I have to start off by saying that after lurking for a long time perusing historical posts, this is a wonderful forum. So, I thought I’d make a contribution for those looking for alternative chord voicings that can add lushness and variety to your explorations of lead sheets and noodling around, or just to improve on the basic arrangements found in a lot of published pop and old standards. In my years of off and on poking around I’ve run across some fabulous (to me) chord voicings, so I thought I’d share them. Most of them will produce that lush cocktail piano or smooth jazz sound.
Here’s a great voicing for endings, intros, fillers and turn-arounds, nice bass richness
It’s a 1,5 3,6,9 voicing. 1 and 5 of the chord in the bass octave 2 or last couple of notes in Octave 1; right hand, 3, 6 and 9 in octave 3 or into octave 4, depending on the chord chosen.
For example, a “C” voicing would be C2 and G2 bass, treble- E3, A3 and D4. It’s great also as a cadence of 3 or so chords played chromatically. For example, a good ending or filler to a piece in C major is a Bb, B to C cadence. BTW this voicing produces the best sounding C chord ever IMO.
For clarification, I’m using the notation here of the chord using the 1 octave numbering scheme, eg; 1 thru 9 (well, I'm stretching the definition of 1 octave a bit), includiing the right hand extensions, because that’s the way I think of them on the fly, rather than using 10 .11, 12, etc. Occasionally I use 10, because that’s simple to my brain, just a 3 in the next octave.
Another mellow voicing is good any where you can fit it in as a substitute for a basic triad or 7th chord. It’s a 1,5 in the bass or just a 1, then treble is maj7,9,3,5. This voicing is good when the left and right hand notes are in adjacent octaves, but 1 octave lower for the left is also fine. Example “C” voicing:
C3, G3 left hand; B3, D4, E4, G4 right hand.
This chord voicing is a twofer, BTW. Any chord voiced this way as a 7,9,3,5 is also the 3,5,6,1 (8) of the 5th degree of the chord—the 7,9,3,5 of “C” is also the 3,5,6,1 of “G”
Here’s a George Shearing really close voicing that makes a lush fill calling for maj 7th chords—
Play a 4 note maj7th in the right hand and duplicate the maj7th right next to the root with the thumb of the left hand.
You can make a nice easy end passage with this one by first playing this voice, then move the left thumb and right pinky to the flat 6, then the 6. Or, just walk from the flat 6 right back to the maj 7 chromatically. Going down with the thumb and pinky from the original maj 7th chromatically to the flat 6 or the 5 is also useful.
Here’s a couple of open voicings that sound very bright but mellow— best played around the middle of the piano
1, 5 left hand, 1,3, maj7 right hand. This also makes for a good and simple 3-step chromatic cadence chord set.
A nice minor but bright-ish voicing—
Left hand 1 and 7, right hand; m3, 5, 9.
Have fun, hope you find them useful.