Shell Voicings For Jazz Piano
In this lesson we will apply shell voicings to the tune “The Nearness Of You”. We will also incorporate arpeggio left hand patterns to add variety to the basic shell voicings used in our left.
What Are Shell Voicings?
Shell voicings are the most basic form voicings when playing jazz. Shell voicings typically contain just the essential chord tones which are the root, the 3rd, and the 7th of the chord. Shell voicings help us spread the notes of the chord over an octave so that we achieve a more balanced sound from the piano.
Usually we play the root and 7th of the chord in our left hand, and the 3rd of the chord in our right hand. See the following example:
Vice-versa we can play the root and 3rd in our left hand and the 7th of the chord in our right hand. However, start by playing root and 7th in the left hand as in the example above.
Arpeggio Left Hand Patterns
To add more movement and interest into our left hand, we can arpeggiate the notes of the chord. We can arpeggiate the basic triad as seen over the Fmaj7 and Cmin7 chords below. We can also arpeggiate up to the 7th of the chord and mix this left hand style with shell voicings to create variety in our left hand.
Practice both shell voicings and arpeggiating the notes in our left hand.
251 Progression With Shell Voicings
It’s important for new jazz piano students to be able to construct shell voicings and clearly visualise the 7ths falling to 3rds in the major 251 progression.
Learn Through Application
In the past lessons we practiced the 251 progression with 3-note voicings. We are now going to use the exact same notes and also play the melody in our right hand. The golden formula that we need to remember when playing from lead sheets is:
- Bass note in our left hand
- Melody in our right hand
- 3rd and 7th of the chord in between with either hand
Adding Chords Extensions Into Our Voicings
In the next course on jazz piano chord extensions we learn to add additional notes into our basic shell voicings to achieve a richer and jazzier sound.