Hi everyone! I received a question online today (on my YouTube channel), an excellent one, and one which is subject to debate. The question is in response to one of my videos about using add9 chords on piano. (A link to the video is included below.)
I thought I would share the thread here:
VIEWER: Isn’t the D in Cadd9 supposed to be an octave higher? I guess I’m just confused as to why it isn’t Add2 instead.
ME: Hi Jordan, this is a very good question, and one that is subject to debate. Technically, the voicing of these add9’s that I am using here are really “add2”. In general practice however, add9 is favored in chord symbols found in sheet music, and is meant to imply add2 or add9, depending on the voicing choice of the player. It’s interesting to note that add9 chords played on guitar have the ninth tone on top sometimes, and sometimes the 9th is not the highest tone, often depending on ease of finger positions. This is also true in a piano player’s choice of voicing. Again, to recap, add9 technically has the 9th as the highest tone in the voicing, as you indicated, but when using chord symbols, add9 is preferred for either one.
VIEWER: That definitely makes more sense. Thanks for the clarification.
ME: Certainly, your question is much appreciated! Two other interesting points: A very popular, jazzy left-hand voicing for the MINOR 9th chord (as in Am9) — which, by the way, is NOT an add9 chord, because it also contains the 7th (I talk about that difference in the video) — is this, using Am9 as an example: G, B, C, E, where the root is implied, and can be played before or after the first cluster (or covered by the bass player). I bring this up because here you can see that the “9th” is not the top note in that particular voicing. (You might try that out, it sounds very cool!) Another thing: In my full two-handed voicings in the video, such as Cadd9, left hand plays C and G, and the right plays C-D-E-G. On close inspection you will note that the 9th (the D) is actually voiced far above the root (the left-hand C). But that is not mandatory to voice add9 that way, just a certain nice-sounding choice.
Here is the video lesson which prompted the question:
Learn about the Major pentatonic scale, and its cousin, the “Relative Minor” pentatonic scale (a video lesson). The relationship between any major scale (or key) and its relative minor scale or key is explained here as well, in terms of traditional music theory.
“SMOOTHER-SOUNDING SCALES” introduces a simple technique for making your scale passages sound more EVEN; that is, with a more consistent loudness across all the notes. The technique involves deliberately accenting certain notes, then removing the accents. The final result is a more even sounding scale! Voila!
Due to an increased focus on Internet-based teaching, I currently have NO new openings for private (local, one-on-one) piano or music theory students. If you’d like suggested references for a local teacher, please send me a message via my Contact page. Please include any helpful information as to the current age and experience level of the student, the type of lessons desired (classical, pop, rock, jazz, other), etc., as this kind of information will affect my recommendations. I can also give advice on seeking a good teacher if you’d like. Thank you for your interest!
NO LONGER CURRENT:
Hi folks, I have three new open slots for motivated piano students, in or near Huntington Beach, California (Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Westminster, Santa Ana, or Costa Mesa).
I’m offering lessons in Jazz, Blues, Rock, Pop, R&B, Funk, Folk, Worship, Gospel, etc., piano or keyboards. Sorry, no slots are currently open for classical piano, although if you want to learn to read music as part of your “pop” studies, we can certainly do that (learning to read standard piano notation is recommended, at least at the basic level, but is not required).
As part of these lessons, you will gain a mastery of reading, playing, and improvising from chord symbols, such as C7, Ebm7, Dmaj7, etc. This is how the pros in rock, pop, jazz, blues, folk, hip-hop, country, etc., operate — it’s all about chords, man!
If you are simply interested in learning a few of your favorite songs, we can take a more direct approach to achieve that.
Levels taught: Beginner, intermediate, advanced.
Piano lessons are 45-minutes, once per week. In-home lessons are available.
Todays’ post is about learning “thirteenth chords” on piano. In this video, you will learn a good way to learn and retain all twelve of the standard 13th chords without resorting to rote memorization. In my experience, I discovered early on that learning scales and chords by rote — that is, note-by-note, without any understanding of the patterns they all have in common — is the worst way to go. Learning the underlying patterns that consistently define all scales and chords is absolutely where it’s at!
Here’s a follow up to my recent post about “Fourth Chords.” I made this second video to give more insight regarding how “fourth chord” shapes can be superimposed over various roots, to create refreshing voicings for standard chord types, such as major, minor and dominant seventh chords. The goal here is to focus on the practical side of putting these shapes into use!
