• 5 Voicing Techniques For Intermediate Pianists In 5 Weeks

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,Piano,Theory

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    If you’re interested in learning voicing techniques for intermediate pianists, then I’m happy to let you know that you’re on the right page.

    For the next 5 weeks, we’ll be dealing extensively with the concept of chord voicing and provided you’re not an the advanced or beginner level, you’ll enjoy this 5-week program.

    In this introductory blog post, we’re giving you a bird eye-view into the subject, underlining the concepts and rationale behind these voicing techniques. Although there are several voicing techniques out there, we chose these 5  that will revolutionize your playing in a fraction of time.

    The next 5 weeks will be amazing and I’m certain this would mark the beginning of new heights in your approach to chords and voicing.

    Welcome aboard and fasten your seat belts, people!

    The Concept Of Chord Voicing – Explained

    The relationship between notes that are heard at the same time (simultaneously), produces harmony. Although there are several harmony types, we’ll be focusing on these two:

    • Vocal Harmony
    • Keyboard Harmony

    “On Vocal Harmony…”

    There are four main voice parts in a choir:

    Soprano, the first voice

    Alto, the second voice

    Tenor, the third voice

    Bass, the fourth voice

    When these voice parts sing together, the outcome is vocal harmony.

    “On Keyboard Harmony…”

    The collection of notes in keyboard harmony are generally defined as chords. A chord is a collection of three or more related notes (agreeable or not), sounded together.

    There are various classes of chords, ranging from triads (like the C major triad):

    …to seventh chords (like the C major seventh chord):

    “What Is Chord Voicing?”

    When musicians talk about chord voicing, they are describing the process of conceptualizing keyboard harmony as vocal harmony.

    In other words, chord voicing is a vocal approach to keyboard harmony. Consequently, the notes of a chord are considered as voices or voice parts. For example, in the C major seventh chord:

    …its notes are considered as voices thus:


    …is the soprano voice.


    …is the alto voice.


    …is the tenor voice.


    …is the bass voice.

    Other Considerations In Chord Voicing

    Beyond the vocal approach to keyboard harmony, there are other important things to consider in chord voicing, which include (but is not limited to):

    • The movement of the voices (in a chord progression)
    • The rearrangement of the voices

    We’ll be exploring a variety of techniques that can be used in the voicing (aka – “rearrangement”) of a chord. From the “part-over-root” voicing technique, to the upper-structure voicing technique, and more.

    Voicing Techniques For Intermediate Pianists

    Intermediate pianists sophisticate their playing by incorporating voicing techniques in their harmonies and we’ll be covering a few of them in this lesson, which include (but is not limited to) the following:

    “Part-Over-Root” voicing technique

    Upper-structure voicing technique

    Drop-2 voicing technique

    A & B voicing technique

    Polychord voicing technique

    Let’s discuss them extensively.

    Polychord Voicing Technique

    In the polychord voicing technique, two chords or more are superimposed to form a bigger chord, usually referred to as the polychord.

    For example, the polychord below:

    …is a D major ninth chord:

    …and it consists of these two chords:

    The D major triad:

    …and the A major triad (played in its first inversion):

    So, the superimposition of the A major triad (played in its first inversion) over the D major triad produces the polychord voicing of the D major ninth chord:

    Superimposing the A major triad:

    …over the D major seventh chord (played in its second inversion):

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

    “How To Form Polychord Voicings…”

    The polychord voicing of a given chord can be formed by the superimposition of two or more embedded chords in the given chord.

    So, it’s important for you to look out for the embedded chords in every given seventh or extended chord. For example, the C major ninth chord:

    …has the following embedded chords:

    C major triad

    E minor triad

    G major triad

    C major seventh chord

    E minor seventh chord

    Superimposing the G major triad (played in second inversion):

    …over the C major triad:

    …produces the C major ninth chord:

    In a nutshell, superimposing the embedded chords in a given chord  produces its polychord voicing.

    A & B Voicing Technique

    In the A & B voicing technique, a chord is voiced in reference to its third and seventh tones.

