Do you need to use rootless voicings to play “real” jazz?

Hey Improvisers,

Question: What do Bud Powell, Erroll Garner, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, and Fats Waller have in common?

Answer: They didn’t usually play rootless chord voicings with their left hands.

What????? Aren’t rootless voicings an essential part of jazz piano? Aren’t they the first thing beginners have to learn? Aren’t they the key to playing “real” jazz?

As you may be realizing… the answer is no, they’re not.

For more on this, along with some demonstrations on the piano, check out this video:

Piano Myth-Busting #6: “It Isn’t real jazz if you’re not using rootless voicings.”

While rootless voicings do sound great, they are not an essential part of jazz piano, and they’re certainly not a good beginning step. Yes, learn them at the right stage in your musical development, but don’t get held back by learning them too soon. Be sure to get a thorough grounding by using the basic 7th chords and shell voicings first, and then gradually expand your harmonic vocabulary by learning rootless voicings as a way to enhance your playing, not to box it in.

Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”


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