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Left-hand voicings for piano

Harmony Basics - Part 43
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Today I will change a bit the usual approach of this article series. What I intend to do this time is to leave aside the purely theoretical aspect and put into practice, in a very simple manner, what we've been discussing in the previous articles regarding voicings.

View other articles in this series...

This article is dedicated to those who want to improve their improvisation skills at the piano, but also to anyone wishing to play only one-handed chords on a small 25-key polyphonic synth or even on a master keyboard for a digital production. The examples I used In the previous articles to illustrate my points were, for the most part, directly translatable to the piano. However, the examples in question usually required the use of both hands. And yet, when playing piano, you generally play the melody on the right hand and the harmonic part on the left.

Enough talking, let’s do this!

 

Off with their thirds!

First of all, as you saw in the previous articles, creating interesting voicings often entails adding tones to the chords. But sometimes you also need to make some inversions. All of this can be summed up in one phrase: avoid layering thirds!

Like in the following example:

Left hand voicings 1
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The previous chords put into practice all rules of voice leading and forced motion that you’ve seen so far. But when you play them you might also realize another thing: they are very easy to play consecutively with one single hand on the piano, without the need to make big movements with your hand across the keyboard. This is perfect to let your right hand improvise more freely along a larger range of keys or to play the chords on a small keyboard!

Rootless?

And there is something that probably caught your attention, too, now that you are harmony experts: the chords don’t have a root! What’s that all about? There’s a simple explanation: The root is often reserved for another instrument: the bass, regardless of whether you are improvising with a jazz trio or just playing some chords within an electronic production.

This will give your more freedom when playing music. In fact, not having to play the root not only allows you to use the five fingers of your hand to add tones to the chords, but also to find the most coherent way to make them progress without having to worry about specific movements of the bass line.

Fingering…

The small numbers next to the notes indicate the finger to use: 1 for the thumb and 5 for the little finger. This fingering corresponds to the right hand.

And here you have the same example adapted for the right hand:

Left hand voicings 2

 

← Previous article in this series:
Voicings and cadences - Follow-up and end
Next article in this series:
Voicings for piano (continued) →

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