The concept of shape-based voicings is a helpful method of organizing harmonic material on the keyboard. First, it allows us to “grab” a group of notes using muscle memory, avoiding the need to think one note at a time. This method also allows us to “recycle” a shape for use in a number of different musical situations. In this lesson, we will examine two very useful shapes.
“T4″ is a shape constructed of a perfect 4th stacked on top of a tritone (three whole-steps.) Depending on the musical situation, this tritone may be spelled as an augmented 4th (#4) or as a diminished 5th. (b5) When this 3-note shape is placed certain intervals above a bass note, several interesting 4-note voicings are created:
On the major 3rd: 7#9 (3, b7, #9)
On the flat 7th: 7(13) (b7, 3, 13) also called just “13″
On the flat 3rd: -13 (b3, 13, 9) also could be called -6/9.
On the flat 9th: sus7b9 (this actually only has b9, 5th and root, but still evokes a “phrygian” sound
The “T3″ is a major 3rd stacked on the tritone; this shape is only one half-step different in structure from T4. Again, it can be placed intervals above a bass note, creating interesting sounds:
On the major 3rd: 7(9) (3, b7, 9) also called just “9″
On the flat 7th: 7#5 (b7, 3, #5)
On the major 6th: -13 (13, b3, 5)
On the 5th: Sus7b9 (as above, it is incomplete, but includes 13, b9 and 11th, and again sounds “phrygian.”)
These voicings are also very useful for voice-leading, since they are based on the 3rd and 7th “shell” concept. This means that for every voicing that is based on the 3rd of the chord, there is a similar, complimentary version on the 7th. In the below example, T4 on the b7 alternates with T3 on the 3rd. This allows smooth connection between chords that are moving by 4ths (a very common occurrence.)
Next time we will look at how to practice these voicings to get them into your vocabulary, and how to add tones to these shapes to further extend their usefulness.