Tag Archives: seventh 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.