Learn Big, Rich Jazz Chords On Piano

by Erik Thiede on January 29, 2015

Jazz chords can sometimes be confusing at first glance. In this article, I am going to explain how jazz players usually interpret chords and pick tensions to create lush chords. Bear in mind, every musician has their own “tricks” that they use to form their jazz chords. However, there are some basic harmonic concepts that you need to understand and I’ll cover some of them in this article.

If you are looking for an instructional course on creating full jazz chords at the piano, I’d suggest the Jazz Piano Lessons membership.

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Let’s begin with a basic seventh chord for D-7. Example A is what a typical voicing of a D-7 chord might look like.

Example A

d 7 Learn Big, Rich Jazz Chords On Piano

O.K., that’s pretty simple, right? Now take a look at example B. Does this still look like a D-7 to you?

Example B

d 9 Learn Big, Rich Jazz Chords On Piano

Labeling Chords

You might look at this chord and think F Maj7 or D-9. We can rule out F Maj7 because the root is a D. However, why didn’t I label this chord D-9?

I did not label the chord as D-9 because it is common for jazz players to automatically add tensions to the chords that they are playing. Jazz players know which available tensions each of the jazz chords can utilize. Personally, I’d rather see jazz chords written as D-7 than D-9 or D-9 (add 11). I think that many (not all) pianists would agree with me because as jazz players, we are accustomed to working from a “shell”.

Basically, when I see D-7, I already know that the 9th and 11th are probably available to me. When looking at a lead sheet, especially in a low-light gig situation, I want the lead sheet to be as un-cluttered as possible.

The “Right” Tensions

You might be wondering, which tensions are the “right” tensions for a particular chord? Well, let’s go through the three basic jazz chords: Major, minor and Dominant 7th chords.

Major 7th available tensions are: 9, #11 or 6 (usually replaces the 7th)

Minor 7th available tensions: 9 and 11. 6 would replace the 7th.

Dominant 7th available tensions: b9, 9, #9, #11, b13 and 13.

Chord Type Available Tensions

Major: 9, # 11 or 6 (usually replaces the 7th)

Minor: 9 and 11. 6 would replace the 7th

Dominant: b9, 9, # 9, #11, b13 and 13

So, looking back at the D-7 chord in example B, you’ll notice that I am adding the 9th to the chord. This is just one of many different voicings that I cover in the Piano Chords bundle.

Dominant 7th Tensions

I want to draw your attention to the Dominant 7th available tensions. Once again, they are b9, 9, #9, #11, b13 and 13. Let’s go through the notes for a C7 chord.

C7 chord tones are: C-E-G-Bb

Available tensions are: Db-D-D#-F#-Ab-A

You’ll notice that the only two notes left that are not represented are F and B. F would be a sus4 and B would change the C7 to a C Maj7 chord.

I like to bring this up because remember, when you improvise, you can use any jazz chords tones or available tensions in your solo. So, on a Dominant 7th chord, there are really only two notes that you would try to avoid. This also means that when you play a Dominant 7th chord, you can add almost any note as a tension. Well, let me put it this way, you have a 10 out of 12 chance of hitting the “right” note!

The Million Dollar Question, “Why 13 and not 6?”

I have been asked this question for years! It is a difficult question to answer because it is like asking why does 2+2=4? However, I do have my explanation. Let’s take the C7 chord as an example again.

The chord tones (notes that are found in the chord and not tensions) are C-E-G-Bb for a C7 chord. The C is the root, E is the third, G is the fifth and Bb is the flatted 7th.

It is perfectly reasonable to think of D, F# and A as two, sharp four and six. However, we would call D the ninth, F# sharp eleven and A the thirteenth. You might be asking, “Why?”

Since jazz chords are predominantly formed by “stacking” thirds, we would consider the D-F# and A as being “upper structures” of the chord.

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Top 4 Reasons to Learn to Play Piano

by Tania Gleaves on January 28, 2015

The Piano Has Its Own Unique Sound

One of top 4 reasons to learn to play piano is the unique sound it makes. No other instrument comes close to the type and quality of music generated by the piano, which consequently, is a good thing. High quality music requires that its instruments sound different from each other, yet synthesize in a pleasing way. That’s because when we take the opportunity to appreciate music, we’re really identifying the unique sounds of each instrument, and we’re enjoying (1) how each one of those sounds compliment other sounds, and (2) how each individual sound contributes to the entire song. If it weren’t for the unique sound of the piano, our music would literally change.

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The Piano Has An Outstanding Dynamic Range

Another reason to learn to play piano is for its dynamic range. The piano is known for its large range of soft and loud tones. Played with a combination of delicate touches and pedal-work, this instrument can whisper soft passages and gently tickle your music bone. Later, it can play as loud as an entire band and give the impression that a one-man show is actually an ensemble of accomplished musicians! Such a large range gives this instrument a unique ability to instill dramatic interpretations and experiences.

The Piano Has A Large Pitch Range

A third reason to learn the piano is its pitch range. With over 80 unique pitches, the piano offers one the largest range of notes. This gives its musicians quite a palette to paint with! The pitch range of other string instruments, such as the violin or cello, are somewhat limited when compared to the range of the piano. An expanded pitch range with these types of instruments is _possible_, but it’s not as readily available or accessible as it is on the piano. Only violinists with years of experience for example, can emulate the pitch range of a piano. Beginning pianists however, can enjoy this full scale of notes immediately.

The Piano Plays All Three Elements of Music

One more reason (but certainly not the last) is its versatility. No other instrument can play the melody, rhythm, AND harmony of a song at once. Only the piano is capable of playing all three elements of music and although they aren’t easy to learn at first, practicing how to play them together will propel your status from beginner to advanced. This is largely due to the fact that playing the melody, rhythm, and harmony of a song simultaneously portrays the illusion of multiple instruments and musicians, when in actuality, there’s only one genius behind the madness. And that genius is you!

Click Here For The Top 4 Reasons To Learn To Play Piano!

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Various Notes

January 27, 2015

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Learn to Play Piano Fast – It’s Much Easier Than You Think!

January 25, 2015

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Piano Man Lyrics Inspire the Imagination

January 24, 2015

The Piano Man lyrics still inspire the imagination. Billy Joel certainly created a masterpiece when he penned this song. This soft rock classic dates back to 1972. At the time, Joel was performing in a Los Angeles bar, reportedly called “The Executive Room”, and became friends with the crowd who came to hear him. Click […]

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Piano Sheet Music Confidential

January 23, 2015

Piano sheet music has been around since the birth of the piano. It is the diary of the process of the composer. All of the heart and soul of piece lies within the notation of the sheet music. Sheet music can be used to record or to create a musical score. Musicians often use it […]

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Making Music With a Piano Lamp

January 22, 2015

How Did They Ever Manage In The Past?! We really have to wonder how the musicians of the past fared without electricity. Can you imagine having to play piano by candle light or oil lamp? Can you imagine having to reserve practice to sunny days? Thankfully we’ve advanced to the point where we can play […]

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Learn & Master Piano Review – The Best DVD Piano Lessons

January 21, 2015

The Learn & Master Piano course is considered to be the world’s best home-study DVD program for learning to play the piano. In fact, it is hailed as the #1 piano course available in the market today. It is a top-grade course series by the same brilliant minds who gave us other equally successful instructional […]

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Top 5 Ways To Develop Your Piano Rhythm

January 20, 2015

Learn the basic rhythms. As one of the top 5 ways to develop your piano rhythm, learning the basic beats found in any kind of music will help. The more rhythms that you listen to in fact, the easier they are to identify and emulate. We have for example, the standard four-beat rhythm that counts […]

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