Basic Chord Voicings
The pianist can play single lines, basic two or three note chords, or dense chords using upwards of eight notes. If a pedal is used—and a pianist plays arpeggios with hand crossing—a dozen or more notes may be included in a chord (see Figure 12-9).
Usually, when playing both melody and harmony, the pianist will play three or four-note chords in the left hand and a melody line in the right. However, the role of each hand may also be reversed (chords in the right hand) or the hands could be integrated, sharing the task of both melody and harmony.
Unlike the guitar, the piano generally features chords with close intervallic relationships including major seconds and even semitones. Chords with stacked thirds are very common, especially when playing major and minor chords. In this case, you will see the root, third, and fifth featured in each chord. Figure 12-10 shows voicings for C major and C minor triads. These chords may also be arpeggiated. Notice how fingers one, three, and five are used in both hands.
FIGURE 12-9: Huge Arpeggiated chord on the piano
FIGURE 12-10: Voicings for C maj and C min chords in root position
FIGURE 12-11: G7 to Cmaj voicings
FIGURE 12-12: F maj to C maj voicings
Another common “shape” on the piano utilizes fingers one, four, and five in the right hand and finger one, two, and five in the left hand. These voicings are commonly used for inverted V7 chords (dominant sevenths). Figure 12-11 shows you how to voice the movement from G7 to C major. Notice how the fifth of the chord is left out of the voicing. For instance, in the first example you see the notes B, F, and G (no D). In each case, the third of the chord is always on the bottom (first inversion).
Lastly, IV chords typically use a voicing that features the fifth of the chord on the bottom (second inversion). The most common voice leading for this type of chord employs fingers one, three, and five in the right hand and fingers one, two, and five in the left hand. Remember, IV chords are major when played in major keys (see Figure 12-12). For more information on piano chords, including more advanced, hip voicings, see Chapter 15.