    When the third tone is played before the seventh tone, the chord is said to be in its A voicing, while in voicings where the seventh tone is played before the seventh tone, the chord is said to be in its B voicing.

    The A & B voicing technique can be represented using voicing numbers. The A voicing is represented as 3-7 while the B voicing is represented as 7-3.

    In addition to the 3-7 voicing of a chord, the ninth tone is added to make it a 3-7-9 voicing, while the fifth or thirteenth chord tones can be added to the 7-3 voicing to make it a 7-3-5 or 7-3-13.

    For example, the D major ninth chord:

    …can be voiced using the A voicing technique (3-7-9 voicing). Playing the third, seventh, and ninth tones of the D major ninth chord (which are F#, C#, and E):

    …produces the A voicing of the D major ninth chord:

    Using the following voicing numbers, most chords can be rearranged:






    Drop-2 Voicing Technique

    In the drop-2 voicing technique, the 2nd voice of the chord is transposed to a lower octave and this is probably the simplest voicing technique on the list.

    Here’s how voices are reckoned in chords using the C major seventh chord as a reference:

    B is the first voice

    G is the second voice

    E is the third voice

    C is the fourth voice

    Attention: Due to the fact that there are more than 4 voices in extended chords, you might find it challenging to apply the drop-2 voicing technique on extended chords like ninths, elevenths, and thirteenths.

    Given the C major seventh chord:

    …the first voice is B:

    …and the second voice is G:

    Having determined the second voice (which is G), the transposition of this second voice (G):

    …to a lower octave (lower G):

    …produces the drop-2 voicing of the C major seventh chord:

    Additionally, inverted chords can be rearranged using this voicing technique. For example, the second inversion of the F# minor seventh chord:

    …has A as its first voice:

    …and F# as its second voice.

    Having determined the second voice (which is F#), the transposition of this second voice (F#):

    …to a lower octave (lower F#):

    …produces the drop-2 voicing of the F# minor seventh chord (in second inversion):

    Summarily, the octave transposition of the second voice to a lower octave produces the drop-2 voicing of a chord.

    Upper-Structure Voicing Technique

    The upper-structure voicing technique is used mainly for extended chords (like ninths, elevenths, and thirteenths).

    In this voicing technique, the extensions of a given extended chord (and some basic tones as well) can be played using a triad as the uppermost notes of the chord.

    For example, the extensions of the C dominant thirteenth [sharp eleventh] chord:

    …which are D (the ninth):

    …F# (the [sharp] eleventh):

    …and A (the thirteenth):

    Can be played using the D major triad (in any inversion):

    …as the uppermost notes of the chord.

    So, playing the D major triad:

    …over the “3-7 voicing” of the C dominant thirteenth [sharp eleventh] chord:

    …produces the upper-structure voicing of the C dominant thirteenth [sharp eleventh] chord:

    Attention: The concept of the 3-7 voicing was covered earlier when we were discussing on the A & B voicing technique.

    The triads used in the upper-structure voicing technique are known as upper-structure triads and

    “Take Note…”

    Before anyone can apply the upper-structure voicing technique, he/she must be able to determine the appropriate upper-structure triad to use.

    “Part-Over-Root” Voicing Technique

    In the “part-over-root” voicing technique, the root of a given chord is isolated from the chord and the remaining chord tones (which are its upper part) are considered as a individual chord.

    For example, the D dominant ninth chord:

    …can be rearranged using the “part-over-root” voicing technique.

    “Here’s How It Works…”

    The root of the chord (which is D):

    …is isolated from the chord (and is played an octave below its position):

    The remainder chord tones (which are F#, A, C, and E):

    …are considered as an individual chord — the F# half-diminished seventh chord.

    So, playing the F half-diminished seventh chord:

    …over a D bass note:

    …produces the “part-over-root” voicing of the D dominant ninth chord:

    Final Words

    Over the next 5 weeks, we’ll learn more about these voicings and how they can be used to revolutionize chords and progressions.

    All the best!

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    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku 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.

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