Five Essential Seventh Chords

This lesson will get you playing lead sheets faster than any other method. There are five types of seventh chords that make up the chord progressions to most tunes. Learn these and you will be able to play the chords to virtually any tune.

The sixty chord drill streamlines the process of learning the chords by starting with the first, third, fifth and seventh notes of the major scale and then adjusting these notes by half step to form the remaining chord types through all twelve keys. In addition, you will learn how to read chord symbols and learn the chord changes to "It's Easy to Remember" and "Solar."

This lesson is a full-featured FREE lesson. Try it out. If you like it, consider subscribing.

FIve Essential Seventh Chords - Tunes

Watch as the sixty chord drill is used to build root position seventh chords to common standard tune progressions.

Rootless Voicings with Added Tension

These standard one-handed voicings (often erroneously referred to as left hand voicings) are the bedrock of every jazz pianists' technique. From Wynton Kelly and Red Garland to Tommy Flanagan, Bill Evans and beyond, these rich sounding voicings with their their smooth voice leading and effective use of tension, pervade bop and post-bop jazz piano.

This six part lesson will discuss both forms of the major and minor ii-V-I progression voicings (major A and B and minor A and B forms) and show you how to voice lead them in tunes.

Part 1 of 6 | Major A Form

The major A form of the voicings are introduced in this lesson within the context of major ii-V-I progressions in all twelve keys. The progressions to "Tune Up," "Afternoon in Paris," "Satin Doll," Rhythm Changes and Blues are covered as well.

Part 2 of 6 | Minor A Form

The minor A form of the voicings are introduced in this lesson within the context of minor ii-V-i progression in all twelve keys. The progressions to "Yesterdays," "But Beautiful" and "Sophisticated Lady" are covered as well.

Part 3 of 6 | Major B Form

This lesson repeats the content of Part 1 using the major B form of the voicings.

Part 4 of 6 | Minor B Form

This lesson repeats the content of Part 2 using the minor B form of the voicings.

Part 5 of 6 | Voice Leading Both Forms in Tunes

All four forms of the voicings are used to achieve voice leading perfection over the eight progressions of the tunes used in the previous four sections of this lesson.

Part 6 of 6 | Voicing Dim, Sus, Slash and other Chord Qualities

This is a catch-all lesson which covers the voicing of lesser used chord qualities by examining the progressions of "Dolphin Dance," "In Walked Bud," and "Someday My Prince Will Come."

Rootless Voicings with Added Tension - Tunes

Learn how to use rootless voicings with added tension to voice the chord changes to standard tunes.

Wondering where to start?

Check out the Road Map to plan your study.

Two-Handed Voicings

Two-handed voicings are an essential element of jazz piano. Most often used for comping, two handed voicings are integral to solo playing, improvising and arranging. Based on a transcription of Red Garland improvising over the title track of John Coltrane's 1957 album with the Red Garland Trio "Traneing In," Part 1 introduces the versatile open fiffth voicing technique. Part 2 derives "So What" two-handed voicings from a transcription of the tune of the same name from the classic 1959 Miles Davis recording "Kind of Blue." Part 3 explores the rich, bitonal sounds of upper structure triads.

Part 1 of 3 | Open Fifth Voicings

The open fifth voicing technique introduced in this lesson is perhaps most associated with the style of Red Garland, the early bop pianist. These voicings can have up to seven notes and are equally suited for the divergent tasks of harmonizing an improvised line, harmonizing a melody or for comping. All of these roles are considered in this lesson using a transcription of Red Garland's solo over the tune "Traineing In," the title track of John Coltrane's 1957 album with the Red Garland Trio.

Part 2 of 3 | So What and Pure Fourth Voicings

The music on Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue" was influential on many levels: it ushered in the style of modality, it introduced a new voice to jazz piano, Bill Evans, it established several new standard tunes to the repertoire and went on to become the best selling jazz album of all time. It's influence extends literally down to the piano voicings that Bill Evans played on one of the most popular tunes on the recording and in all of the jazz repertoire, "So What." Known as "So What" voicings, the notes of these two-handed chords are arranged with a major third above a stack of perfect fourth intervals. "So What" voicings confer a modern sound and are a versatile two-handed voicing technique that can be used equally as well for comping or solo playing. In this lesson, the "So What" voicings are derived from a transcription of Bill Evans' comping the changes to their namesake tune and their use is applied to traditional tonal progressions. A closely related technique of voicing chords using only fourth intervals is explored as well, synthesizing both techniques into a unifed method for two-handed chord voicings.

Part 3 of 3 | Upper Structure Triad Voicings

Upper structure triads have been an enduring feature of jazz since the early Bebop era. This chord voicing technique produces a rich, bitonal effect that can be used for harmonizing melodies, comping and improvising melodic lines. This lesson opens with an analysis of Bill Evans' use of upper structure triad voicings in harmonizing the melody to "My Romance" from his 1961 "Live at the Village Vanguard" recording. The lesson continues with the derivation of all possible upper structure triad voicings for all five essential 7th chord qualities and a discussion of how to use this versatile technique for melodic harmonization, comping and improvisation.


