Learning 2-handed rootless jazz chord voicings

Learning jazz piano is like climbing a mountain: we can either go straight up the incline, or take a more winding, gradual path. The mistake that the majority of aspiring jazz pianists make is they take the path that’s wrong for them at a given time.

We can understand this better if we look at rootless 2-handed chord voicings. There’s no question: these voicings are a big part of jazz piano. The challenge is that they’re fairly abstract, and for a beginner, it can be difficult to instantly relate them to the more basic 7th chords they’re derived from.

So… how do we learn them?

Well, one way is to climb straight up the mountain, as it were. Sit down at your piano for hours each day, play them in all 12 keys and on all the chord types, and then dive right into using them on jazz standards. If you have the right concept, and the time and determination, this will get you where you want to go.

The other way is more gradual. Spend a year, or a few years, learning a ton of jazz standards with the basic 7th chords. Learn the melodies, the chords, and develop a good amount of hand independence and rhythmic flexibility with your soloing and comping along the way. You’ll have a lot of fun, you’ll sound great, and at a certain point you’ll find that it’s relatively easy to begin learning the rootless voicings. It’ll be easy because you’ll have developed an incredibly solid and well-rounded foundation.

The key is knowing which path is right for you.

When I was first learning jazz, I spent about two years taking the gradual path. I learned a bunch of tunes, jammed with my friends, and had more fun playing jazz piano than I could have ever imagined. When I did learn a more advanced voicing, I happily used it when I could but didn’t feel any pressure to play every chord with the same amount of complexity. After a couple of years, I knew it was time to start climbing up the side of the mountain, so I created an intense practice routine and drilled the rootless chord voicings over and over and over and over again until I knew them inside and out.

Which way is best for you right now? If you want to become fluent with playing jazz standards with rootless 2-handed chord voicings and are ready to do some serious mountain climbing, I’m offering a 10-week Skype (or Zoom) course to get you where you want to go. If you’re interested, you and I will meet for ten 30-minute sessions, one per week for ten weeks, and you’ll come out of this with a solid understanding and ability to play jazz tunes with these wonderful and harmonically-colorful voicings.

You’ll learn:

1. An easy way to get started with 2-handed “comping.”

2. How 2-handed voicings are derived from basic voicings.

3. How to practice voicings in a way that develops your rhythmic fluidity at the same time.

4. A great alternative to use when the “textbook” voicings for m9(b5) chords don’t sound good on a tune. (And they often don’t.)

5. Many approaches to creating 2-handed voicings in a way that highlights your musical individuality.

6. How to comp with block chords in the style of Duke Ellington, Billy Taylor, and Red Garland.

7. How to adapt rootless voicings to include the roots when you’re playing solo piano.

If you’re at the point where you want to “dig in” and finally get over the mountain of 2-handed voicings, this 10-week course will get you there in a fun and musically inspiring way. As a teacher, I enjoy finding the right “door” for each individual student, to help them get started with a concept such as chord voicings in the way that’s best for them right now, at this point in their musical development.

The entire 10-week course is $300 and if you’re interested, simply reply to this email and we’ll schedule a time to get started. I’m excited about helping you become able to play these voicings with fluency, and please let me know if you have any questions.

Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!

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