Playing Chromatic Voicings to Lead into Choruses on Piano
There are many situations where you are required, as a pianist to lead the
band into the chorus-part of a song. To do this, many pianist use different types of chromatic voicings or
chords. It is, however important to learn the basics of chords first, and once you know them, it is easy to
then go on to playing various voicings of chords, and then to lead the way into the choruses.
When playing together with a band, you, unfortunately, can’t just play normal basic piano chords. You have to change them, invert them, and make them different with
added notes, such as 7ths, 9ths, and 13ths.
This is important before you learn to play piano chromatic voicings.
There are two categories of chromatic voicings: Rooted and rootless voicings.
Rooted voicings means that the root or the bass note is included.
Rootless, are with the bass note excluded.
Rooted voicings can often be heard in blues music. An example of this is: I, Vi, II, V, I.
In other words: From the tonic, C Major, you go to the 6th step, A minor.
Then to D minor, to the dominant, G, and then back to the Tonic, C Major.
With rooted chords or voicings, it is important to practice a lot. To get the different notes between the two
Often 7ths, 9ths, and 13ths are used, and it is important to know which goes where.
Another important aspect of rooted voicings is the use of the
To play the voicings and the correct rhythm, can be demanding. Therefore, it is recommended to practice the I,
VI, II, V, I progression in all keys on the piano, until you become acquainted with all keys, and all forms of
voicings for these chords.
Also, practice the rhythm in bridges of songs. It’s no use to just practice voicings for choruses and not
knowing what happens in the bridge.
Now we come to rootless voicings. Like I said, rootless voicings are without the root or bass note of the chord.
This can be tricky at first, but overall, it is easier to play, and much more fun.
Note that this type of voicings is not suitable to play without a bass player. First practice comping yourself
by playing the voicings with your left hand, while playing the melody or improvising with your right hand.
We get various types of rootless chords or voicings:
Minor 7ths you can try in all sorts of inversions. You can start from the fifth or the seventh note of the
chord, and fill it UP further. With major seventh triads you can build it UP from the root or do inversions.
Some sound good and some don’t. Try it out for yourself.
Then we have the “Sus” or sustained chords which work just like the minor 7th chords. Some examples of other
forms of chromatic voicings are, mixolydian scales, octotonic, whole-tones, etc.
You can try different voicings in all situations. Just watch that you don’t, for instance, while playing
Mixolydian, play other notes not in the scale.
It’s fun playing around with different types of piano scales, arpeggios, before going into choruses and bridges.
I recommend that you practice this a lot, and have fun!
Last note: It is also recommended that you practice these voicings with a score, so you can learn the theory
behind the chords, and see how it looks like on paper.
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