“Fourth chords” are chords built as a “stack of fourths,” rather than as a “stack of thirds.”An example of a “stack of fourths” would be: D, G, C, and F, where D is the lowest pitch, and the rest make up a series of fourths above that.
The greatest thing about these stacks is that any given stack can be superimposed above multiple roots, to create a variety of voicings for various chord types.
Using the stack mentioned above as an example:
A “Dmin7” chord using the stack D, G, C, and F, results in a nice open-sounding voicing, with an added 11th (the “G” note is the 11th).
D, G, C and F also sounds great over a B-flat root, creating a “Bb69” sound! That is, a B-flat major chord, with an added 6th and 9th. (G is the 6th, and C is the 9th).
And so on…my video here explains this in depth. (Check back soon for Part Two, with more insights on this.)
NOTE: Website pianodrumteacher.com, mentioned in the video, is my older site, soon to be retired.
DESCRIPTION OF THIS VIDEO:
Piano and Music Theory – FOURTHS and FIFTHS – “Perfect and Not-so-perfect.” Essential knowledge for building chords without rote memorization, and for understanding chord progressions, plus understanding general music theory.
In order to understand tutorials on piano playing, it is essential that you know some basic terminology from the world of music theory. So here’s an important video on “major and minor thirds.”
If you aren’t clear about major and minor thirds, you might want to watch this. Afterward, you can read the rest of this article, using your newfound vocabulary!
Chords are often understood and learned as a series of “stacked thirds.” For example, a major seventh chord can be seen as the following stack:
Major third, Minor third, Major third.
Let’s look at the CMaj7 (C Major Seventh) chord as an example of stacking thirds to build a major seventh chord from any root. The notes of the CM7 chord are C, E, G, and B. Starting from the root C, we can stack thirds to create the chord. First we pile on the E, which is a major third above C. Then we put a G on top of the E. The musical distance (interval) from E to G is a minor third. Finally, we top off the stack with a B, which is a major third above the G. We now have a really tasty sandwich!
OK so here’s the vid with some tips on finding major and minor thirds on your keyboard, starting from any piano key.
Questions, comments? Please jump in. Let’s make this a community!
My “jazz piano bible” is a series of four books by John Mehegan, referred to collectively as the Jazz Improvisation series. Books can be an invaluable part of your training as a musician, especially in the area of jazz, since a solid understanding of classic jazz can get fairly heavy on the music theory side of things.
I have included links to these four amazing books here, if you want to check them out. Just below those four links is a single volume by Mehegan that covers the most essential information from the four-volume set.
These books are systematic in their approach, which I love. Lots of other books on jazz piano are full of great ideas, but they tend to be collections of “try this, try that.” Books of that type are overwhelming to me. I always want to look for the core principles behind things.
The great jazz pianist Bill Evans appreciated the fourth volume of this series so much that he wrote a great introduction for it.
I highly recommend that you read somewhat casually through all four volumes first, in sequence, and then go back and study the details and techniques that seem most interesting to you. As you do that, decide on certain things that you will practice on a regular basis, and put in the work!
I’ve noticed that I tend to focus on volumes one and four, although volume four makes occasional references to material in the other books, so it’s best to have all four volumes handy.
The first thing I put into major practice is what Mehegan calls “Contemporary Left-hand Voicings.” (I have a couple of videos on that topic that I will be posting here soon.) These voicings, covering major, minor, dominant, diminished, and half-diminished sevenths, which Mehegan calls the sixty-chord system (five chord qualities on each of the twelve roots) are essential to have in your toolbox.
I keep these four volumes around the house and pick them up now and then for review. I’m amazed at how much this material can have a new freshness to me when I re-read it, especially after having applied it for a while.
Be advised, Mr. Mehegan uses the Roman numeral approach to chord progressions almost exclusively, as in II-V-I. For example, he provides chord charts to tons of songs, and all are in that format. It is good to be able to think in those terms. That is, instead of learning a jazz standard as Am7, Dm7, G7, C, you can learn it as VI, II, V, I, thereby setting yourself up to be ready to play that tune in any key.
I encourage anyone who is familiar with these books, or is beginning to study the material, to share please your insights, opinions, or questions in the comments section of this post. Let’s make this site a community!