing of the E dominant seventh chord consists of its third and seventh tones which are “G# and D”:

    Here’s the shell voicing of the passing chord to the 6-chord:

    …played on the left hand over the E root note:

    The 4-chord

    The fourth tone in the key of C major:

    …is F:

    …and the 4-chord is the F major seventh chord:

    The shell voicing of the F major seventh chord consists of its seventh and third tones (B-voicing) which are “E and A”:

    Here’s the shell voicing of the 4-chord:

    …played on the left hand over the F root note:

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

    The 5-chord

    The fifth tone in the key of C major:

    …is G:

    …and the 5-chord is the G dominant seventh chord:

    The shell voicing of the G dominant seventh chord consists of its seventh and third tones (B-voicing) which are “F and B”:

    Here’s the shell voicing of the 5-chord:

    …played on the left hand over the G root note:

    The 6-chord

    The sixth tone in the key of C major:

    …is A:

    …and the 6-chord is the A minor seventh chord:

    The shell voicing of the A minor seventh chord consists of its seventh and third tones (B-voicing) which are “G and C”:

    Here’s the shell voicing of the 6-chord:

    …played on the left hand over the A root note:

    Passing Chord To The 2-chord

    The root of A dominant seventh chord:

    …is A (which is the sixth tone of the C major scale):

    …and the A dominant seventh chord functions as a passing chord to the 2-chord.

    The shell voicing of the A dominant seventh chord consists of its seventh and third tones (B-voicing) which are “G and C#”:

    Here’s the shell voicing of the passing chord to the 2-chord:

    …played on the left hand over the A root note:

    The 7-chord

    The seventh tone in the key of C major:

    …is B:

    …and the 7-chord is the B half-diminished seventh chord:

    The shell voicing of the B half-diminished seventh chord consists of its seventh and third tones (B-voicing) which are “A and D”:

    Here’s the shell voicing of the 7-chord:

    …played on the left hand over the B root note:

    Passing Chord To The 3-chord

    The root of B dominant seventh chord:

    …is B (which is the seventh tone of the C major scale):

    …and the B dominant seventh chord functions as a passing chord to the 3-chord.

    The shell voicing of the B dominant seventh chord consists of its seventh and third tones (B-voicing) which are “A and D#”:

    Here’s the shell voicing of the passing chord to the 3-chord:

    …played on the left hand over the B root note:

    Final Words

    Using the left hand voicings below, I have no doubt that you’ll be able to fit into a band situation without clashing with the bass player.

    In a subsequent lesson, we’ll be exploring how these shell voicings can be used to form extended chords.

    Until then, keep up the good work!

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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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