6 jun. 2007

I have always wondered about those jazz piano "voicings." I have a relatively untrained harmonic ear (and mind) so I've never really understood what was going on. But a tiny bit of research over the web gave me a surprisingly simple answer.

The standard Bud Powell style voicing removes the 5th out of the chord, so basically it has a sparser sound, with the root, the third and the 7th. The 5th is not too sorely missed, because it doesn't really give the color to the chord.

The next generation, Bill Evans voicing puts the 3rd or 7th on the bottom and omits the root of the chord. (Let the bass player play it). So you'll have the 3rd, the 7th, the 5th, and maybe one more chord extension like a 6th or 9th or 11th. The tone quality is chromatic, colorful, and somewhat ambiguous and free floating because you don't actually hear the root of the chord. It's implied.

Most chords seem to use a 7th in some way, whether a major 7th or dominant 7th. That is, they are not simply triads. Once the triad is not the basis of harmony, you can drop out one of the notes of the triad, whether the root or the 5th, and get two suprisingly different sounding approaches. You can have a richly colorful sound, but at the same time one without too many notes.

4 comentarios:

Andrew Shields dijo...

Thanks for the clear, excellent explanation. Time to pick up the guitar and start fiddling.

Herb Levy dijo...

'Cause one can easily span a couple of octaves with even a small hand on a guitar, most chord voicings made following this kind of basic analysis won't sound very close to the pianists mentioned.

Other post-nop pianists with distinctive chord voicings worth exploring are Paul Bley, Andrew Hill, McCoy Tyner, Randy Weston. Even Cecil Taylor in the early years when it's more clear how what he's playing relates to song structures had a few harmonic idiosyncracies.

Drew dijo...

One of things I like about rock guitar power-chords (1 & 5 )is that they are the inverse diads of a jazz shell voicing (3 & 7). With the shell voicing, you leave out the obvious and leave room for the right hand or the horn to improvise, with the rock guitar powerchord voicing, you state the obvious so emphatically it takes on new life.

ps - Herb, I love those tense voicings on early CT-- New York City R&B etc. People often hear him as all-over-every tone all the time, but I hear a lot of modal structures that just change very quickly.

Herb Levy dijo...


I hear a lot of even late Taylor as modal, though often 10-12 (or more) note modes rather than more traditional Western or "world" music modes.

But maybe that's just me.