HAVING DONE A LOT of work on the background technical information, it's now time to work out a practical approach to putting that information where it really counts - on the keyboard. Play the three chords in Diagram H.
Although these are recognisably C major, F major and G7 chords, the parallel spacing of them leaves me feeling rather unsatisfied. Chords must link together better than that. How? The answer lies in the spacing of the notes from one chord to another, which is usually called "voicing".
What follows is a simple but extremely powerful way of starting yourself on the road to a good keyboard style. All you need to understand is the technical detail of scale and chord construction we've already looked at, and these straightforward ideas to get off the ground.
The following examples will all be shown in notation and in letter names only, working on both hands and shown as follows, simply reading from the bass note (lowest-sounding note) upwards in both hands. Using the three chords C, F, and G7, play the example in Diagram I. Take a good look at this, and notice the following points:
1 The voicings contain only the notes of the chosen chord. C E G, F A C, and G B D F. Some of them appear more than once in the voicings.
2 All the chords are in root position (ie. the root note of the chord is the lowest-sounding, bass note).
3 Common notes between chords stay in the same position - look at the top C in the C major and F major chords, and the Cs in the middle of both chords. The lowest note in the right hand part of the F chord (F), stays exactly where it is in the change to G7.
4 Once the root position movement has been sorted out, and any common notes retained, the other notes of the chord change simply move to the nearest point possible. This sounds better, and is obviously easier to play physically, because you cut down your movements.
Now try another version of the same chord changes, shown in Diagram J. Points 1-4 above are still valid, but the voicings have changed. Materially, this means you've produced a different melodic line on top of the chords in the right hand. But what dictated the change of line, if anything? If you go back to the first chord in each example, you'll see that the starting-point voicing for C major actually determines what follows. If you observe points 1-4 - which, on the grounds of both sound and physical ease of playing, seems a sensible thing to do in each example - then the only conclusion you can come to is that whatever voicing you begin with is bound to affect what follows.
You might think this is dangerous ground - but don't forget you have the freedom of choice in the first place. Nobody can tell you whether the first C chord should have C or E or G at the top - it's entirely up to you. Just remember that the C chord only has C, E, and G as notes in its structure.
As a starting point for voicing, you should be aware of the power of a root position chord, and for the time being, go for that as the only option. You've seen the two most likely starting voicings for any chord (Diagram K).
To begin with, always go for these spacings and see whether you like the result Try the G, Am7, G progression in Diagram L, using both starting points, and see how well they sound in each version.
Do It Yourself
Feature by Steve Sinclair
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