Tag Archives: left hand chords

Improvise with Seventh Chords in Open Voicing

Last month we improvised with some cool seventh chords, voiced “cluster” style (officially called closed position). For an even more lush, modern sound, let’s improvise with seventh chords in open voicing. We’ll use the same four chords: Cmaj7, Am7, Fmaj7, G7. Instead of playing the chord with four fingers in your left hand, we’re going to open them up and use three fingers of each hand.

In your left hand, play c, g and b (like the open voicing on a simple C chord, but with a b instead of the second c). In the right hand, play e b and e (the third, the seventh again, and another octave of the third). Between your hands, you’re now playing all the notes of a Cmaj7 chord, in an open (spread-out) voicing. You build the other chords the same way. Here they are spelled out for you:

 

Finger LH
4
2 1 RH
4
2 1
Cmaj7 c g b e b e
Am7 a e g c g c
Fmaj7 f c e a e a
G7 g d f b f b
chord degree 1 5 7 3 7 3

 

Notice that there are always two empty strings between your two hands, and you’ll find the positions more easily. Once you understand the pattern, you can of course play any chords in the key with the voicing. But for now, try to play through the sequence above, rolling the chords in each hand as one unit or playing arpeggios, until you get very comfortable with the progression.

Once you know the progression inside and out, you’re ready to embellish it with improvisation. To start, try adding “filler” notes in the right hand, e.g. the notes between the upper tones of one chord and the next. For example, between Cmaj7 and Am7, you might walk between and around the notes e and c. Just relax, experiment and have fun!

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This post is adapted from material that I originally published in the ezine, Notes from the Harp.

Improvise with Seventh Chords

For a lush and funky sound, we’re going to improvise with seventh chords. Here are the chords to use (familiar from Heart and Soul, but turned into sevenths); Cmaj7, Am7, Fmaj7, G7. Right now, you don’t even have to understand how those chords are constructed, because I’ll give you the notes.

Using just your left hand, place b on the bottom, then, c, e and g (the C major triad with a b added to the bottom of it). The b is the seventh, added to the bottom instead of the top of the chord (and thus they are “inversions”, one possible way to turn the chords upside-down). Don’t worry about your right hand right now, although you can of course play these chords with either hand. You build the other chords in the progression the same way. Here are the chords spelled out for you:

 

LH Finger 4 3 2 1
Cmaj7 b c e g
Am7 g a c e
Fmaj7 e f a c
G7 f g b d
chord degree 7 1 3 5

 

Once you understand the hand form, you may want to play seventh chords up and down the scale, all over your harp. Then, try to play through the sequence above, rolling the chords in your left hand, until you get very secure about which chord comes next.

To begin improvising, try playing any notes from the chord in your right hand as you play each chord with your left. Find pleasing notes that connect the chord tones, and you’re on your way to creating your own melody. Remember, there is no test . . . this is about having fun with sound!

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This post is adapted from material that I originally published in the ezine, Notes from the Harp.

Improvising Over the Chords

What do I mean, improvising over the chords?  I’d like you to try improvising with a piece  you already know, or at least with its chord progression. If you’re an intermediate player, you could also start with a simple arrangement for piano, such as Amazing Grace (level 4, first page only) on Gilbert Benedetti’s Free Music site.

Now, if you’re more experienced, perhaps you could play the left hand as written. However, it will be far easier if you start by playing the chords in their simplest form in your left hand (this is where your music theory comes in handy.  You did label those chords, didn’t you?)

First, play through the left hand chords alone. Next, play the chords again, and play anything you want to in your right hand ~ anything except the melody, that is.

At first, unless you’ve done this before, it will feel awkward as you search for something that sounds good.  You may want to start by simply pulsing the chord root in your right hand on every beat, just to get the two-hand coordination going.

Then move on to creating little lines of moving notes in your right hand. Don’t know where to start? If you get stuck on a chord, keep playing that one chord while you try different notes in your right hand. Next, do a single phrase until you like it, instead of trying to work the whole piece.

If you can keep the left hand going as written and feel a little braver, try this: keep playing that left hand, let’s say five times through, while trying different patterns of single notes in your right hand. If you stick with it, you will find pleasing snatches of melody that you like and you will start to repeat them when you get to that spot again.

Here is one suggestion to try with your right hand. If your left hand is playing a G chord, try all the notes from g to d (the G triad and the two notes in between those strings). When the chords changes, the of course the five notes you can play change to match.

One more tip: if you want to be able to focus on your right hand without worrying about your left, why not record the left hand chords (or original accompaniment) and play along with only your right hand?  That way, you can really explore.

Most of all, have fun!

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This post is adapted from material that I originally published in the ezine, Notes from the Harp.