A wide variety of musical effects can be realized by the vertical arrangement of notes in a chord. Given their harmonic complexity, Jazz chords offer many opportunities for creative chord voicing.
Let’s begin our exploration of commonly-used chord voicings for a C Major Seventh chord with the most basic arrangement: Root (1) in the left hand and stacked thirds (1-3-5-7) in the right…
(If you need a refresher on chord structure: Chord Structure: The Number System)
Use your ears and knowledge of scales and chord structure to “transpose” this voicing to all spellings in three musically-useful patterns:
- Chromatically Ascending: C > Db > D > Eb > E > F > Gb > G > Ab > A > Bb > B > C.
- Chromatically Descending: C > B > Bb > A > Ab > G > Gb > F > E > Eb > D > Db > C.
- Cycle of Dominants: C > F > Bb > Eb > Ab > Db > Gb > B > E > A > D > G > C.
Doing so helps to develop an enormous chord vocabulary, one that you will know intimately in many ways: by brain, by eye, by ear, by finger, by body, and by heart… and builds a solid foundation for fluent improvisation.