Two-Handed Voicings


Two handed voicings are an essential element of jazz piano. Most often used for comping, two handed voicings are integral to solo playing, improvising and arranging. Based on a transcription of Red Garland improvising over the title track of John Coltrane's 1957 album with the Red Garland Trio "Traneing In," Part 1 introduces the versatile open fifth voicing technique. Part 2, presents the "So What" and pure fourth two handed voicing technique.
The open fifth voicing technique introduced in this lesson is perhaps most associated with the style of Red Garland, the early bop pianist. These voicings can have up to seven notes and are equally suited for the divergent tasks of harmonizing an improvised line, harmonizing a melody or for comping. All of these roles are considered in this lesson using a transcription of Red Garland's solo over the tune "Traineing In," the title track of John Coltrane's 1957 album with the Red Garland Trio.
The music on Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue" was influential on many levels: it ushered in the style of modality, it introduced a new voice to jazz piano, Bill Evans, it established several new standard tunes to the repertoire and went on to become the best selling jazz album of all time. It's influence extends literally down to the piano voicings that Bill Evans played on one of the most popular tunes on the recording and in all of the jazz repertoire, "So What." Known as "So What" voicings, the notes of these two-handed chords are arranged with a major third above a stack of perfect fourth intervals. "So What" voicings confer a modern sound and are a versatile two-handed voicing technique that can be used equally as well for comping or solo playing. In this lesson, the "So What" voicings are derived from a transcription of Bill Evans' comping the changes to their namesake tune and their use is applied to traditional tonal progressions. A closely related technique of voicing chords using only fourth intervals is explored as well, synthesizing both techniques into a unified method for two-handed chord voicings.
Upper structure triads have been an enduring feature of jazz since the early Bebop era. This chord voicing technique produces a rich, bitonal effect that can be used for harmonizing melodies, comping and improvising melodic lines. This lesson opens with an analysis of Bill Evans' use of upper structure triad voicings in harmonizing the melody to "My Romance" from his 1961 Live at the Village Vanguard recording. The lesson continues with the derivation of all possible upper structure triad voicings for all five essential 7th chord qualities and a discussion of how to use this versatile technique for melodic harmonization, comping and improvisation.