Voicing 7th Chords

 A little bird told me you wanted to learn voicing 7th chords. Thanks for your emails.

 Here is what I have learned from Noah Baerman on voicing 7th chords.

7th chords open up a whole new world of possibilities. It is funny to think that just
one extra note per chord can greatly alter the sound, but dealing with 7th chords does
just that. Voicing becomes much more important now that we are using 7th chords.
More notes create more voicing possibilities. As jazz keyboardists, we strive to learn
what those possibilities are, how to execute them and what impact each one may have
on the overall sound.

Voice Leading

Here are two examples of voicings for a ii-V-I in Bb Major.

1. C/ CEbGBb


2. C/CEbGBb



The first example makes more sense. Each voicing flows smoothly to the next one,
and the hands have to move very little to play the progression. In the second example
the sound is broken up, and the right hand has to jump around to play the chords.
The difference is that the first example uses good voice leading. Voice leading is the
smooth movement of voices (notes) from one chord tot he next. If your hands are
jumping all over the place, you're probably not using good voice leading, and the
music is unlikely to sound smooth or cohesive. To voice lead well, your hands should
use the least possible amount of energy. Imagine that, the easier it is to play, the better it sounds!

3. Example of a iii-vi-ii-V-I progression in F Major with good voice leading.

A/GACE (Amin7)

D/FACD (Dmin7)

G/GABbD (Gmin7)

C/GBbCE (C7)

F/FACE (FMaj7)

Each of the four voices in the right hand moves very little as the chords change.
Just like the individual singers in a choir, who can't jump around too much without 
getting tired and confused, the voices in a chord should avoid leaps whenever possible.
The bass notes move around more but that's inevitable when the roots are moving in large
intervals like 4ths and 5ths. Since the left hand is playing one note at a time, it is not
difficult to play.

We have more freedom with voicing when the left hand plays the roots. So far, we've
been playing four notes at a time in the right hand whenever we play 7th chords.
Now that we're getting  the hang of them, we can eliminate one of those notes.

4. The right hand can play the 3rd, 5th, and 7th of each chord. The left hand can take 
care of the roots.

D/FAC (Dmin7)

G/DFB (G7)


With this kind of voicing, the sound becomes more open. We don't lose the fullness
because all four notes of each chord are still being played. WE still use the same method
of voice leading, simply omitting the root from the right hand. Let's take the following
progression in B minor.

5. Roots in l.h. and 3rds, 5ths and 7ths  in r.h. with smooth voice leading.

B/ADF# (Bmin7)

E/BDG (Emin7)

B/ADF# (Bmin7)

G/BDF# (GMaj7)

C#/GBE (C#min7b5)

F#/A#C#E (F#7)

B/ADF# (Bmin7)

If we begin the progression with a different voicing for the first Bmin7 chord,
then the voice leading will naturally lead to other voicings for the rest of the chords,
since other voicings will be within easier reach.

6. Here's another way of voicing the same changes with the same technique.

B/DF#A (Bmin7)

E/DGB (Emin7)

B/DF#A (Bmin7)

G/DF#B (GMaj7)

C#/EGB (C#min7b5)

F#/C#EA# (F#7)

B/DF#A (Bmin7)

Hope these are helpful examples. You may want to visit these resources.

Advanced Gospel Courses

Gospel Core Essentials

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All the best,

"The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King
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