Gospel Piano and Organ Chord Voicings

 

One thing that I love to hear when listening to an organist or pianist is when the musician really knows how to voice their chords.

A chord voicing is referring to how you arrange the notes within a particular chord. For example I can play a C major chord several different ways.

right hand    CEG

left hand        C

 

right hand    E C

left hand     C  G

 

right hand    GCG

left hand      CGE

There are so many different ways you can voice a particular chord.  Here are a few tips to follow when you are trying to figure out how to voice a particular chord.

 

  • Know or identify what specific notes make up a particular chord

For example a C major chord is comprised of 3 notes which are C, E and G

Now I know that C, E, and G are the notes that I have to work with. Now I will try to arrange these 3 notes to get the best possible sound.

I can use a particular note of the chord only once in my chord voicing.  I can also use a particular note of the chord more than once in my chord voicing. Let your ear be the judge of what is the best chord voicing

 

  • Look for the sweet spot

Take the notes that make up a particular chord and try to arrange them so that they sound just right.

You don’t want your notes to be too low (played to far to the left) which will make your chords sound muddy or cloudy. You also don’t want to play the chord too high (played too far to the right) which will make the chord sound thin.

You want to find what I call the sweet spot, which is the ideal place on the keyboard for the chord that you are playing. Sometimes a combination of high and low works well. Sometimes a very close voicing works well. (Where the notes a very close to each other)

Sometimes an open voicing works well. (Where the notes have larger spaces in between them)

Experimentation is the key!!! You will be surprised at the great things you can find from just experimenting with different chord arrangements.

  • Use Voice Leading


One thing that makes your chords sound good is good voice leading. Voice leading is how smooth the particular notes within a chord move to the notes in the very next chord.

You don’t want to jump around a lot when playing your chords.  Many times the notes within a particular chord don’t have to move more than a half step, whole step, or a third. This gives you a flowing and connected sound when you play your chord progressions. This sounds pleasing to the ear.  When you move from one chord to the next some of the notes may stay the same. Some may go up and some may go down. This is voice leading. The notes of your chords are the voices and you want them to move smoothly to the next notes of the chords.

I also like to think that the notes in my chord are like individual people singing in a choir. When someone is singing in the choir, the notes that the person sings does not have huge jumps and spaces in them. (Jumping from a really high note to a really low note)

That would sound unnatural and would be difficult to sing. Think of your fingers like little singers and you want each finger to move easily and smoothly from one note to the next note within a chord progression.

These are just 3 tips to think about when voicing your chords. I would love to hear your comments. Please let me know if you have any questions or want me to go into greater detail in any of the above mentioned tips.

KH

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Comments

  1. I’ll like to express thank to your valuable contribution to gospel music education and development. I really like your style and your sense of giving. You concepts are clean and clear and they certainly makes sense. Thanks again for sharing!

  2. I’ll like to express thanks to your valuable contribution to gospel music education and development. I really like your style and your sense of giving. Your concepts are clean and clear and they certainly makes sense. Thanks again for sharing!

  3. Thank you so much Kenny, your free gifts have been so helpful to me, God Bless you richly. I have interest in purchasing the downloadable version of Gospel Pianist tool kit volume 2, please is there any mode of payment other than Paypal? my Country-Nigeria is not included in the list of Nations benefiting from the services of Paypal, I will be glad to hear from you soon, thanks and God Bless.

  4. Hi, Kenneth Hollins,
    I’ am a piano lover, and it’s happen to me to try playing the gospel style but, I usually get stuck at some parts.
    I have a lot of melodies within me but I need to know how to figure them out.
    So let me know how I can buy some DVD courses.
    By the way congratulations for your tutorials they helped me so much.
    Happy New Year be blessed.
    Evens.