Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off one whole year of Unlimited learning. Subscribe for just £249.99 £174.99. New subscribers only T&Cs apply

Find out more

Thinner Voicings

Thinner Voicings
When we looked at our basic chords in the previous sections, we spoke about ways in which you could thicken the chord. Take the ninth version of C7. Then you can add the sixth. You can add the fifth, and you could probably add the octave as well, if you really wanted to. So that’s thickening chords. What about the opposite - thinning chords? There are contexts in which you play thinner chords. One of the ways in which you play thinner chords is simply to miss out some of the notes that are in the chord. For example, in the last section we were looking at the standard “Stella By Starlight”. If you play the tune with the hands separated
then there’s no question of clashing. But if you play the tune - as I prefer it - in the middle of the piano then - and I’m going to keep the voicings in the same position (I could change the positions of the voicings, but just to make the point) I can only play part of C minor7 - I have to miss out the G. Similarly for F7. Similarly for F minor7. Similarly I have to miss out the G. The same for B flat7. Then when I get down to here, I can either play the chord very quietly, or just play the note below the tune.
That’s missing notes out. Now missing notes out can sometimes be quite effective. For example, if we’re looking at playing a blues - especially if we’ve got to do a lot of choruses of blues - then we might start off more simply and then get a bit more complicated. For example, if I’m playing a blues, I might - as I’ve shown you before - play open sevenths for a bit. But I might also then do a chorus where I might just use the thirds and the sevenths of the chord - sometimes called “guide tones”. If I take the thirds and sevenths I have a choice.
For example, if I do a blues in C I have a choice of that third and seventh, or that third and seventh. Let’s choose that. Let me just do a little bit and show you what I mean. 1,2,3,4.
Then I can do the same thing using the upper voicings as well. Just simply, the bass player is establishing the roots, and we’re establishing that it’s a seventh chord and just playing the thirds and the sevenths to do so. That’s a case of missing out notes to make the chords thinner. Then there are other thinner chords. For example, take C major, then we’ve seen for C major7 when we’ve had a waltz that the chords I attribute to John Taylor - whether they’re his or not I wouldn’t like to guarantee, but I think so.
That’s C major7 - the third, the octave and the ninth. Then if we want to sus it, we just move the third up and we get C major7 sus4. We’re just playing over C major.
Of course, there’s no seventh in there, so one could actually do the same thing for C7.
But I think that chord is mostly used in a major seventh setting. Then there’s new voicings which are thin in character. Here’s a favourite of mine. I’ve given it, first of all, for C minor7.
It’s a bit low really. Let me just show you it in F minor7.
What we’ve got there is the third and the seventh, which tells us it’s Fminor 7, given the root. Then we’ve got a ninth in. Remember the ninth is a pretty indispensable sound. Notice that in the John Taylor chord, we have a second in there - a crunch - that’s a major second. Notice in this chord that I use we have a minor second crunch. Minor seconds I tend to associate more with Bill Evans. If you’re in a concert hall and you have a glorious acoustic and a beautiful piano, just playing something as simple as that
will have an impact, because of the sort of fact that it’s thin but lush none the same. Roughly speaking, the more inferior the piano or the keyboard, then the thicker the chords I tend to play. The better - then the thinner chords - because the overtones do the job of filling it out. Some examples of thinner voicings.

We present some examples of thinner voicings, where the voicings typically use fewer notes. In particular, we consider “guide tones” which just consists of playing the third and seventh of a chord in the left hand.

You can download the chart for “Thinner Chord Voicings” in PDF format at the bottom of this step.

This article is from the free online

Learn Jazz Piano: Advanced and Solo Playing

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now