I run into these two problems related to chords:

  1. My accompany with my left hand conflicts/try to occupy the same tones as my right hand, melody.

  2. My voicings are boring and dull. Very standardised and little variety. But, the simplicity means I can get through a standard, roughly.

I wonder, how do I solve this?

Theoretically it’s easy — the chord tones are known and it’s just about picking different voicings. However, that’s a daunting task, and maybe it’s about breaking it down. Should I get Levine’s classic The Jazz Piano Book? Maybe I’m looking for a path that is constructive, pedagogical and doesn’t involve reinventing the wheel.

I would like flexibility, choice from a large library of voicings. And in the future, creative improvisation stemming from it.

Some pianists on Youtube have hand positions that are very broad, like 6 or 7 tones distance in each hand. Maybe this is a hint to how to make it more interesting.

  • Can you give an example of a voicing you think is boring and dull? Commented Aug 9, 2019 at 21:25
  • From an artistic perspective I wouldn't say there's a voicing that is boring and dull, they become so by misuse. A voicing is a component and has its proper use. I've misused them because I don't know others and therefore become bored by them. So, a voicing might be boring for me, but fascinating for you ;-)
    – Frans
    Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 14:35

2 Answers 2


Hard to give advice if you are not telling us what voicings you are currently playing.

Practice first your shell voicings: 1 3 7 and 1 7 3. (Low to high). As you stitch chords together try to limit big jumps in the top note. Use your ears and break the rules if it sounds OK to you.

So first 4 chords of “all the things you are” (Fm7, Bbm7, Eb7, AbM7, ...) becomes: F Eb Ab, Bb Db Ab, Eb Db G, Ab C G, ... Or F Ab Eb, Bb Ab Db, Eb G Db, Ab G C, ...

Then try rootless: 3 7 9 or 7 3 6. Again, favor the voice leadings with limited jumps.

A bit more rich rootless left hand voicings are 3 5 7 9 or 7 9 3 6. So a Gm7 C7 FM7 becomes: Bb D F A, Bb D E A, A C E G.

Another trick is to play only root with the left hand and with the right hand 3 + 7 + melody or 7+3+melody. If the melody is a 3 or 7, then you play just 3 and 7. Just make sure that the melody note is always on top.

  • 1 7 3? I must have small hands. Commented Aug 9, 2019 at 2:43
  • @ToddWilcox - probably not. An octave or a 9th seems pretty standard, and I need to roll a tenth. Might spawn a question as to why piano keys are that size - given that all that time ago, theoretically, people were slightly smaller than now. Maybe an octave was the max. stretch?
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 9, 2019 at 5:46
  • I agree, 1 7 3 is a stretch for me as well. @Kris, what I typically play is 713 in LH because it's compact, easy to locate and rarely conflict with melody. Another I play is 1 7 in LH and 3 + melody in RH. That one is closer to where I want to go: spread out and chord tones in RH. Augmented seems to lend itself poorly to putting the top tone at the bottom. Thanks for your suggestions, I'll look at it.
    – Frans
    Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 14:38

I'm learning to do Chord substitutions and inversions on the guitar, but it's harder than I thought. I start with the notes in a chord, then try rearranging them to find chords that work. Like replacing a CM7 with a C6add9, or F#m7 with A6/C#.

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