The word "comp" as it is used in jazz is probably derived from the word accompany. It may also come from the word complement. In either case, when you are asked to "comp" in an ensemble setting rarely are you given more direction as to what to do than whatever vague meaning either of those words may imply: to play in a complementary way. In this lesson, a transcription of Wynton Kelly's comping behind the flute soloist Bobby Jasper over the changes to his Bb blues head "Kelly Blue," from his 1959 sextet album of the same name is used as a model for deriving and codifying the essential elements of good comping: voicings, voice leading, rhythmic placement, duration and activity. The application of each element is discussed in the context of standard tunes in common jazz styles such as mid tempo swing, up tempo swing, ballad, latin and 3/4 waltz time.

Comping - Tunes

Learn how to comp over the changes of standard tunes.

Solo Jazz Piano

The beauty of our chosen instrument is the ability to play alone -solo- without the accompaniment (or interference) of others. Anything you can dream up is fair game when you are on your own. Based on a transcription of Cedar Walton playing "Someday My Prince Will Come," from his 2005 High Note album "Underground Memoirs," Part 1 in this series gives you the tools to play solo jazz piano by demonstrating and explaining the fundamental technique to this style, spread voicings with independent lead. Part 2 shows you how to mix rootless voicings into your solo playing. Part 3 demonstrates how to accompany your own improvisation when playing solo.

Part 1 of 3 | Spread Voicings with Independent Lead

Get started playing solo jazz piano with this lesson by learning spread voicings with independent lead. These voicings produce a rich, full sound and are used for playing the head of tunes. The right hand supports the rhythmically independent melody with guide tones and the left hand plays root-based shell voicings.

Part 2 of 3 | Combining Rootless & Spread Voicings

Tommy Flanagan's solo over the changes to the tune "The Very Thought of You," from his 1977 Denon release "Alone Too Long," opens this lesson and serves as a model for the use of spread and rootless voicings in solo jazz piano. This lesson builds on Solo Jazz Piano Part 1, in which the technique of playing solo jazz piano was established with the use of spread voicings. In addition to the analysis of Tommy Flanagan's transcription, "Come Rain or Come Shine," I Hear a Rhapsody," "These Foolish Things" and two more standard tunes are realized using these voicing techniques in this lesson.

Part 3 of 3 | Improvising While Playing Solo

Improvising while playing solo piano is a lot like juggling. You have to do four things at once: you have to play the solo, comp for the solo, play the bassline and keep things moving rhythmically. Bill Charlap's solo over the changes to the tune "Somebody Loves Me," from his 2005 solo piano EP "Bill Charlap Rolling Stone Original," opens this lesson and serves as a model for how to manage this juggling act. Building on the Solo Jazz Piano Part 1 and Part 2 lessons, his solo is analyzed in this lesson to uncover how to keep the balls in the air by using shell and rootless voicings in support of the right hand line.

Block Chord Harmonization

Block-chord harmonization (also known as locked-hands playing) is the technique of harmonizing each note of a melody with a three- or four-note chord to create a lush, full- bodied sound reminiscent of the sax sections of the swing era big bands. Popularized by George Shearing in the 1950s and used extensively by Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson and all manner of straight-ahead jazz pianists since then, it remains a fundamental skill of the modern player. A transcription of Dave Brubeck's "The Duke" is used to introduce the concepts of this technique in this lesson, followed by the note-by-note block chord harmonization of excerpts of three tunes, "Polka Dots and Moonbeams," "You Make Me Feel So Young," and "What Am I Here For?" demonstrating three ways to create standard block-chord harmonizations: four-way close, four-way close double lead, and drop 2.

Artist Voicings

What voicings do the pros use? How do they use them? How can I apply these voicing techniques to my own playing? These are some of the most common yet vexing questions from intermediate and early advanced jazz piano players that this series of lessons hopes to address. Each lesson in the series examines a transcription of a major jazz pianist (Danny Grissett and Taylor Eigsti) and looks at how they voice chords, the ways in which they use them and shows you strategies for applying them to tunes. Use the voicings to enrich and enliven your harmonic concept and inspire you to think out-of-the-box to create new sounds and colors.

Part 1 | Danny Grissett

Learn the voicing techniques that Danny Grissett uses in his solo piano introduction to Jimmy Van Heusen's "It Could Happen to You," from his 2008 Criss Cross release, "Encounters."

Part 2 | Taylor Eigsti

Three voicing techniques from the beautiful solo piano introduction to Taylor Eigsti's tune "Midnight After Noon" from his 2010 Concord Records release, "Daylight at Midnight," are examined in this lesson: a dramatic voicing without a third, an ascending major chord line cliche and rich drop 2 voicings. Learn how he uses them, the theory that makes them work and strategies for incorporating these devices into your own playing.

Still not sure if JazzPianoOnline is right for you?

Write to me and I'll help you figure it out.