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I'm a beginner who can play chords on a piano.

If I play a C chord on the keyboard I would play C-E-G, or one of the two inversions (I.E. G-C-E or E-G-C).

I've noticed some people play chords "disconnected". That is, they'd play a C and a G but the E would be to the right of the G key.

I've never thought about trying that before. I wondered, is there a specific name for this type of chord? Why do people do it?

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In general, chords with the notes closer together are called closed voicings, while chords with the notes farther apart are called open voicings. For simple triad chords like the ones you mentioned, a chord is closed if it occurs within a single octave and the chord is open if it is spread out across more than one octave. More generally though, a chord is closed if it's the most compact voicing of the chord.

There is another technique worth mentioning: the example you've described is called a "drop 2" voicing or drop 2 chord. This is when you take the second highest note from a closed voicing and move it down an octave. The other notes remain unchanged. In your example, you started with a 2nd inversion C Maj triad (G3-C4-E4). Then we take the second highest note (C4) and move it down an octave (to C3). This gives the final drop 2 voicing of C3-G3-E4.

Here's a more elaborate example. The bottom shows the exact same voicings, but with the second highest note dropped down an octave for each chord.

enter image description here

If you are working with 4-note chords, you still take the second highest note and drop it down an octave. For example, here are some repeating Dmin6 A7♭9 chords. The bottom shows the same chord voicings, but with the second highest note dropped down an octave.

This is done to achieve a more open/spread out sound. Being able to play both increases one's musical vocabulary. That's generally helpful, because variety is a lot of what makes music sound good. Playing just closed voicings for an entire song can become boring for a listener. Using drop 2 voicings adds variety.

enter image description here

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if the notes are close together it is a Closed Voicing. If they are spread apart as in your question it is said to be Open Voicing.

More info can be found here.

The note that is lowest determines the Inversion.

A root note (c in your example) that is lowest is said to be in Root Position. E (the 3rd) in the bass is 1st inversion. G (the 5th) is 2nd inversion. if you have a 7th chord with the 7th in the bass it is 3rd inversion.

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Open voicing. For closed voicing, the notes (3 in the normal chord called a triad) are as close as possible to each other, as you have been playing until now. Open voicing happens when one at least is moved an octave or more from its closed position.

There is also no need to play only the three notes from the basic triad. It's common to double up on one two or all of the notes. You could actually play two closed triads, one with each hand, one, say, in root and the other in second inversion. Or - a low 1, a middle 3 and a higher 5, still constituting an (open voiced) chord. An oft used open voiced triad in l.h. is C- G - E, arpeggiated and pedalled.

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I agree with all the comments. I just want to add that, on piano, open voicing will usually need to be split between the two hands. It doesn't have to be the same number of notes in each hand, but one hand will not normally be able to cover all the notes. The reason why closed voicing is used so much on piano is because it makes it easy to move from chord to chord while playing a bass line in the left hand. Playing open voicing would be much easier in a group with a bass player.

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