Here are two well known descending chord patterns:

Diatonic seventh chords.

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Sequence of dominant seventh chords.

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The voice leading is smooth in both and basically each voice just steps down to the next closest chord tone.

If I do something similar, but on a blue chord pattern I7 IV7 I7 I7 | IV7..., I get this...

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Does anyone play voice leading like that in blues, does it work?

Parts of it obviously work. The I7 IV7 moves are just segments of the sequence of dominant seventh chords and the I7 I7 change is just an exchange of voices. IV7 I7 is then the odd move.

For a "classical" ear IVb7/4/3 Ib7/4/2 doesn't make sense, they would be called irregular resolutions, but all the voices - except the "alto" - move by descending step so it is relatively smooth.

I'm stuck between thinking it sounds OK - blues style isn't concerned with classical concepts of irregular resolution even if it does sometimes conform to those concepts - or worrying that no one plays blues this way so idiomatically it's bad blues playing.

Personally, when I play this way - descending or ascending - the root position and 2nd inversion chords (fifth in bass) sound stable and the 1st and 3rd inversions sound unstable. The classical voice leading would basically resolve the chord thirds up by step and the sevenths down by step. With this pattern I don't follow those conventions and just keep moving in the same descending/ascending direction to the next closest chord tone. If I do that and start and end the whole 12 bar blues on either root position or 2nd inversion chords, it seems OK to me.

In terms of rhythm I'm just playing the whole chord on the beat or simple broken patterns between the two hands, just vampings.

  • It seems that there is parallel harmony on the top voices which I would think is not perfered in any style. But the basic chord structure is very common on guitar so I'd think it's possible someone uses it.
    – user50691
    Oct 17, 2019 at 16:51
  • which part are you talking about? there are parallel tritones all over Oct 17, 2019 at 17:30
  • I misread the top three notes in the progression in 36. It clearly is not parallel though the movement is steady descending in all voices. I am not sure how anything in the blues matches what a "classical ear" expects.
    – user50691
    Oct 17, 2019 at 18:12
  • Depending on the particulars blues progression can be perfectly compatible with a classical sense of harmony/voice leading. Like | Ⅰ | Ⅰ | Ⅰ | Ⅰ7 | Ⅳ... Oct 17, 2019 at 18:50
  • Depends on what you call blues versus a cleansed version on the same. It is common to play all chords as 7ths and there is plenty of chromaticism in that choice but that doesn't mean that you'll find it following the standard practices in most harmony work books.
    – user50691
    Oct 17, 2019 at 20:24

1 Answer 1


It sounds kind of OK, but it is not in the blues idiom to my ears. One reason is that you are filling in all the elements of the chords. In jazz/blues playing it is really common to omit the fifth from a lot of these chords, and start from what is called a "shell" voicing, which contains the root, third and seventh (whether dominant or maj7) and then possibly add various colour tones (9, b9, #9, 11, #11, 13 ...) and so on. Quite often this results in "clusters" of notes that are quite close together - out of context it might be quite dissonant, but all the skill lies in making it sound good in context of course. (That often comes down to voice leading through the sequences of chords.) That's not to say that the fifth is never played but it is frequently omitted - often making space for these "colour tones".

Of course "anybody" is a whole lot of people - but no, I can't think of any pianists associated with blues who typically play the kind of voicings you have written.

  • "the kind of voicings you have written" are you talking about just the third "blues" example, not the first two sequences? Oct 18, 2019 at 18:48
  • i am talking about all of them.
    – danmcb
    Oct 21, 2019 at 7:05
  • I'll post a new version of my question. All the attention is on the vertical aspect of the voicings instead of the voice leading. Oct 21, 2019 at 18:37

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